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Mindy Kaling, 34
Equal parts performer, power player, and pundit, Kaling — who created, stars in, writes, and produces Fox's cult comedy fave The Mindy Project, all while blogging, tweeting, and Instagramming — has become one of the freshest, funniest voices in Hollywood.
Her Bucket List: ''Learn how to become a Nora Ephron-level hostess. Own terrific jewelry and dinnerware that I actually use every day. Teach a class which entails mostly rambling on about my gossipy experiences in Hollywood. Somehow die at my most beautiful.'' —Jessica Shaw
For the full scoop on all the game-changers of New Hollywood, pick up EW on newsstands or buy the issue online.
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Michael B. Jordan, 26
He's been wowing the industry this summer with his performance in the indie Fruitvale Station, but Jordan has been making strong impressions on audiences for years: As Wallace on The Wire, as Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights, and as a teenager with superpowers in the film Chronicle. Next: possibly playing Apollo Creed's grandson in the Rocky spinoff, Creed, hopefully directed by Fruitvale's Ryan Coogler. And maybe (just maybe) the Human Torch in The Fantastic Four reboot.
Bang! Bang! You're Not It! ''Action auditions are the worst. You've got maybe two lines: 'What's up, dude? Die! Die! Die!' and you act like you're shooting somebody, and you've got a rolled-up script as a gun. It's the most awkward thing ever.'' —Sean Smith
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Shailene Woodley, 21
No one plays 21st-century teen angst quite like Shailene Woodley. At the end of a five-year run on ABC Family's The Secret Life of an American Teenager, she took her talents to the big screen in a big way by going toe-to-toe with George Clooney in 2011's The Descendants. She's currently earning a new round of raves for her work in the coming-of-age indie drama The Spectacular Now, and next year she'll star in two highly anticipated adaptations of YA best sellers: Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.
Surviving Hollywood: The super low-key Woodley says she prefers not to think of herself as ''in'' the industry. ''It's like I don't know 'Hollywood' or that side of it,'' she says. ''I just stay out of it. I guess staying out of it is my secret.'' —Sara Vilkomerson
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Emma Watson, 23
Hermione is long gone. After a childhood in the Harry Potter franchise, Watson is writing the next chapter of her career, turning in impressive performances in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Bling Ring. Next: Darren Aronofsky's Noah.
Speaking American: ''I've never been that person who could just do accents off the top of her head, so it was really scary,'' Watson says of talking like an American in her most recent films. ''But it also made me very driven and thorough. I got really geeky on it. I had to because I was so appallingly bad. If you ask me to do a Scottish accent right now, it would be indecipherable. You'd have absolutely no idea where I was from.'' —Sean Smith
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Kevin Hart, 34
He starred in BET's addictively silly Real Husbands of Hollywood, hosted Saturday Night Live, and brought us one of the best big-screen stand-up films in recent history with Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. It's been a very good year for Kevin Hart. And with a slew of movies in the pipeline — including Grudge Match, Ride Along, About Last Night, and Think Like a Man Too — he's just getting started.
2013 Highlight: ''Hosting SNL was definitely monumental. As a comedian, that's what we do it for. We do it to get that stamp, that confirmation that Saturday Night Live accepted you. And for me, when they asked me to host, that was it. You can't get any bigger or better.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Maggie Carey, 38
First-time writer-director Carey (who is married to Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader) took the typical horny-teen-guy sex comedy formula, à la Porky's or American Pie, and gave it a fresh, female-centric twist with this summer's outrageous sleeper hit The To Do List.
Secret Weapon: ''For writers block, a Golden Girls marathon on the Hallmark Channel,'' she says. ''Or, if you got rid of your cable, try The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Netflix. Or you can borrow my VHS copy of The Princess Bride if you promise to return it.'' —Josh Rottenberg
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Hunter Hayes, 21
He's got relentless drive, and undeniable songwriting talent — and hey, it doesn't hurt that he's a good looking dude. The ''I Want Crazy'' singer is well on his way to becoming a country-pop megastar on par with Taylor Swift (whom he opened for in 2011). Hayes has already earned the respect of Nashville by playing every instrument on his self-titled debut album, which is on the verge of going platinum.
