I first met Dan when he was 13 going on 14 — or 13 going on 50, really. He was? a brilliant boy, way beyond his years. ?He was focused, committed, and hardworking, and he had an absolutely killer sense of humor. He wasn’t just some little kid who got a lucky break and ?was messing about.
Dan dares to get up on the high wire. There’s risk involved in the work that he’s choosing. I can’t think of many 17-year-olds who would expose themselves — and I don’t mean just in the physical sense — and risk everything by going on stage and doing Equus, as Dan did a while back.
What I admire most about him is that he doesn’t rest on his laurels. He doesn’t think the world owes him because he’s played Harry Potter. He took lessons and learned to dance and sing, because he knew that once Potter was over, he would be swimming in the stream with all the other salmon. I was sad to see Potter go, but happy, too. It was not goodbye. Dan is going to continue to work and mature and develop his skills. And, I think, continue to dazzle. —Gary Oldman
One day a friend of mine, Danilo Dixon, who’s a hairdresser in New York City, was going on and on about this girl Adele. I’d never heard of her. He dropped off some of her music at my house, and when I heard it I thought, ”How have I lived my whole life without knowing what she sounds like singing?” It’s that kind of a voice. ”Someone Like You” is probably everyone’s favorite, but? I just love it. And I love the video —she looks so gorgeous rocking her eyeliner.
Adele’s music is so personal that you get invested in her life. ?Is it going to work out? It better, because that guy will never find someone else like her! When Adele had her health scare, I had random people saying to me, ”Oh my God, did you hear about Adele?” A mom that I talk to in the carpool line asked me — and a girl that I run into? at the gym. It really made me think, ”God, we all have a real investment here.” We feel like Adele’s in our book club or she lives in our neighborhood — and that’s a gift, to make people feel that way. Anybody that’s going to date her is a brave, brave man. You’re going to get a whole lot of love, but you’d better treat her right, or we’re all coming after you. —Julia Roberts
Matt Stone and Trey Parker
I have never met these people and I have no idea why I was asked to write a piece on them. Yes, I watch South Park, and am offended each and every time. Yes, I watch their movies, and am offended each and every time. And yes, I went and saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway, and was so offended I peed my pants twice…maybe three times. I lost count I was so offended. And yes, I find myself saying, ”HOW CAN THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS?” each and every time another innocent sect, person, pop icon, religion, actor, or social movement is offended.
And let me be clear, I am in no way writing this piece to suck up to them in order to prevent any future episodes of South Park from ripping me a new one. Because I know that it’s coming…and it’s going to be brutal!
Maybe that is why so many of us, myself included, find ourselves going back for more each and every time Matt and Trey create something new. Because no matter how much we cover our faces in horror, we always leave just a few fingers parted so we can be entertained by Matt and Trey’s brilliantly offensive style. And all that ”offensiveness” is pointing a finger at us. Because none of us are innocent, and we all could use a little humble pie from these clowns. —Sandra Bullock
Every time I’ve been lucky enough to make a movie with him, the press inevitably swoon, ”Wow, how great is Brad Pitt?” — they’re continually surprised. People often think that actors who are that famous can’t be that talented. But then they see Brad in Moneyball or The Tree of Life and again squeal, ”Oh my God.” In an odd way, and I’m not sure how it’s possible, he gets to reemerge with every film.
In Moneyball, he is truly coming to terms with his own capability. It’s especially interesting to me that the same guy who played Achilles in Troy can also play Billy Beane. Achilles understood what it means to be touched by grace. Beane had to come to terms with the fact that being touched by grace isn’t all it’s cracked ?up to be, because in baseball fat guys who get on base are just as important as Ted Williams. You look at Brad and you think, ”Why would he want to take the air out of the notion of bequeathed greatness?” But I think it’s telling that he doesn’t just want to play the hero. Even at this point in his career, he’s asking, ”What else can I know about myself?” —David Fincher
I first fell for Zooey in (500) Days of Summer, though I’d seen her in Almost Famous and remember thinking, ”Who’s that girl?” Now I know. And I can proudly say I’m a big fan. In New Girl, she makes me laugh with her physical comedy and deadpan delivery and — okay, I’m going to say it — she’s adorable (sorry, Zooey) with or without those goofy glasses.
