Young Actors: 6 Unknowns Who Stole Our Attention


Everyone has that secret pipe dream of being discovered. Sipping a latte at Starbucks, someone tells you you’re perfect for the small indie film he’s making and you should be in it. (This dude usually looks like Jason Schwartzman, by the way.) The movie blows up, and suddenly you’re fielding calls from Coppolas left and right–and you have an energy drink named after you. That’s how my dream goes anyway, with a dramatic montage scrambled in there somewhere in which I try to not “let it all go to my head.” This basically happened to Gabourey Sidibie, who went to a random casting call, only to be hired almost immediately afterwards. The film became Precious, and received a standing ovation at Sundance, as well as Oprah basically demanding everyone in the world see it (and we dare you to challenge Oprah).

In the spirit of unknown awesome actors, here are our five favorite kids who lived our dream.


Ellen Page

Although the spunky tomboy really blew up as the lingo-slinging preggo chick in Juno, she also starred in an equally-as-cool film before that called Hard Candy. In it, she plays the victim of actor Patrick Wilson, a pedophile who lures her to his house in hopes of seducing her. Page has other plans, though, and what started off as an afterschool special quickly becomes a feminist thriller complete with a 20 minute castration scene. Probably where Diablo Cody saw that Page had the balls (get it?) to play our beloved Juno.


Paul Dano

Fighting for the role of most memorable in Little Miss Sunshine was Paul Dano, the kid named Dwayne who took a vow of silence and hated everyone, making him possibly more amusing than Abigail Breslin. He was also totally adorable in Taking Woodstock as the backwoods virgin who made the iconic ’70s festival happen.


Patrick Fugit

As the wide-eyed wanna-be rock journalist in Almost Famous, Fugit had no acting experience pre-“I am a golden god.” Yet somehow, the kid upstaged Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and even Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was also single-handedly responsible for thousands of teenagers skipping graduation to follow a rock band and their dreams. He was then equally as lovable as a Christian skateboarder in Saved, and as a lovesick kid post-suicide in Wristcutters: A Love Story.


Jesse Eisenberg

After hitting the mainstream with Adventureland and Zombieland, (he likes lands), it’s easy to forget about Eisenberg’s first starring film The Squid and the Whale. In this super awkward film (kind of like him, in an adorable way), he played Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels’ son in a dysfunctional Brooklyn household. (He also has an awkward sexual awakening with Anna Paquin.) Although they have similar mannerisms and are often mistaken for one another, Jesse has a different vibe about him than Michael Cera. For one, his hair’s fluffier.


Olivia Thirlby

Taking a few tips on stealing the spotlight from Juno sidekick Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby had some pretty memorable moments. “Honest to blog,” for example. Her cute quirkiness landed her a role in The Wackness alongside Ben Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen as a city-smart teen seductress (sort of), as well as a recurring role in Bored to Death.