Worst Performance Memory: ''A couple nights ago! I was getting sick, and I didn't know it, so I was having trouble singing and I couldn't really hear anything. It probably was not the worst performance I ever did, but in recent memory, that's the one. [Laughs]'' —Grady Smith
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Jennifer Lawrence, 22
She can do no wrong. The Oscar-winning actress glides between franchise epics (The Hunger Games) and indie gems (Silver Linings Playbook). We believe her as much when she's killing a squirrel for dinner (Winter's Bone) as when she's painted from head to toe in blue (X-Men: First Class). When she stumbles, as she did on the way up to accept her first of what we believe will be many Oscars, she recovers with grace and that unflappable wit. And at a mere 22, she is just getting started.
The Weirdness of Fame: ''My best friend was just in town,'' Lawrence told EW on the set of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. ''And we were trying to register everything that's changed. This was our first time going out with a security guard, going to VIP stuff. What am I, the President's daughter?! But we were both talking about how it just doesn't register. No matter what happens, it just doesn't register.'' —Karen Valby
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Quvenzhané Wallis, 9
The young Louisiana native burst into our lives in a tank top and pair of rain boots, her hair as untamed as her heart, in 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild. She rightly earned an Oscar nomination for her fierce performance and will next be seen in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave alongside Brad Pitt and Chiwetel Ejiofor. When EW caught up with her, she'd been singing the classic orphan song ''Tomorrow'' in the shower but had not yet recorded it for the remake of Annie, in which she'll likely steal our hearts all over again.
Safe Under Her Mother's Wing: ''Sidney Poitier told me that I had to make him a promise,'' says Wallis' mother, Qulyndreia. ''And that was to always be with her and by her side — to not leave her, to just stay with her throughout this new world that we're living in.'' Sounds like excellent advice. —Karen Valby
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Beau Willimon, 36
A former staffer for the likes of Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Howard Dean, the playwright used his real-world knowledge of the inner workings of Washington to craft Netflix' impossible-to-resist drama House of Cards (which scored the anti-network a remarkable nine Emmys nods).
Most Surprising Fan: ''I remember having a conversation with the ambassador from Israel, who said the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] watched House of Cards, and would come in and talk to the staff about it all the time. And I'm just thinking to myself, Here's a guy who's running Israel who in those brief few moments he has to escape from some intense realities, is watching this show. That's pretty heady stuff.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Maria Semple, 49
Where'd You Go Bernadette? hilariously and cuttingly satirizes one woman's breakdown in Seattle, and cements former Arrested Development writer Maria Semple as a voice to pay attention to.
FAQs: ''It's funny, outsiders, their first question is, 'Does everyone in Seattle hate you? Can you show your face in Seattle?' That's the first question at readings when I was on a big paperback tour in 15 cities or 20 cities, I never got through a reading without people saying, 'Does everyone in Seattle hate you?''' says Semple. ''And it really is the opposite, because people here love the book, and they really get that I love Seattle. I think everybody recognizes everything that I go off on [in the book]. No one has ever said, Oh, what you're saying is not true, you're hallucinating.'' —Stephan Lee
For the full scoop on all the game-changers of New Hollywood, pick up EW on newsstands or buy the issue online.
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Macklemore, 30, and Ryan Lewis, 25
The no-label wonders have proven that ''Thrift Shop'' was no fluke with one of the best batting averages in pop music — their last three singles all charted in the Top 20. This fall, the pair embarks on an extensive national tour and in just a few weeks, they'll be up for more MTV VMAs than any other artist besides Justin Timberlake. Not too shabby.
Craft Serves Us: ''You know, a lot of rappers and their directors are like, 'Alright, let's shoot a music video,' and they knock it out in six hours and stand in front of a green screen. We like to conceptually build something that reflects the energy — like more of a short film,'' says Macklemore. —Ray Rahman
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Amy Schumer, 32
Despite working the stand-up circuit for more than a decade — including reaching the finals of the reality series Last Comic Standing — Schumer truly broke through as one of the freshest, most insightful voices in mainstream comedy this year with Inside Amy Schumer, her sketch show that delves into gender relations with the same fervent glee as Chappelle's Show did with race. And with impressive ratings, more stand-up dates, and a second season in the works, she's staked her ground in the laughter landscape.
Striking a Gender Balance: ''As good as this show is a stomping ground to voice that female aggression, I still just want to be funny. And I am aware of the demographic that Comedy Central does pander to, and I don't ignore that either. If something's feeling too female, like only women would really appreciate it, I'll nix it. I want it to appeal to both genders.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Nicholas Hoult, 23
The charmingly gawky kid from About a Boy became the sly heartbreaker of the U.K. soap Skins, and has now graduated into an impressively grown-up career. Not only did he nab the role of Hank McCoy (a.k.a Beast) in X-Men: First Class and its forthcoming sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, but he also charmed us so thoroughly as a lovesick zombie in this winter's Warm Bodies that we we're willing to forget the March flop, Jack the Giant Slayer.