Plus, OMG, she sings! But you already know that. She sang the national anthem during the World Series this year. And she got it right! I know because I was watching (yes, I’m a baseball fan). I tweeted about Zooey singing at that game and the RTs flew all over the place because Zooey’s got something like a zillion followers on Twitter. This is just the beginning for Zooey, and I can’t wait to find out what’s still to come. I suspect we’ll see many different Zooeys emerging, but for now let’s all be happy we have New Girl and the chance to have a date with her every Tuesday night. —Judy Blume
Cee Lo Green, ?Blake Shelton, ?Adam Levine, and Christina Aguilera
What makes The Voice different from other reality competitions? It actually has current celebrities as judges. They’re not people who used to be celebrities coming back to try to give advice. Also, The Voice is the only one with a country artist. And not just any country artist — people love my husband, Blake. There’s a sweet, big-brother side to him on the show that I never knew existed. Now you’ll see Cee Lo and Adam fighting over a country contestant. It’s cool! Besides Blake, Adam stands out to me — he’s pretty tough. ?And Cee Lo brings a cool factor.
Together, the judges and the blind auditions are amazing because it has nothing to do with image. Everything in entertainment right now is so driven by being skinny and ?beautiful, but The Voice is just about talent. There’s never been a show like that. Last season, Christina had Frenchie and Beverly, two bald girls who can absolutely wail. That’s awesome! Has there ever been a competition where the final two girls on someone’s team were bald? —Miranda Lambert
There is about Viola’s work, and her person, a self-effacing quality that, ironically, has? the exact opposite effect of erasing her impact. Weirdly, it amplifies the importance of the women she has chosen to portray, and the woman she is. It’s her seeming reluctance to draw attention to herself that draws us in and pulls us close. It’s her interest in the quiet, the patient ones; and it’s her respect, the great respect she pays to those who bear unbearable burdens without a sound, that makes us lean in and listen and unable to turn away.
Her modesty is her majesty.
This is not to say that she is incapable of stylish and show-offy and joyously wild stuff — I have seen that from her in the theater. It’s just to say that her heart and skill are married, and I think that she’s a pure actor, in the way of Vanessa Redgrave. Both share a magic source, a quality that brings more light around the characters they play than lights regular human beings, an aura almost… It’s like they broke into the electrics truck and brought their own key light, only lit from the inside. What is that? Where does it come from?
Nothing phony, nothing unfelt, unearned. ?I know she is a serious actress, she took her training seriously and works hard at her craft. She is a special woman, too. Her humanity marches out in front of her; her kindness, her fierceness, her unwillingness to compromise, her stubbornness make me love her too. But none of that explains the special empathy she sets up between us and the women she brings us close to, so close we breathe with them.
You don’t watch Viola, you live it with her. —Meryl Streep
Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Ellie Kemper, Kristen Wiig, and Rose Byrne
A lot of crazy, incredible, over-the-top things happen in Bridesmaids, but the movie really succeeds because of the relationship between Kristen’s and Maya’s characters. I love seeing friendships between women realistically portrayed, and that was a beautifully depicted best-friendship — one wasn’t just the sidekick to the other. But then all the characters in the movie were fully formed.
I love the scene where we first meet Melissa McCarthy’s character and all Kristen asks her is ”How’s it going?” And Melissa says it’s going great, but she fell off a cruise ship, she hit every railing going down,? a dolphin saved her, and now she has pins in her leg. I knew nothing about Melissa McCarthy until I saw the movie, and as an opening scene for an actress it was just magnificent.
The ?fact that Bridesmaids did as well as it did was an amazing accomplishment. And I love ?that the movie wasn’t sold as ”Get All Your Girlfriends and Go See Bridesmaids!” It was? just ”Everybody Go See Bridesmaids, It’s a Funny, Awesome Movie.” —Mindy Kaling
I could tell from the first time I met Ryan that he was going to do something different with his character in Crazy, Stupid, Love. It could have been a very typical bon-vivant cliché. He was charming and he was a ladies’ man, but he did it without being off-putting. He did it with a real sense of grace. And he did that with all of his characters this year.
