Biggest Potential Stars of Fall 2016

Biggest Potential Stars of Fall 2016

By Robert Dougherty Sep 07, 2016 08:47 AM
Photo Credit: LucasFilm/Columbia Pictures

While blockbusters like Rogue One and many Oscar bait films will consume the fall and winter movie season, many of those films may well be letdowns. But as the summer movie season just showed, actors and actresses are often far better than the subpar material around them.

For this fall, there are more than a few names that moviegoers should prepare to hear over and over, as they either break out in blockbusters, the Oscar race or perhaps even both. These look to be the individuals who make the biggest headlines over the next four months on the big screen.

Felicity Jones [Rogue One, A Monster Calls, Inferno]


Like Daisy Ridley before her, Jones is set to be the face of a new era in Star Wars, albeit as the franchise's first lead in a one-off anthology movie. Nonetheless, Rogue One promises to show that Luke, Han, Leia, the fall of the Empire and the next generation of Star Wars wouldn't have been possible if Jones's Jyn Erso never led the charge to steal the first Death Star's battle plans.

Unlike Ridley, Jones is already a veteran and in-demand actress, as her Oscar nomination two years ago for The Theory of Everything opened a few other doors. Before Rogue One, Jones will be the latest to partner with Tom Hanks' Robert Langdon in Inferno on Oct. 28, and after Rogue One, Jones will star in another highly buzzed about fantasy movie in A Monster Calls, opening wide against Rogue One right after the New Year.

If Jones happens to be the adult lead in the two biggest films of early January 2017, it may be a fitting way to cap off a career-changing 2016.

Haley Bennett [The Magnificent Seven, The Girl on the Train, Rules Don't Apply]

Universal Pictures

Bennett isn't the lead in these two potential blockbusters, but it looks like none of them would be possible without her. The Magnificent Seven are brought together because she hires them to save her town on Sept. 23, just two weeks before Emily Blunt's Girl on the Train obsesses about the seemingly perfect life of Bennett's character, and then gets caught up in her disappearance/potential murder.

Those who have read The Girl on the Train novel know the whole truth about Megan Hipwell, fueling expectations and hopes that Bennett could have as big a breakthrough playing her as Rosemund Pike did playing the Gone Girl exactly two years ago. But first, The Magnificent Seven stands to serve as a proper introduction/prologue from Bennett, playing another character who seems to be more than she would appear at a first glance.

If that wasn't enough, Bennett is also part of the cast of Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply, whether or not that puts her alongside Beatty's Howard Hughes or future young Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich.

Denzel Washington [The Magnificent Seven, Fences]

Columbia Pictures

The Magnificent Seven may also be a mere prelude for Washington's fall as well. After he tries to make it big with his Training Day and Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua again, Washington will go behind the camera himself to direct him and Viola Davis in what may be the sight unseen Oscar favorite.

Fences's status as one of the great 20th century American plays, the prospect of Washington starring and directing it, and the prospect of Davis reprising her Tony winning stage role has the whole Oscar season on notice. If it lives up to such lofty expectations when it comes out during the holidays, Washington may be back in the thick of the hunt for his third acting Oscar, and perhaps his first as a director too.

Amy Adams [Arrival, Nocturnal Animals]

Paramount Pictures

As the film festival season opens in Venice, Telluride and Toronto, the busiest star so far has been Adams, with not one but two already acclaimed entries. In fact, after winning big raves as a linguist trying to communicate with aliens in Arrival, and as a woman tormented by a manuscript written by her ex-husband in Nocturnal Animals, the question may not be whether Adams receives her sixth Oscar nomination in the last 11 years, but for what movie.