If I Knew Then...: ''The amount of time I was going to spend getting into make-up,'' says Hoult. ''I do a lot of jobs that involve make-up. The artists you work with are fantastic, and you have a good chat and chill out in the morning, but it's definitely something that I wasn't prepared for. Warm Bodies actually was only an hour and a half, but when I do X-Men, that's three and a half hours. I seem to keep on doing characters with a lot of eyeshadow.'' —Grady Smith
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John Green, 35
John Green isn't just the beloved author of The Fault in Our Stars, the tearjerking and surprisingly funny YA novel about two teens with cancer. He's the leader of an online revolution of thoughtful young readers (Nerdfighters unite!) that never forgets to be awesome.
Skyping With POTUS: ''My wife and I basically stayed up all night the night before [talking with President Barack Obama], being really nervous, talking to each other about how nervous we were,'' remembers Green. ''But in the actual conversation itself, it was really natural and really fun. Of course I don't think you get to be president unless you're quite charismatic and you're good at making people feel at ease, which he certainly was, and so we got to ask him what we should name our daughter. He didn't answer.'' —Stephan Lee
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Megan Ellison, 27
A passionate fan of auteur-driven movies, the daughter of billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has put her (piles and piles of) money where her mouth is, financing risky, original films like The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, and David O. Russell's upcoming American Hustle. ''Megan is one of the most hard-working producers I've ever seen,'' says director Wong Kar Wai, who worked with Ellison on The Grandmaster, his upcoming martial-arts epic about Bruce Lee's trainer, Ip Man. ''She has great creative energy and instincts.''
Long Live the Producer-Artist! ''I think that as the business becomes more conservative, cinema as an art form is increasingly in the hands of people like Megan,'' says director Andrew Dominic, who worked with Ellison on his last feature, Killing Them Softly. ''The world is full of filmmakers with 'vision.' What it needs is financiers with the same stuff.'' —Josh Rottenberg
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Condola Rashad, 26
Her powerful performances in Stick Fly and The Trip to Bountiful — her first-ever Broadway plays — earned Rashad back-to-back Tony nominations. And in Lifetime's Steel Magnolias remake, she put her own spin on a famous role originally played by none other than Julia Roberts. Now the daughter of Phylicia and Ahmad Rashad looks to conquer the music world: She's currently recording an album with her band, Condola and the Stoop Kids.
The Lady of Verona: Beginning Aug. 24, Rashad will star as Juliet to Orlando Bloom's Romeo in a Broadway revival of Shakespeare's greatest romance. And the actress hopes to surprise audiences with her take on the famed heroine. ''Juliet was a role that I wanted to do because there are colors that I could explore that I'd never seen in other productions,'' says Rashad. ''She's not just some wallflower who is, 'Woe is me.''' —Jason Clark
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Tatiana Maslany, 27
The actress is drawing raves by changing it up on BBC America drama Orphan Black: She plays more than a half-dozen roles in the form of clones who find themselves caught up in a complex conspiracy.
Casting Her Biopic: ''Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development [should play me]. I just think we have a similar kind of face; we have similar hair. She would make me a lot funnier than I am, which would be great for me.'' —Dan Snierson
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D.B. Weiss, 42, and David Benioff, 43
The writer-producer talents behind HBO's Game of Thrones took a seemingly unfilmable literary fantasy saga and turned it into TV's hottest drama. And did we mention they'd never run a TV show before?
Regrets? Weiss insists he doesn't have one. ''I can't imagine doing anything I would like more than Game of Thrones or be better suited for than Game of Thrones; and if my career had gone differently, I would probably not be doing Game of Thrones.'' Benioff, on the other hand, jokes, ''I was destined to be the fifth member of the Always Sunny gang. I fought for that part. I bled for it. And then f---ing Danny DeVito came along and stole it from me.'' —James Hibberd
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Aubrey Plaza, 29
A master of the deadpan witticism and the uncomfortable pause, Plaza made the leap from TV's Parks and Recreation to big-screen cringe-comedy stardom with her turn as a type-A high schooler determined to lose her virginity in this summer's R-rated raunchfest The To Do List.