You never see Ryan trying too hard. A lot of people responded to how incredibly good-looking he was and what a great physique he had. When he took his shirt off, as a producer on the movie, I thought, ”He’s exactly what that guy should look like.”
But that’s not who Ryan is. In his mind, he was just becoming a character. He read that part of the script where Emma Stone’s character says, ”Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped,” and he took that piece of information and worked out ?to a point where he actually did look Photoshopped. But it wasn’t coming from a place of vanity; it was an actor’s choice. And there’s a really big difference between those two things. I just think he’s capable of anything as an actor. And people have only begun to see what he can do. —Steve Carell
Even before we knew each other, I always liked Katy Perry. Having started as a singer-songwriter, I tend to gravitate toward artists who really put themselves into their music and their lyrics — be they fun, serious, heartbreaking, inspiring, whatever. I think that’s why a lot of people respond to Katy’s music. They’re not just responding to the songs, they’re responding to her. She has such an infectious, fun-loving energy, which is apparent on stage and off, and she’s always been very sweet and supportive of me and my work. With so many people surrounding her, I consider myself lucky to have gotten to make her acquaintance at all, and getting to know her warm spirit has made me happy for all her success.
The first time I met Katy, I was impressed — though not surprised — by her musicality. We were going to sing together at a big event, so we met up ?to go through some harmonies. It was ?a very low-key rehearsal: no lights, no costumes, no mics — nothing. Just me and her in a dressing room, singing a cappella. I was so struck by the incredibly raw, genuine sound that came out of her, especially in such a nonperformance setting. This was the voice that millions had fallen in love with, and I was experiencing it in its most real form. Even though I’d been an admirer already, that moment definitely solidified me as a Katy fan. She is very much the real deal. —Darren Criss
Louis C.K. is the most painfully honest person I’ve ever met. There’s an episode of his show Louie where he meets with Dane Cook and they talk about the rumor that Dane stole one of his jokes. That was the highlight of the season, and Dane was a great sport for doing it, because a lot of that stuff was real. I don’t know any comedians who don’t watch Louie, and the Dane Cook episode blew their minds.
Really famous A-list people want to be on Louie, but the show operates in a Lower East Side world where Louie hangs out with stand-up comedians, so he knows that big stars might be out of place. There’s a lot of ”inside” comedian stuff on the show. Are there specific characters based on real people from the comedy scene? There’s definitely a few, but I can’t say who. The episode with the stand-up comedian who’s going to kill himself because he’s not as successful as Louie? I know guys like that.
Louie’s biggest problem has always been that he’s too humble. We’d talk a lot, and he’d tell me that someone offered him some role or project, and I’d be like, ”Dude. You’re bigger than that.” In the last couple of years, he’s finally starting to realize it. And I’m happy about that, because nobody’s got an original voice like this guy. —Chris Rock
Jack-of-All-Trades is a tricky job — and no one does it better than Hugh Jackman. He can simultaneously be the superstudly action star of Real Steel, flit about the Broadway stage as the faaaabulous Peter Allen, and be the charming tuxedoed host of a major awards show, and no one questions it a bit. Nay, people eat it up.
I had the unique honor of working alongside Hugh during a performance at this year’s Tony Awards. When we were rehearsing, I marveled at his positivity and easygoing nature. He never said no to anything! Could I openly mock him? Sure thing. Have a snappy Chorus Line dance-off? You betcha. How about slow-dance together while harmonizing to ”You’re the Top”? Absolutely. As a major gigantic-time movie star, Hugh had every right to say, ”Crikey, let’s opt for something a little tamer, mate.” There was none of that. His agenda was simply for the good of the show.
