The 25 Breakout Stars Of Summer

Photo: Joseph Kerlakian/REX USA.
For most of us, a good summer means boozy rooftop barbecues, eight-hour park hangs, and back-alley make-out sessions. The 25 people who made this list aren't most of us. In the coming months, these bright young things will be rolling out (or have already rolled out) a slew of exciting projects that are set to launch them into a new stratosphere of public consciousness.
There's a bulky TV star who's looking to cement his place as one of Hollywood's go-to leading men. A young Brooklyn director who's poised to become the millennial Nora Ephron. A British crooner with vocals so syrupy, they're proof that God does indeed exist.
While some of these names might already ring a bell, others will be total revelations. One thing's for sure: If everything goes according to plan, these 25 breakout stars are about to have the Best. Summer. Ever.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
ACTORS (film): Chris Pratt
Anyone who predicted that the dude who plays the aw-shucks schlub Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation would one day become a Marvel superhero should go play the lottery immediately. Done? Good. Because this summer Chris Pratt stars as Star-Lord in the intergalactic space opera Guardians of the Galaxy, and you my friend, just became a billionaire.
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Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
ACTORS (film): Ansel Elgort
If you've shed a tear this summer, chances are you have this budding heartthrob to blame/thank. As the almost too-perfect Gus Waters in the YA weepy The Fault in Our Stars, the 20-year-old New York City native relied on the heart of a poet nestled in the physique of a jock to convince Shailene Woodley's cancer-stricken Hazel that, despite all the pain, the world is a beautiful place. With Elgort's career set to take off, we'd have to agree.
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Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
ACTORS (film): Ellar Coltrane
Ellar Coltrane has been waiting a long time for this moment. Like, a really long time. After spending 12 years of his life as the lead in Richard Linklater's sprawling coming-of-age tale Boyhood, the 19-year-old Austin native is about to embark on a career that's been over a decade in the making.
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Photo: Peter Brooker/REX USA.
ACTORS (film): Jenny Slate
After so many career starts and stops (including her first and only season on Saturday Night Live, in which an accidental F-bomb cost her the gig), this 32-year-old funny woman suddenly finds herself on the cusp of movie stardom. In Obvious Child, the Sundance heartwarmer, Slate plays an aspiring comedian who must grapple with an unwanted pregnancy. It's the kind of star-making turn that every actress dreams of, but only few ever realize. Think: Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, and most recently, Brie Larson in Short Term 12. Welcome to the club, Jenny.
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Photo: Joseph Kerlakian/REX USA.
ACTORS (film): Nicola Peltz
We can expect a ton of eye-popping transformations in Michael Bay's massive summer blowout Transformers: Age of Extinction. But, the one we're looking forward to most is watching this 19-year-old ingenue go from a relative unknown to Hollywood's newest action heroine after what's sure to be a monstrous opening weekend. Sorry Optimus Prime, you ain't got nothing on Nicola Peltz.
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Photo: Geoffrey Swaine/REX USA.
WRITERS: Eleanor Catton
At just 27, this talented Canadian wordsmith became the youngest-ever winner of the Man Booker Prize, when she took home the ultra prestigious award in 2013 for her sophomore novel, The Luminaries. The engrossing mystery novel set in 19th-century New Zealand is the perfect page-turner for whiling away your summer days in the park. And, if the novel's 500-plus pages is a bit too overwhelming, Catton's awfully charming Twitter account should do the trick for the attention-challenged.
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Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto/REX USA.
WRITERS: Karl Ove Knausgaard
While My Struggle might not exactly be your typical day-at-the-beach read, the painfully morose Norwegian scribe's six-volume autobiography has caught fire like a pair of pants at a liars' convention (though it's not exactly a new read — the first English-language edition came out in 2012). The stunning way in which Knausgaard describes the minutiae of his life can go from exhilarating to excruciating with the turn of a page.