Worst Audition: ''I auditioned for Scott Rudin once for a play he was producing,'' she says. ''I have nervous habits where I shake a lot, and I guess when I was waiting in the lobby I was shaking this can of Coke and not thinking about it. When I got in his office, I accidentally dropped the Coke on the floor and it exploded like a geyser and went all over his desk, all over me, all over the other actor, and all over the ceiling. It was one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me.'' —Josh Rottenberg
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Jessica Chastain, 36
She stunned in her Oscar-nominated performance in The Help, so funny and messy and vulnerable playing a lonely, rich woman born of trash. And then suddenly Chastain was everywhere, a pale rock of a wife in Take Shelter and The Tree of Life. She earned her second Oscar nod in 2012's Zero Dark Thirty for her turn as a fiercely competent CIA agent whose job demands she carry herself at a remove (and yet somehow, we still got the full range of an urgent person in pain). Next she'll star in Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro movies, but first, the indie drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which premieres at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Her Biggest Fans: ''She's so intelligent and sensitive and smart and makes amazing choices,'' says Tom Hiddleston. ''I think she's going to be around for a long, long time.'' Benedict Cumberbatch, her friend and future costar in the del Toro movie, Crimson Peak, agrees: ''I can't wait to work with her. We met last year, it was the BAFTAs party. She came in and went [in an American accent], 'Oh my God! I'm such a big fan of yours! I love Sherlock!' It was so sweet. And I was just standing in front of her going, 'You are the real deal, and it's just a thrill to watch your work.' She's just done so much. I think within her ability to be a chameleon and characterize a really wide range of backgrounds and character types and make them completely individual and unique, there's also a universally accessible quality that she has. She's stunning to watch.'' —Karen Valby
For the full scoop on all the game-changers of New Hollywood, pick up EW on newsstands or buy the issue online.
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Ryan Coogler, 27
The former college-football wide receiver scored a touchdown with his debut feature, Fruitvale Station, which picked up awards at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals and is now poised for an awards-season run. Next: He's in talks to direct Creed, a Rocky spinoff about Apollo Creed's grandson, possibly to be played by Fruitvale lead Michael B. Jordan.
Blue-Collar Values: ''I don't want to fail, and I want to stay true to myself, but I also really just hope to continue to work. My parents woke up every day of their lives and went to work in blue-collar jobs. I love to approach filmmaking with that same principle: Always be moving forward.'' —Sean Smith
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Alex Timbers, 34
Effortlessly juggling the life stories of the seventh U.S. president (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), Imelda Marcos (Here Lies Love), Peter Pan (Peter and the Starcatcher), and the Italian Stallion (Rocky) is no easy task, but Timbers has become the go-to theater director for fresh re-imaginings of famous tales. He follows up his pop-scored take on Love's Labour's Lost (in Central Park through Aug. 18) with the Jeff Buckley tribute The Last Goodbye in San Diego in September. Next February, Rocky will hit Broadway after a successful run in Germany. Timbers also has a movie in development with Disney, and hopefully (felt fingers crossed!), after a private, top-secret test presentation in NYC last May that reportedly contained over 80 puppets, we may soon see a full-scale Muppets musical on the Great White Way.
His Inspiration: ''Steven Soderbergh,'' says Timbers. ''He's someone who works in a sort of big commercial atmosphere but can do small independent work that is a little boundary-breaking.'' —Jason Clark
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Benedict Cumberbatch, 37
The master sleuth of the BBC's Sherlock beamed into the sci-fi future with Star Trek Into Darkness this summer. His corked rage as Khan was by far the movie's strongest source of heat. The actor with the honeyed baritone is about to be everywhere this fall, with roles in The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and 12 Years a Slave.
Big on Japan: ''I love to travel, and with Trek we all went to Tokyo. That was my first time — and it was a hell of a helter skelter way to be introduced to it, to be sure — but I was blown away. We had this hotel and the view was as if someone had just projected against this backdrop the Ridley Scott director's cut version of Blade Runner with white lights and blinking red lights. It's shockingly stunning and modern and it has that really wonderful aspect of modernity right up against ancient tradition.'' —Geoff Boucher
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Elizabeth Olsen, 24
The younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley proved talent runs deep in the Olsen blood with her haunting film debut as an emotionally scarred cult escapee in 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene. ''Last year was crazy,'' says the actress of her express ride to fame. ''If I hadn't done Martha Marcy May Marlene, then I wouldn't have any of the opportunities I have now. That's a fact.'' Olsen's many upcoming projects include Spike Lee's Oldboy and Kill Your Darlings, as well as an Off Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet in which she'll play the doomed Capulet (all three are due this fall). Next year, she'll take on the legendary monster in a big-budget remake of Godzilla.
