The New York Film Festival is all grown up. This week it turns 50, attracting plenty of old friends, like the legendary French filmmaker Alain Resnais (Hiroshima Mon Amour), whose half-century career will reportedly end with the festival's premiere of his You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet! While the NYFF might be mature, it certainly hasn't stopped attracting fresh talent, often spotted here before making it big in Hollywood. So which young actors will make a lasting impression at this year's festivities? Let's start with Mickey Sumner (pictured above)....
Mickey Sumner, Frances Ha
You might have heard of Sumner's dad. He's a musician and goes by the name of Sting. If that wasn't cool enough, in Frances Ha Sumner plays opposite mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig under the direction of Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), the hippest indie director in the country not named Wes Anderson. The two play best friends tested by Gerwig's aimless life as a twentysomething dancer in Brooklyn. While this will earn her plenty of film nerd cred, Sumner's biggest break might come next year, when she stars as the legendary Patti Smith in the punk-rock pic CBGB.
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Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi
If you haven't heard of Suraj Sharma yet, you will soon. He plays the lead role in the Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) adaptation of Life of Pi, based on the wildly popular book by Yann Martel. Sharma, 19, had no acting experience when Lee found him in Delhi, where he was a student living with his parents. Audiences will get plenty of time to get know him in Life of Pi, as most of the story consists of him being stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger.
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Zac Efron, The Paperboy
Zac Efron is already a household name, but we doubt you've seen him like this. The 24-year-old, who stole teen girls' hearts as the star of High School Musical, makes his move toward respectability with The Paperboy, a thriller from Precious director Lee Daniels that's already gaining Oscar buzz. Efron plays the brother of a journalist (played by Matthew McConaughey) who is trying to spring John Cusack's character out of jail. The clearest sign that Efron has finally come of age might be his steamy sex scenes with Nicole Kidman, an actress 21 years his senior.
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Elle Fanning, Ginger and Rosa
They grow up so fast, don't they? Elle Fanning, who got her start alongside sister Dakota at 3 years old, enters her rebellious teen years as the daughter of Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Along with her friend Rosa, played by the young Alice Englert (daughter of screenwriter Jane Campion), she acts up against her parents' deteriorating relationship and the threat of nuclear war, all while sporting a pretty convincing English accent. It's a heavy drama for a 14-year-old to carry, which bodes well for the young actress's future.
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Kether Donohue, The Bay
With her short, brown pixie haircut and natural girl-next-door beauty, Kether Donohue looks like she has a bright future in romantic comedies (see her adorable iPhone commercial). The Bay, however, won't leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Barry Levinson (Rain Man) dips his toes into the world of found-footage horror with Donohue as the lead television reporter investigating what happened to an abandoned Maryland town. The answer? Disgusting isopods that eat people from the inside out. You've been warned.
—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.
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