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WRITERS: Kat Zhang
It's been two years since What's Left of Me, the debut novel from the then 21-year-old wunderkind, announced her as a bold new literary voice. Now Zhang is back with Echoes of Us, the third book in the dystopian trilogy The Hybrid Chronicles. Though it won't be released until September, the coming months gives future converts a chance to immerse themselves in Zhang's complex universe. Besides, when her books are turned into Hollywood's next great YA franchise, you can say you were there first.
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Photographed by Alexander James.
WRITERS: Jessie Burton
Jessie Burton was already a successful theater actress in her native U.K. when her debut novel, The Miniaturist, sold at an 11-publisher auction at the London Book Fair early last year. The expansive tale set in 17th-century Amsterdam, revolves around an 18-year-old girl who receives a miniature replica of her home from her new husband, only to discover that it's much more than your average dollhouse. With a buzzy release set for this August, Burton's transition from the stage to the page looks to have been a smart one.
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Photographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
WRITERS: Sophia Amoruso
One word: #GIRLBOSS. If that doesn't ring a bell, we suggest you climb out from under your rock and get with the 30-year-old founder and CEO of Nasty Gal's memoir-turned-movement. In less than 10 years, the California native has turned a guerilla eBay vintage shop into a worldwide, multimillion-dollar brand with a scrappy DIY attitude and killer style that have us slow clapping all the way to the bookstore.
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Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
DIRECTORS: Ben Falcone
Though his wife Melissa McCarthy may be Hollywood's reigning queen of comedy — and the star of his upcoming directorial debut Tammy — don't get it twisted. Ben Falcone is no slouch, as The Groundlings vet has been cutting his teeth as that guy who looks familiar in all your favorite comedies. With his McCarthy-led road-trip comedy (which the couple also cowrote) set to do boffo box-office numbers, it looks like the next great comedy empire is going to be a family affair.
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Photo: Courtesy of Obvious Child.
DIRECTORS: Gillian Robespierre
All this Brooklyn-based director wanted to do was make a mature, honest, and laugh-out-loud movie about what it’s like to be young, on your own, and pregnant. Luckily for us, she did just that with her surefire summer sleeper Obvious Child, and reinvented the romantic comedy along the way.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Who in their right mind would hand the keys to a major summer blockbuster to a virtually untested director with no proven track record? Marvel, that's who. The superhero house went completely outside the box when it chose Super director James Gunn to oversee Guardians of the Galaxy, its weirdest, riskiest adaptation yet. Based on the incredibly offbeat and totally entertaining first few trailers, Gunn was the right man for the job.
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Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
DIRECTORS: Lenny Abrahamson
That a mega-star like Michael Fassbender agreed to appear in a quirky little black comedy like Frank should tell you all you need to know about Irish director Lenny Abrahamson. Not only is Fassbender accustomed to working with some of the biggest auteurs in the game, he's used to doing it without a giant fake head obscuring his million-dollar face. But, despite rarely seeing him sans mask, Fassbender's gutsy performance as an eccentric musical genius is already being hailed as one of the best of his career. Though Abrahamson might not be a top-tier director yet, after audiences get a load of what he's concocted here, he will be.
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Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images.
DIRECTORS: William Eubank
The summer's normal crop of sci-fi movies usually have budgets the size of a small country's GDP. That's what makes this 31-year-old's sophomore feature, The Signal, so darn special. Thanks to a combination of deft storytelling and an ingenious use of visual effects, Eubank was able to get his film, about a college road trip that takes a thrilling and unexpected turn, made for a paltry $4 million. It was a hit at Sundance, and his little-movie-that-could is now going up against summer's biggest juggernauts. Something tells us his next film's budget won't be so small.
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Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Since her breakthrough track "Waiting Game" assaulted playlists last year, U.K. singer Jillian Banks has become the darling of the alt-pop scene. Her unique blend of trip-pop and the PBR&B sounds most often associated with The Weeknd (an act she once opened for) will all coalesce on September 5 with the release of her debut LP, Goddess. Expect brooding. Expect sex. Expect a woman with something to prove. This is going to be everyone's summer soundtrack, and you can take that to the BANKS.
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Photo: London News Pictures/REX USA.