Career Covet: ''I'd be very happy being Patricia Clarkson. She's amazing. Amy Adams, too — she makes these amazing choices. I think about all this a lot. I'd be really happy to be just a working actor and not the face of brands, you know? Like Ed Harris — I think he has a really cool career.'' —Sara Vilkomerson
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Benh Zeitlin, 30
A Wesleyan grad with a grand vision, Zeitlin teamed up with his Louisiana-based filmmaking collective, Court 13, and poured his heart into Beasts of the Southern Wild, a post-Katrina fable about a precocious girl and her decaying Bayou environs. Zeitlin's ambitious feature debut took him from the Sundance labs all the way to the Academy Awards, where he scored a Best Director nod. Yet despite the Tinseltown adulation, he's determined to remain outside what he perceives as the handcuffs of the industry.
In Search of Uncharted Territory: ''For me, it's a real goal to get a camera into places that are hard to go to, that I've never seen before, and that audiences have never seen before,'' he says. ''To use filmmaking as a means of exploring the earth and exploring people and pushing past where you would get to go if you're not a filmmaker. It's a means to adventure for me. Can we pull off doing a story on a glacier? Things like that really excite me.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Kerry Washington, 36
Whether she's in and out of love with the President of the United States on Scandal or co-starring in the Oscar-nominated Django Unchained, Washington brings powerful emotion and conviction to every role she plays, which is exactly why we — and Hollywood — can't seem to get enough of her.
Staying Grounded: ''I know that I am like the luckiest woman in show biz, and I think staying in a place of gratitude has really been what keeps me most sane...I just think when I'm in a place of gratitude then everything's good. Or if not, it will be soon.'' —Sandra Gonzalez
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John Oliver, 36
The British comedian subbed in for the beloved Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show this summer — and totally made it his own.
Coming Soon? ''I honestly don't know [what's next, professionally]. My main aim before guest hosting was just not to completely destroy The Daily Show. It was an honor to have Jon trust me to do this for him, and I desperately didn't want to let him down. Anything beyond that hasn't even crossed my mind.'' —Kate Stroup
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Adam Driver, 29
You probably know him as Hannah's rudderless love interest on HBO's Girls, but Driver is no slacker in Hollywood. Just ask Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha), and the Coen brothers (the upcoming drama Inside Llewyn Davis). All of those directors have tapped the actor's off-kilter energy for their movies.
Horse Play: ''I remember auditioning for one TV show. I wish I could tell you the name, but I can't even remember,'' says Driver. ''I don't think it wound up getting made. But I was playing a superhero horse, and I didn't know what to do with it, so in the middle of the audition I just started neighing for a good 30 seconds. And it wasn't working.'' He laughs. ''There was a lot of confusion. That was probably my most humiliating audition.'' —Adam Markovitz
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Jim Rash, 43, and Nat Faxon, 38
These guys are a two-man show business machine. They share a screenwriting Oscar for adapting The Descendants (with Alexander Payne), have each starred in sitcoms (Rash on NBC's Community, Faxon on Fox's Ben and Kate), and served as directors, writers, producers and co-stars of this summer's The Way, Way Back. The pair met as members of the L.A. comedy troupe The Groundlings, and have been working together for over a decade.
Men of Many Hats: ''I think we're constantly wanting to evolve and to do different things,'' Faxon says. Right now they're writing a gritty action comedy for their Groundlings pal Kristin Wiig and also working on a dysfunctional family dramedy. ''I don't think there's one thing I'd rather do. I think we would love to tackle doing it all again for sure,'' Rash says. ''I have this opera that's going to be really amazing. I'm going to sing all the parts. I think it's going to be easy to do. I've heard it's easy.'' He's joking. But then?with these two, anything is possible. —Anthony Breznican
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Gillian Flynn, 42
At this point, Gone Girl has so fully entered into the pop culture vernacular that even if you haven't read it, you've heard all about it. And you're only going to hear more — Flynn is currently adapting her novel into a film to be directed by David Fincher.
More Gone Girl? ''You know, I've found that what gets me in trouble is when I write a book in reaction to the previous book,'' says Flynn. ''When everything goes okay is when I sweep everything away and get to the matter at hand and write what it is that's interesting me. All that said, it's easier said than done! Because part of me is like, why don't I just write more Gone Girl, the Gone Girliest Girl — the sequel that no one wanted.'' We can think of a few rabid fans who might disagree. —Stephan Lee
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Tom Hiddleston, 32
The classically trained British actor is just as charismatic playing a grandiose villain like Thor and The Avengers' Loki as he is breathing life into erudite charmers like Midnight in Paris's F. Scott Fitzgerald or Capt. Nicholls in War Horse — or, for that matter, breaking Rachel Weisz's heart as a callous, opportunistic cad in The Deep Blue Sea.
