June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

With a growing number of teen actors now regularly bringing in big box office bucks, it’s getting harder to figure out which ones are worth the price of admission. But here’s the story of five up-and-comers who could constitute a veritable Who’s Who in Hollywood for years to come — and we think that this is much more than a hunch.

Shawn Hatosy
AGE: 23
WHY HIM? A supporting player in In & Out and a Faculty member, he moves up a notch as Alec Baldwin’s rebellious but lovable son in Outside Providence.
WORK HABITS: ”For each film I do, I try to perfect something. For In & Out, I solved Rubik’s Cube. During The Postman, I was juggling. And on Simpatico [an upcoming drama in which he plays a young Nick Nolte], I learned to yo-yo.”
BRADY HE MOST RELATES TO: Peter. ”He’s the most awkward of the three and never really grew into himself.”
NEXT: Easing Queen Amidala’s growing pains: He’ll costar opposite Natalie Portman in this fall’s Anywhere but Here.

Heath Ledger
AGE: 20
WHY HIM? It’s his reward for sweetly taming Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You. Now he’s graduated to playing Mel Gibson’s son in the Revolutionary War epic The Patriot. ”Working with Mel is like a career moment,” says the Australian native. ”A young kid from Aussie working with Mad Max — it’s awesome.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: ”Steve McQueen. I actually just bought a Mustang, like the one in Bullitt.”
BRADY HE MOST RELATES TO: Peter. ”I’m the middle child, and I once had brown hair.”
NEXT: Shooting The Patriot in and around the Carolinas (filming begins in August).

Kirsten Dunst
AGE: 17
WHY HER? After an auspicious splash (and an on-screen kiss with Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire), George Clooney’s most tragic ER patient shows a remarkable flair for giddy-girl humor in this summer’s Dick and the beauty-queen romp Drop Dead Gorgeous.
WORST JOB: A commercial for the Baby Uh-Oh doll. ”It was this doll that would pee in its diaper. On the bus, all the kids would tease me by singing the Baby Uh-Oh jingle. I got so much torment out of that commercial.”
BRADY SHE MOST RELATES TO: ”Marcia; she got all the guys.”
NEXT: In Prague shooting the period drama All Forgotten.

Julia Stiles
AGE: 18
WHY HER? Versatility is her middle name. She’s moved from the competitive Sundance screenwriters’ lab (where she workshopped a script in ’98) to psychedelia (NBC’s The ’60s) to Shakespeare (10 Things I Hate About You).
WORST JOB: A Tide commercial. ”I had to shake salad dressing and spill it on my shirt. I accidentally broke the bottle and dropped the Walkman I was supposed to be listening to.”
BRADY SHE MOST RELATES TO: Cindy. ”I always feel like a goofy little kid.” NEXT Becoming the official Bard babe, playing Desdemona in the upcoming O (an Othello update) and Ophelia in Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, both out later this year.

Barry Watson
AGE: 25
WHY HIM? You might think that we love him because he’s a latter-day David Cassidy (at least his hair is), but this 7th Heaven star unleashes a surprising slacker side in Kevin Williamson’s black comedy Teaching Mrs. Tingle.
WORK HABITS: ”My little brother reads lines with me a lot. We’ll do it in all of these different voices, like stupid characters, and it helps me learn them a lot faster.”
BRADY HE MOST RELATES TO: ”Greg was pretty damn cool for being Johnny Bravo.”
NEXT: After Tingle hits the multiplex, he’ll be gearing up for another season of 7th Heaven.

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