Like her fellow Brit BANKS, FKA twigs has been traversing genres and concocting her own unique brand of psych-pop since her name first emerged on all your favorite blogs. The Gloucestershire-born, professionally trained dancer has carefully crafted a body of work that's as hyper-sexualized as it is hypnotic. While she has managed to stay enigmatic despite the oceans of buzz, her enthralling music videos and upcoming debut LP (appropriately titled LP1) are set to change all that. Expect FKA twigs' moody anthems to resonate long after the post-coital summer glow they're made for fades away.
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Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
SINGERS: Sam Smith
Since being featured on Disclosure's breakout hit "Latch," the British troubadour has become an all-out phenomenon, thanks to his otherworldly vocals that have led some to dub him "the male Adele." Sure, Smith's got the pipes, laments about love, and shattered a few records with the release of his debut album, In The Lonely Hour, but the (just!) 22-year-old singer is already charting his own path. And, if that path consists of more anthems like early song-of-the-summer contender "Stay," well then we'll follow him anywhere.
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Photo: Courtesy of Aesop.
In May, a mysterious EP called The Duchess fell from the sky and into the hands of the cool kids and tastemakers whose job it is to anoint music's Next Big Thing. Well, they've spoken, and thanks to her blistering three-track debut, this half-Iranian producer/singer-songwriter who hails from South London is officially it. Check out her Soundcloud, see for yourself, and thank us later.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sneak Attack Media.
There must be something in Sweden's water, because every musician that emerges from the Scandinavian hotbed of cool is out-of-this-world good. Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson is the latest Swedish export climbing the American charts, and she's doing it in a hurry. Tove Lo (pronounced "Too-veh Lu") owes her meteoric rise to the druggy earworm "Habits," which will be featured on her debut LP, Truth Serum, and should send audiences into a frenzy when she tours with Katy Perry later this year. Imagine if Robyn came from Brooklyn, occasionally smoked up, and frequented the odd sex club: That, dear readers, is Tove Lo in a nutshell.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
ACTORS (television): Mackenzie Davis
While AMC's next great hope, the '80s-set tech drama Halt and Catch Fire has yet to well, catch fire, the 25-year-old actress who plays the prodigy punk coder Cameron Howe is in straight-up five-alarm blaze mode. Already the the proud owner of a burgeoning film career, Davis' scene-stealing turn on Halt has cemented her place as one of Hollywood's brightest young actresses.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
ACTORS (television): Laverne Cox
Maybe it's because Sophia is our runaway favorite OITNB cast member, or maybe it's because she's accomplished more for the LGBTQ community in one year than most activists will in a lifetime, but this is without doubt the year of Laverne Cox. And, as her monumental Time cover suggests, our love affair with the world's most famous transgender woman is more than just a summer fling.
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ACTOR (television): Greg Poehler
If talent truly does run in the family, then NBC's new sitcom Welcome to Sweden should be required viewing. That's because the man that plays a New York accountant who follows his girlfriend to Sweden is none other than Greg Poehler, Amy's younger brother. Big sis is also on board as executive producer, so yeah, that works.
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Photo: Kazden/REX USA.
ACTORS (television): Chyler Leigh
The cast of Grey's Anatomy: Where are they now? Well, we know where to find one Seattle Grace alum. Chyler Leigh will be chasing baddies on the streets of New York all summer in NBC's new yellow-cab thrill ride Taxi Brooklyn. While she was relegated to a largely supporting role on Grey's, we always felt that the 32-year-old Leigh had leading-lady potential. Were we right? We're about to find out.
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Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
ACTORS (television): Rowan Blanchard
This year's back-to-school season is going to have a totally different vibe for this 12-year-old actress, because when it's time to pick up the books again, Rowan Blanchard is going to be a star. The Los Angeles-native scored the lead in Disney Channel's Boy Meets World spin-off appropriately titled Girl Meets World, which is slated to premiere in July. Will the precocious pre-teen make the same mistakes as her curly-haired predecessor? We sure hope not. Especially since Ben Savage, a.k.a Cory Matthews, plays her doting dad.