Meeting the Master: ''The best decision I ever made was in my car on the 405 from Santa Monica to Universal City, where I was going to meet Steven Spielberg for the first time,'' says Hiddleston. ''He'd seen my audition tape for War Horse, and I remember feeling a little nervous. I actually said to myself out loud on the freeway, 'I dare you to be yourself.' I made a promise to tell him how much I loved his work in Indiana Jones and Saving Private Ryan and Jaws — and not to be frightened of seeming like a fan. Because I would never forgive myself if I pretended to be someone that I wasn't in an effort to impress him and then I didn't get the job. So I went into probably the biggest audition of my life preternaturally relaxed. And it worked!'' —Adam Markovitz
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Trish Summerville, 44
From The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the Girl on Fire, this wardrobe maven's edgy, ambitious designs — on display next in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — have all of Hollywood taking notice.
Pride in Her Looks: ''[I'm proudest of designing] Lisbeth Salander's look from Dragon. With her character, we went fully for function. What could she find? And how she would really wear it in her life? The drop-crotched pants, with the tight-fitted leather jacket, and the fingerless gloves, and the taped up combat boots, I think that was a really iconic look.'' —Nuzhat Naoreen
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Chloë Grace Moretz, 16
The term ''child star'' seems a bit too light for an actress who has given us an array of varied and impressive performances in movies like Let Me In, Hugo, and Kick-Ass. And this year is a big one for Moretz, who returns as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass 2 (out Aug. 16) and tries to make an iconic role her own in Kimberly Peirce's remake of Carrie (in theaters Oct. 18). Her work has often been defined by a fierce precociousness, and it's been fascinating to watch as her age catches up to her ability, and not the other way around.
Growing Up Fast: ''I've learned not to take stuff too seriously,'' says Moretz. ''I started when I was six. I understood what I was doing at a really young age, which is weird for a 6-year-old, and it doesn't usually happen that way — except for maybe, like, that kid in Looper.'' (She means Pierce Gagnon.) ''It's really hard to act when you're that young, because you can barely read a book, let alone memorize one and act it out. And those first times when you lose a project when you're a kid, you get really sad about it and it really sucks. But as I've grown up it's like, 'Okay, great, I've lost a project, so what? What's next?' It's learning to brush it off.'' —Keith Staskiewicz
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Hannibal Buress, 30
The stand-up veteran is headed to a stage and a screen near you: He's got two tours coming up (one solo, one with Dave Chappelle), a new special, and appearances on The Eric André Show, Comedy Central's new Broad City, and his own cable show arriving next year.
If I'd Known Then...: ''I wish I knew that it was okay to just leave a place after your set and not stay around and drink. I wish I knew that now. Somebody needs to tell me that it's okay to go home and write.'' —Kyle Anderson
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Melissa McCarthy, 42
''Sometimes it takes 20 years to become an overnight sensation,'' says McCarthy's dear friend and favorite director, Paul Feig. After years of good, solid work, McCarthy finally got to show us the go-for-broke, wholly wonderful contents of her comedy wheelhouse in Bridesmaids. She got an Oscar nomination for playing the eccentric Megan, not just for pooping in a sink, but also for insisting that the audience see the character as a full and real person. Since then, she's been the best part of box office hits Identity Thief and The Heat (and her outtakes at the end of This Is 40 were better than the movie itself). All the while, she remains the sparkly-eyed heart of the comfort food sitcom Mike & Molly, for which she won an Emmy.
On Striking Gold in Her Forties: ''I'm working with one nice, funny, weirdly talented person after the next,'' says McCarthy. ''I don't know how long this ride will last, but while I'm on it, I'm going to enjoy every single second of it. I've been at this a long time and I realize how difficult it is — the odds of making it. So now that it's happening for me, I'm trying really hard to make sure I realize that this is like a dream coming true. I'm not going to roll me eyes at it and go, 'Oh well, big deal,' because it is a big deal!'' —Karen Valby
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After getting plucked out of Myspace obscurity a few years back, the producer has gone on to elevate the game by making killer beats for the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, A$AP Rocky, Mariah Carey, and more.
