Survey the industry’s top star-makers and they’ll all tell you a version of the same thing: Hollywood stardom isn’t what it used to be. Sure, a fresh-faced actor can still burst onto the scene, captivating industry insiders and audiences alike (as Timothée Chalamet did with Call Me by Your Name a few years back). But agents, managers and studio executives say it has become harder and harder for those actors to take hold of the cultural zeitgeist the way a Leonardo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence once did. “The idea of the movie star has died,” says one top agency talent rep, “and everyone is now trying to reinvent what movie stardom looks like.” Blame it on the increasingly fractured media landscape, the slow demise of movie theaters or the ubiquity of social media, which has made the long-relied-upon superstar mystique a thing of the past — but becoming a household name is more elusive than ever. And while some will go so far as to argue there’s no A-list anymore (“There’s just a B-list,” snipes one rep), not everyone is so pessimistic. To prove it, these are five red-hot actors who have skyrocketed to the top of the town’s casting wish lists.
The 25-year-old actress had been steadily building her profile as an indie darling when she broke through in a whole new way with The Queen’s Gambit. Her tour de force performance as chess prodigy Beth Harmon in the Netflix hit turned her into one of the industry’s most in-demand actresses overnight. “She’s an old-school Hollywood star,” says one prominent rep, noting how hard it is to book her now. Indeed, Taylor-Joy has a slew of high-profile projects on the horizon, from Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller Last Night in Soho to David O. Russell’s upcoming star-studded film to a Mad Max spinoff (in the lead role of Furiosa, of course). To her credit, she’s been intentional about choosing a range of projects so as to not get pigeonholed so early on in her career. “If I feel the opportunities that are being given to me aren’t the right ones, then I have to stick my neck out and go, ‘Hey, I think I could maybe do this [role] if you’ll give me the opportunity to try,’ ” she recently told The Hollywood Reporter. One rep insists she’s on track to become Christopher Nolan’s or Denis Villeneuve’s next muse, adding, “It’s only matter of time before she has an Oscar.”
Ever since his breakthrough performance in the critically acclaimed 2019 indie The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Majors has proved himself to be among the next generation of Hollywood’s leading men. “He has this mystique about him,” says an agent of Majors’ appeal, noting that he doesn’t have a public Instagram or Twitter account like so many young stars do today. A Yale School of Drama grad — in the class behind Yahya Abdul-Mateen II — the 31-year-old has garnered a reputation within the industry for his keen ability to lean in to character work and go deep. “He’s got this versatility and knows how to be different in every role,” says a talent manager. Whether it’s HBO’s fantasy horror drama Lovecraft Country, Netflix’s Spike Lee war pic Da 5 Bloods or Disney+’s twisty Marvel series Loki, his drama school chops seem to shine through. Looking ahead, Hollywood is betting big on Majors, with upcoming projects including the Jay-Z-produced Western The Harder They Fall, J.D. Dillard’s war drama Devotion and Creed III. As one rep puts it, “He’s got a huge, huge career ahead of him.”
Few young actors have as much momentum as Pugh does in this moment. “She has every offer under the sun,” says a talent rep. The U.K. native earned critical raves for her role in 2016’s Lady Macbeth — but it was 2019 that marked her breakthrough year. In quick succession, Pugh showcased her range across a trio of projects, first playing a professional wrestler in Stephen Merchant’s dramedy Fighting With My Family, then a despondent woman in Ari Aster’s horror hit Midsommar and, finally, a refreshingly nuanced Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. THR chief film critic David Rooney called her performance in the latter “perfection,” writing that Pugh “continues to prove herself a distinctive talent.” Marvel took notice, too, and it wasn’t long before she nabbed a key role opposite Scarlett Johansson in the Black Widow stand-alone film. Her upcoming slate is full, too, with Disney+’s Hawkeye miniseries, Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling and boyfriend Zach Braff’s A Good Person. Her ability to move seamlessly between critically adored indie films and big-budget action flicks, coupled with a self-deprecating sense of humor (displayed regularly on Instagram for her nearly 5 million followers), has earned her comparisons to Jennifer Lawrence. Says one agent, “She’s accessible and not trying to be anything she isn’t.”
At one point, Ramos was so certain the odds were stacked against him, he almost gave up acting. “No one was in a rush to give a barely 5-foot-9 Latino with freckles a lead role,” he told THR. But then he landed his big break in Hamilton, courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Brooklyn-raised actor hasn’t slowed down since, quickly parlaying his onstage prowess into an enviable career on the big screen. “He has undeniable charisma,” says a rep, who maintains that his personality comes through in every role he takes. “He lights up any room he walks into.” Following parts in Bradley Cooper’s rendition of A Star Is Born and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the 29-year-old reteamed with Miranda on the film adaptation of In the Heights with what one top critic called “a bust-out star performance.” Another dubbed Ramos “a bona fide leading man.” Now, after his recent turn in HBO’s In Treatment, he’s taking that status to Transformers, where he’s set to star in the franchise’s next installment — and, no surprise, he’s said to be fielding other major offers, too.
Though Page had done time on an earlier, lesser-watched Shonda Rhimes drama (For the People, anyone?), it was playing the Duke in Rhimes’ period juggernaut Bridgerton that sent his profile soaring. In fact, in a matter of days, post-launch, Page had achieved the kind of heartthrob status that’s drawn comparisons to Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. “He was lightning in a bottle,” says one agent of Page’s breakout performance on the Netflix series, insisting the young actor has that undeniable “It” factor Hollywood is always after. Though the springtime news that Page wouldn’t be returning for Bridgerton‘s second season left his fans crestfallen, it delighted casting directors and producers desperate to snag the 31-year-old Brit for other roles. Already, he’s signed on to a collection of high-profile films, including the Russo brothers’ action flick The Gray Man, a much-anticipated Dungeons & Dragons adaptation and a reboot of espionage thriller The Saint. And yes, Page’s name has been tossed around for another spy film, too — though he’s quick to shoot down any and all James Bond rumors. “It’s flattering,” he recently told THR. “[But] it’s literally just a thing for people to talk about.”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.