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The Top 5 Actresses to Watch in 2011

— by ALEXA MILAN —

A few weeks ago, I shared my picks for the top five actresses of 2010. It may be early in 2011, but this year’s leading ladies are already starting to emerge.

Below are my picks for the top five actresses to watch in 2011. You might recognize a few names from my previous top five, actresses who stood out in 2010 but are poised to shine even brighter in 2011.

Keep an eye on these ladies, because some of them, if not all of them, will undoubtedly become the next big thing.

Honorable mention — Hailee Steinfeld: She’s only 14, and she just nabbed an Oscar nomination for her first movie. Steinfeld carried “True Grit” with her confidence and spunk, and she held her own alongside veteran co-stars like Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. She doesn’t have any other projects lined up right now, but I’m guessing in the coming months that will change. Given that she can’t even drive yet, I think she’s got time to make her mark.


5. Felicity Jones:
This British actress has popped up in films like “Cemetery Junction” and “The Tempest,” but I had never heard of her until her indie flick “Like Crazy” earned rave reviews at Sundance last month. The movie, about a British college student who falls for an American man but must return to the U.K. after overstaying her visa, won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama, and Jones nabbed a Special Jury Prize for her performance. Especially as the theatrical release for “Like Crazy” approaches, expect to hear more about Jones.


4. Elizabeth Olsen:
Her older sisters might have all of the name recognition, but the younger Olsen sibling is proving she can stand out just fine on her own. Olsen was the talk of Sundance this year with starring roles in the indie horror film “Silent House” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a gritty drama about a young woman’s struggle to free herself from a cult. Just like Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence emerged as the “It” girls of Sundance in years past and blossomed into bright young stars, don’t be surprised if Olsen’s Sundance buzz is only the beginning.


3. Olivia Wilde:
Wilde was once known for her supporting role on “House,” but she has so many film projects in the works, it’s amazing she still has time to appear on the show at all. Wilde played a computer program named Quorra in 2010’s “TRON: Legacy,” and while I found the movie overall to be pretty mediocre, I thought she gave a charming supporting performance. Audiences better get used to seeing Wilde pop up on the big screen – she has four films hitting theaters this year, most notably Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys and Aliens.”


2. Rooney Mara:
Mara caught the attention of audiences and critics in 2010 with a memorable performance as Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend in “The Social Network.” Though she only appeared in three scenes, she obviously impressed director David Fincher. She landed one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood, punk hacker Lisbeth Salander in Fincher’s adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” People are already talking about Mara’s dramatic change in appearance for the role — tattoos, bleached eyebrows, cropped hair and tons of real piercings — but people are waiting eagerly to see the caliber of her performance when the film opens in December.


1. Emma Stone:
Based on the comments on my top five actresses of 2010 story, many people already have their eyes on Stone as the next big thing. She came in at No. 2 on my last countdown, but she landed the No. 1 spot here because I think 2011 is the year Stone will truly break out as Hollywood’s go-to young actress. Her success has been building steadily since she appeared in “Superbad,” which she followed up with notable roles in “Zombieland” and “Easy A.” She’s already proved she’s a great comedienne, but 2011 is the year she shows everyone what else she can do.

She does have a couple of other comedy roles in “Friends with Benefits” with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. But Stone’s most buzzed-about film of 2011 is “The Help,” in which she plays an aspiring writer who interviews black housekeepers about their experiences in 1960s Mississippi. I imagine we’ll also see a trailer this year for 2012’s “Spider-Man” reboot, in which she plays the Gwen Stacey to Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker.

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Follow Alexa Milan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexamilan.

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