Coming Up: ''I'm trying to focus on my label, HS87, and pushing myself as an artist, along with my crew, Audio Push. That's what matters to me,'' he says. ''Just coming up with a new generation of people.'' —Ray Rahman
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Jenn Rogien, 35
HBO's Girls may revolve around four women, but thanks to costume designer Rogien, there's a fifth character that's become equally essential: The wardrobe. With her intuitive, storyline-driven approach to style — both on the Brooklyn-based Girls, and her latest project, Netflix's Orange Is the New Black — Rogien does much more than just dress the part; she makes a statement.
Real-Life Inspirations: ''I'm a bit of a voyeur. Wherever I go, I watch people. I watch how they're styling themselves — or not styling themselves. I watch how they put things together. How they manipulate their own clothing to essentially express themselves even if they're not at all attempting self-expression.'' —Nuzhat Naoreen
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 32
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no regular Joe. The actor has gone from gawky kid on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun to intense, angry young man in the indie dramas Brick and Mysterious Skin to leading man in (500) Days of Summer to lean, mean force of nature in Looper and The Dark Knight Rises. For years he has been the new-media impresario of hitRECord.org, his own do-it-yourself production company that crowdsources its talent through the Internet.
An Artist's Artist: Under Gordon-Levitt's guidance, hitRECord has produced short films, music, books, and animation, and is now backing a variety series, hitRECord on TV, that's set to debut on the Pivot network in January 2014. He hopes the show will tap into the artists-collaborating-with-artists vision he holds so dear. ''What I looked forward to is storytelling, and going back to its roots. I'm no anthropologist, but the way stories used to work, people would gather at the tavern, or around the fire, and they would tell stories together, and one person would contribute one part, another would contribute another part,'' he says. ''Maybe it's a version of a story someone else had told last week. No one cared or paid attention to [the notion of] that's mine or that's yours.'' —Anthony Breznican
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Daniel Radcliffe, 24
He shrugged off the Harry Potter mantle (and his clothes) on stage in Equus and has been making daring choices ever since, including the gothic horror film The Woman in Black and playing Allen Ginsberg in this fall's Kill Your Darlings. Next up: The romantic lead in The F-Word (2014).
Still Wild About Harry: ''My mom and dad were quite anti-me acting before I got Harry Potter. Afterward they were very supportive, obviously, but they were always saying to me, 'If you're not enjoying it, you don't have to do it.' And after every film, when our contracts were to be renewed, they would say to me, 'Do you still want to do it?' Every time, my answer was, 'Absolutely, yes.' I just was having such a good time, you know? I can't imagine what life would have been like without it.'' —Sean Smith
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Ester Dean, 31
The new name on every pop star speed dial has written hit tracks for Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Selena Gomez (current smash ''Come & Get It'' is hers). She's got her eye on diversity: She'll be producing new artist Jasmine V and hopefully appearing in the sequel to her acting debut Pitch Perfect.
Careers To Emulate: ''I want to be the Oprah of the entertainment world. I look up to Jimmy Iovine, Jay Z, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, and Ice Cube for breaking out of the box and allowing themselves to try new areas of entertainment.'' —Kyle Anderson
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Chris Terrio, 36
Chris Terrio got his start directing an indie, Heights, in 2005, and an episode of TV's Damages in 2010. But it wasn't until he adapted Joshua Bearman's Wired article about a group of American Embassy workers' improbable escape from Iran in 1980 that the world took notice of his talents. Terrio turned Argo into a thrill-ride that was equal parts nail-biter and comedy.
Respect the Audience: ''When you're writing, I think you have to take it deadly seriously,'' says Terrio. ''You have to be aware of the responsibility you bear when people are giving you two hours of their time.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Stephen Amell, 32
Arrow's Amell is more than just a pretty set of abs. The actor's spot-on performance as wealthy playboy turned tortured vigilante Oliver Queen on the CW series has earned him legions of fans (and fangirls), and placed him firmly on Hollywood's radar. (Yes, it's true, he did take a meeting for the part of Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey.) We'd say that's right on target.
Coming Soon: Besides impending daddy duty (Amell and wife Cassandra Jean are expecting their first child later this year), the Arrow star is busy taking ''lots and lots of meetings'' for potential projects, and focusing on the new wine company, Nocking Point, he just launched with his best friend. Amell says the venture — part of the proceeds go to cancer — is ''the start of the type of life that I want to build for myself outside of acting.'' —Nuzhat Naoreen
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Ava DuVernay, 40
As a former studio publicist, DuVernay knows the system well — both the good and the bad. When she broke out on her own to write, direct, and produce last year's Middle of Nowhere, about a woman on an introspective journey while her husband sits in prison, she proved she had something powerful to say.