I think he’s that selfless, that committed, to everything he sets his mind to. It’s what makes him not only a star but a super one. I can’t wait to see what he’ll surprise us with next. —Neil Patrick Harris
George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin is such a great writer that it makes people angry. Fans can’t read his books fast enough, and even I find myself cursing the fact that I am already halfway through the 4,000-plus pages of the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Mr. Martin is the best kind of fiction writer. He cares about what happens to his characters as much as we do. He writes about major themes in human ways and he isn’t afraid to go big. The scope and size of the world of Westeros is like nothing I have ever read, let alone dared to imagine. From Winterfell to the Wall, each location is strange and staggering and still feels familiar.
Martin’s books are filled with heroes looking for honor and villains searching for a sense of home. Leaders who worship different gods and mothers who worry about their children. He reminds us that the king and the beggar are afraid of the same thing. Just because you are a knight doesn’t mean you can?t have daddy issues.
Martin has characters to spare, with great names like Qhorin Halfhand and Daenerys Targaryen and Theon Greyjoy. And here is the cool part: Some of them die. Martin kills off characters in ways that make you gasp. When you read his books, you smell the horses and feel the cold and taste the wine and the whole time you know that someone will die! Trust me, it’s exciting. And let’s not forget the women…Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Cersei, Catelyn. If only the world were run by these women. All of them with various amounts of power, all suffering, all wiser than they are allowed to be. But just in case you think it’s all doom and gloom, I’d like to point out that Martin is funny. Tyrion the Imp has some of the best one-liners I have ever read from someone about to die. Did I mention a lot of people die? Never mind, I shall read on and enjoy the series while I can. Because if there is one thing George R.R. Martin teaches us, it’s that nothing lasts forever. And winter is coming. —Amy Poehler
The Killing Cast (Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos)
Like others, I was dismayed by The Killing‘s decline from event television to plain old series television. But even if the destination sucked, the journey was still a pleasure. Ms. Enos was stunningly good as the job-obsessed Linden, and the prickly camaraderie that developed between her and Holder was a joy to watch. Better yet, in The Killing we had a series that showed the true consequences of murder for those left behind. I ended up not caring a whole lot about who killed Rosie Larsen, but I cared a great deal about her grieving family. I’ll be back to walk those rainy Seattle streets with Linden again. —Stephen King
Emma’s so mature and unflappable, but there were two people I saw her get really excited about meeting — Bill Murray and Paul McCartney — and that was when I saw there’s still a little girl in there somewhere. Emma and I are both big Beatles fans. I’ve known Paul ?awhile, and I love introducing people to him because it’s pretty great to meet Paul McCartney. So I took Emma and Kat Dennings over to his house one night. He was there with Nancy, who’s now his wife. We were doing this thing — I think it was suggested by Kat — where you all put two fingers under someone and try to lift them. So we were lifting Emma, and Paul was just laughing convulsively. She was pretty psyched to meet him.
And as for Bill Murray, he only worked with Emma and me on Zombieland for 24 hours. But at the end of it, he said, ”That Emma is pure gold.” Believe me, it’s a much bigger statement than it sounds like because Bill doesn’t ever say that s-?-?-. He was knocked out by her. He really thought the sky was the limit for her — and it absolutely is. We’re just beginning to see what she’s capable of. She’s going to blow people’s minds. —Woody Harrelson
The Walking Dead Cast
My love of zombies goes way, way back, and I was a fan of the Walking Dead comic book from the very beginning. I thought it was pretty grand to embrace the zombie genre like a gigantic Russian novel. What I love about the show is that they adapted it to TV — they take liberties because it is a different medium and ?they are telling a different story. The ?first season was terrific, but they had to ?spend a lot of shoe leather establishing characters. This second season is stellar. They’re just more comfortable in their skin, as actors and writers. I think the show is preparing America and the ?world for the zombie apocalypse. I hope the Nobel people recognize that. —Patton Oswalt
The Breaking Bad Cast
In 1972, Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky faced each other across a chessboard in what the world would come to call the Match of the Century. Spassky got crushed. Why? Because he failed to realize that his opponent was willing to do whatever it took to win. Fischer had already broken bad. If you know the phenomenal show to which I refer, then you understand that the true match ?of the century was White vs. Fring. ?The outcome blew our minds and transcended television. And despite always feeling five moves behind, I cannot wait to see what happens next. —Damon Lindelof