Look, friends, nobody's saying Meryl is finished. Or that George Clooney's beard is not still the sexiest beard of all. Or, heaven forbid, that Denzel is anything but the man of our dreams. However, these venerable folks are now joined by a whole new cast of characters on the silver screen (and TV, too). We like to think these nine pairings represent not just coincidental similarities, but the constant reincarnation of a benevolent spirit throughout various generations of humanity. Okay, maybe that's pushing it, but the fact remains that as an entertainment-consuming culture, we have needs. And certain people can fulfill those needs, though they are ever-changing and dependent on a whole host of circumstances that shape the national mood. These intergenerational twins are more than just the next big thing. They're the voices that define a new era in show business!
Lena Dunham - Woody Allen
Without even delving into their mutual embracing of New York and neuroses, both Dunham and Allen have made their mark as writers, actors, and directors who carry out a singular (if not always popular, particularly in Dunham's case) vision from start to finish. And both of them have seriously spiced up the world of celebrity with their more average, everyday appearances — without letting themselves be entirely defined by that same fact. We know a lot of people don't love Lena nearly as much as they do Woody, but having seen and adored Tiny Furniture, we have a feeling that she'll make an equally strong mark (if she hasn't already).
Photo: Courtesy of HBO; Rex/Rex USA.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - George Clooney
After 500 Days of Summer, we wouldn't have pegged JGL as an action type, but Inception was proof that he can bring his sensitive vibe and dimpled good looks into a more high-octane setting — without veering into Vin Diesel territory. In movies like Michael Clayton and The Perfect Storm, Clooney offered a more realistic, relatable entry into thrillers, and we have a feeling Gordon-Levitt will continue to do just that. Plus, we could totally see him booking a mega-bucks franchise like Ocean's Eleven in the future.
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures; Paramount Pictures.
Michelle Rodriguez - Samuel L. Jackson
Every generation needs an actor who can reliably deliver a really badass line in a really badass way. And Rodriguez has a scowl that could rival Jackson's any day. Perhaps most importantly, both of them are kind of in everything. For his part, Jackson has appeared in over 100 films, and Rodriguez already has an impressive resume that ranges from Lost to Machete to Avatar. Someday, we hope the two will unite in a Snakes on a Plane sequel where she is the newbie cop and he's the retired FBI agent who, reluctantly, has to come back on the job to help her round up a Sharknado.
Photo: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox; New Line Cinema.
Jennifer Lawrence - Meryl Streep
Now, before you get upset that we would dare compare anyone
to the Queen herself, hear us out. While Meryl's known for some of her more serious roles like Sophie's Choice
or Kramer vs. Kramer
, she's got a goofy, self-deprecating side, as well (see Mamma Mia
or this video
for reference). Jennifer already has a harrowing flick under her belt (Winter's Bone
will have you crying for days on end), and she's definitely got the chops to keep 'em coming. Plus, both of these lovely ladies have a unique kind of beauty — while Meryl's striking features and bonkers cheekbones make her memorable, Jennifer Lawrence's girl-next-door vibe has a bit of a dark twist that reflects her complex character as a performer.
Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company; Paramount Pictures.
Emma Stone - Julia Roberts
Emma still has a bright future ahead of her, and there's no telling what she might do — but in terms of our need for an American sweetheart, she's a sure bet. Like Julia Roberts, you can't help but like Emma Stone. And like Julia, Emma easily slides into a role of the less-than-perfect, quirky girl (even though, objectively, both are insanely beautiful and amazing). Ms. Stone is effortlessly adapts to those rare chick flicks that, instead of being forgettable, become instant classics.
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; François Duhamel / CTMG, Inc.
James Franco - Vincent Gallo
Vincent Gallo did an art project at one point where he sold his sperm online (actually, you can still buy it
). It pretty much goes without saying that James Franco will do the same, someday, if he hasn't already.
Photo: Courtesy of Focus World; Everett Collection/Rex USA.
Kerry Washington - Jessica Lang
Both of these ladies have a certain demure, reserved beauty that never fails to catch our eye. Like Washington, Lange doesn't often play a leading role — but she's proof that supporting characters can be just as affecting and compelling (nobody can say that Washington's part in Django Unchained went unnoticed). Both of them came to television after years of film work and found great success there, Lange on American Horror Story and Washington on Scandal. They're memorable without being typecast, and they move fluidly between TV and movies. Last of all, both of them are so good looking that they could easily be passed off as just pretty faces — but they're just too good at what they do to ever let that happen.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC; SNAP/Rex/Rex USA.
Ryan Gosling - Denzel Washington
While they're both great actors, these two initially shot to popularity because women ages 15 to 85 were just so smitten. Not like "oh, he's so cute," but more like, "I will literally refer to him as my husband from now on." But they've both waltzed through roles as heartthrob love interests and as morally questionable, darker protagonists. Can't you totally see a young Denzel in Half Nelson?
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures; Stephen Vaughan / Touchstone Pictures.
Channing Tatum - Bruce Willis
They're obviously both big action stars who've made careers out of having ridiculously thick necks. But like Willis, our boy Tatum has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes him more than just muscle. Unexpected moves in Willis' career like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable helped shape him into a household name post-Die Hard, and Tatum is already on the same path with Magic Mike — though he'll need a more solemn, serious role to round things out nicely.
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.