Make Your Own Opportunities: ''I feel like I waited too long to get to this place,'' says DuVernay. ''I wish I'd had more examples of maverick independent filmmakers who were making things outside of the usual system and getting them to people in untraditional ways. It took me a while, but I'm glad it kicked in finally.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Lena Dunham, 27
Girls just wanna have?a meaningful social dialogue about gender roles and coming of age? Dunham's bold, brave HBO ''comedy'' Girls aims for the jugular as much as the funny bone. Some may love to mock her penchant for nudity or her seven-figure book deal, but there's no denying that she's a fresh, fierce new voice worthy of our respect — and all those Emmy nominations.
Cut It Out! ''I always enjoy when Lena cuts lines. Lines in the script that is!'' says Girls costar (and fellow New Hollywood-er) Adam Driver. ''On the day [of shooting], if something's not working or is slowing the story down, it's gone. And when it happens it's bold, cold, and quick. It's a surgical procedure I always find revitalizing.'' —Kate Stroup
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Freddie Highmore, 21
The precocious kid doesn't always grow up to be an engaging adult, especially when it comes to actors. Highmore conquered early stardom with preternatural ease, holding his own alongside heavyweights like Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp in movies like Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now 21, Highmore is reinventing himself, and shocking audiences, in his turn as a young Norman Bates in Bates Motel.
The Value of Education: ''It's such a unique opportunity to go to Cambridge and learn there. Anyone can look up the syllabus for the Cambridge courses — but [nothing can replace] being there to be taught by the finest professors and to be surrounded by people who share similar enthusiasm for it.'' —Lindsey Bahr
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Philipp Meyer, 39
Do yourself a favor and read Meyer's The Son before it racks up literary prizes and gets made into an Oscar-caliber Western.
Writing Is...: ''This is actually the only thing I actually care about,'' says Meyer. ''I would do it for free. I did it for free for a long time. It's why I get up in the morning. If I don't write, I start to get physically upset. So I never doubted that I was going to make it. I only doubted how long it would take.'' —Stephan Lee
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Natalie Dormer, 31
She's the queen of cable dramas: First playing doomed Queen Anne Boleyn on Showtime's The Tudors, and now drawing raves as the cunningly beautiful queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell on HBO's Game of Thrones.
Biggest Career Blunder: ''They're wiped from the memory pretty damn quickly — that's the only way you can survive as an actor. It's like after giving birth, you wipe away the pain, or else you'd never have another baby. [To act, you have to] wipe away the humiliation and memories.'' —James Hibberd
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Dane DeHaan, 27
DeHaan followed up his breakout role as a manipulative, depressed teen on HBO's In Treatment with equally impressive turns in Chronicle, Lawless, and The Place Beyond the Pines. Wherever he shows up, you can bet he will be intense, raw, and unforgettable. This fall DeHaan costars with Daniel Radcliffe in the Beat poet drama Kill Your Darlings and as a roadie in Metallica Through the Never. ''My goal this fall is to get some Metallica fans to see Kill Your Darlings, and get the people who'd see Kill Your Darlings to go to the Metallica movie.'' And look for him next year in the pivotal role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Five-Year Plan: ''Oh, I don't even know what I'm doing tomorrow,'' says DeHaan with a laugh. ''If someone had asked me five years ago what I'd be doing now, I'd have sold myself way short.'' —Sara Vilkomerson
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James Wolk, 28
You've taken notice of this cleanly handsome and endearing actor in everything from Lone Star to Political Animals to Happy Endings to Mad Men, and now Wolk will star as an overconfident copywriter in CBS' new Robin Williams/Sarah Michelle Gellar advertising firm-set comedy The Crazy Ones.
On His Crazy Ones Role: ''Zach is a really cocky, kind of rogue self-proclaimed ladies man, a major bulls--- artist, and it's a really fun character to play, because in life, you don't get applauded when you act that way.'' —Dan Snierson
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Liz Meriwether, 31
She's the driving force behind the Fox smash New Girl, which really hit its stride in season 2 thanks to her tonal tweaks (more Winston!) and bold risk taking (who gets the main couple together so quickly?). Oh, and the showrunner also introduced a new word into the lexicon: Adorkable, anyone?
Lesson Learned: ''For me, this year was about embracing the writer's room and the age-old way TV shows have been written. As opposed to first season [of New Girl] where I took a lot of the scripts away from the writers and just kind of went into my office and worked on them alone, season 2 was about opening up to all these people who had great ideas. [It made me] a better leader.'' —Nuzhat Naoreen