12 up and coming actresses -- Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes, and Christina Ricci are three new talents to watch for

These women may be young, relatively inexperienced, or still swimming outside the mainstream, but they’ve got the talent and potential to be Hollywood players for years to come.

Cate Blanchett, 29
She sculpts carefully defined, complicated, and often contradictory characters with both whimsy and intelligence. Following strong debuts in 1997’s Paradise Road and Oscar and Lucinda with this year’s Elizabeth, she’s announcing her presence with authority.

Claire Danes, 19
Blessed with liquid eyes, a coy smile, and substantial talent, Danes is a quiet pleasure to watch; that she’s still best known for TV’s My So-Called Life says that she’s gotta start picking better roles. Will next year’s Mod Squad fit the bill?

Janeane Garofalo, 34
A lacerating geek-hip goddess, Garofalo displayed leading-lady potential in The Truth About Cats & Dogs but has otherwise been the best thing in bad movies from Clay Pigeons to The Matchmaker. Imagine what she could do in good ones.

Anne Heche, 29
Her acting chops may have been obscured by Ellen’s in-and-out hype, but check out her coiled turns in Donnie Brasco and Return to Paradise. She’s fearless about risk taking (who else would dare step into Janet Leigh’s shower stall in the upcoming Psycho?).

Ashley Judd, 30
She looks like an angel but has the toughness to master Oscar-caliber roles. Judd’s made some questionable choices (Simon Birch?), but her gritty performances in Smoke and Heat are must-sees.

Catherine Keener, 39
A serious indie player, the sexy, icy Keener is most adept at painting smart, complex portraits of conflicted modern women (Your Friends and Neighbors, Walking and Talking, Living in Oblivion), often in just a few scenes.

Laura Linney, 34
It’s easy to understand why Clint Eastwood hand-picked her for Absolute Power — she’s smart, engaging, and a pleasure to watch on screen. Playing off her apple-cheeked, wholesomer-than-thou looks in The Truman Show was nothing less than a masterstroke.

Thandie Newton, 27
Her visceral performance in Beloved finally showed what dogs like Jefferson in Paris kept hidden — fierce, studious talent. Rumored to be teaming with Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in the upcoming Mission: Impossible sequel.

Mary-Louise Parker, 34
One of New York’s most delightfully idiosyncratic stage presences has yet to have her abilities sufficiently exploited on screen. When she works (Fried Green Tomatoes, Bullets Over Broadway) she’s one of our most versatile performers.

Jada Pinkett Smith, 27
Don’t let the wispy frame (or the woeful Woo) fool you. Whether it’s drama (Set It Off) or comedy (The Nutty Professor), she’s a welcome, bracing jolt of energy who dominates the screen.

Christina Ricci, 18
Since 1991’s The Addams Family, she has been bewitching audiences with black-as-midnight turns, and 1998 was her best year yet (Buffalo 66, The Opposite of Sex). She’ swiftly completed that rare transition from child actor to just plain actor.

Emily Watson, 31
Two intense, dreamlike performances in Breaking the Waves and The Boxer revealed mesmerizing potential. For ’99, high hopes ride on her starring role in the screen adaptation of the best-seller Angela’s Ashes.