Given that she is 0-for-5 at the Oscars so far, being one of the most overdue actresses in the race may give her one more extra edge as awards season builds. Once Arrival starts its release on Nov. 11 and Nocturnal Animals starts a week later, it will be hard for audiences seeking high drama to miss her. At the least, it will end her 2016 much better than how Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice started it.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone [La La Land]

Summit Entertainment

While Adams may have the most critical hits on the festival circuit right now, Gosling and Stone appear to have the biggest. La La Land is their third film as an on-screen couple, but Crazy Stupid Love and especially Gangster Squad never captured critics and Oscar pundits like this collaboration has so far. Of course, those past two movies didn't have them both singing and dancing while falling in love, in a musical L.A. from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle.

If La La Land holds onto its newfound frontrunner status when general audiences finally start seeing it on Dec. 2, the raves may well keep on coming right up to Oscar night. That is, assuming audiences do respond to a musical that isn't based on a bombastic Broadway show, and which doesn't have tunes they've heard before except in the trailers.

But it does have adored stars who can ride the wave of their years of work together, the massive raves from critics, and their usual charm offenses to take over Oscar season. In particular, the early word suggests this may be Stone's season for the taking.

Chris Pratt [The Magnificent Seven, Passengers]

Columbia Pictures

Pratt will be back to working with guardians of the galaxy, legos and dinosaurs soon enough. Yet this fall will test his hot streak at the box office and with audiences twice over, without the cushion of a franchise. Although The Magnificent Seven has the recognizable name and has Washington for Pratt to play sidekick to, Passengers stands to be a bigger gamble this Christmas even with Jennifer Lawrence alongside Pratt.

Since Passengers isn't a remake, reboot or based on any comic or novel, it will be the biggest example of a truly original film this fall, with the added boost of the two hottest stars of the last few years. For Pratt in particular, without Marvel characters, dinosaurs or legos to help him out, it shapes up to be his largest test as a real leading man.

However, Lawrence helped boost Bradley Cooper from Hangover buffoon to serious lead in Silver Linings Playbook, so history could repeat itself in this sci-fi romance between two much saner people who wake up decades early on a spaceship.

Andrew Garfield [Hacksaw Ridge, Silence]

Summit Entertainment

Like Adams, Garfield could have two possible Oscar contenders to work with this fall. The one he has for certain is the war drama Hacksaw Ridge, although the bigger story revolves around his director Mel Gibson and how he actually directs Garfield as a real life WWII pacifist war hero. Nonetheless, reviews from Telluride suggest the unlikely combination might just pay off.

Garfield's other fall movie may be even bigger, if Martin Scorsese's Silence is finished before New Years. Since it is a supposedly 195-minute long movie with Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan, it could come down to the wire. But if Scorsese is done in time, it might be a last-minute game changer, and give Garfield a second shot this fall at his first nomination.

Ben and Casey Affleck [The Accountant, Manchester by the Sea, Live by Night]

Warner Brothers Pictures/Roadside Attractions

The Affleck brothers may each be factors in Oscar season for the first time since 2007. Older brother Ben is starting out with a more commercially minded movie in The Accountant on Oct. 14, albeit one raising a lot of curiosity, as Affleck plays what looks like an autistic accountant/gunman fending off the clients he uncooks the books for.

Casey is the only Affleck with an acting nomination, however, and all the buzz around Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea suggests he has a second one on the way. In fact, he may well be the Best Actor favorite so far, as a man suddenly caring for his teenage nephew after his brother's death.

But it might be Ben who breaks into the race at the last minute, if he completes his new film Live by Night in time. Affleck directs and stars in an adaptation of a Denis Lehane novel set during Prohibition, serving as his first film as a director since Argo and his first Lehane based movie since directing Casey in Gone Baby Gone.

Those trends suggest something very promising if Affleck can release it this fall. At the least, it can further build momentum before Ben brings Batman back in Justice League next fall.

Tags: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Felicity Jones, Haley Bennett, Denzel Washington, Amy Adams, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
About the Author
Robert Dougherty is a longtime online freelance writer, who wrote reviews, articles & editorials on movies/TV for several years on the now defunct Yahoo Voices.
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