Whenever the cast of a movie consists almost entirely of unknown youngsters, however critically acclaimed or shamed, whatever number it hits opening weekend, one thing is for certain: the film will jump-start at least one, if not multiple fresh-faced careers. It's always fun to look back on kid-driven movies of yore and observe who succumbed to Child Actor Syndrome, who left the business, and who managed to break out in some way, still working to this day, behind the camera or in front of it, as the lead or the sidekick, the villain or the love interest, on television, in the movies, on stage or creating their own work on the Internet. So we decided to take a look at the kids of J.J. Abrams' flawed but sweetly fun Super 8 to try and figure out who has the best chances of moving on to a long and luscious career in the entertainment industry. As a bonus, we've thrown in some possible directions their careers could take, based on potential counterparts that have already made the transition.
Zach Mills - Preston
IMDb.com Credits: 26
While not featured enough in the movie to get a real sense of his ability as an actor, Mills boasts an already impressive resume, proving he's is in it to win it, for now at least. And with those floppy ears and lanky frame on his side, there's always the possibility of a bright future playing the dorky friend until he can graduate to playing the quirky, dirty, and/or smarmy character roles. In terms of romantic lead potential, I wouldn't say that's necessarily in the cards for young Mills, but hey, that's not a bad thing -- just ask Jackie Earle Haley. This type is valuable and Mills is already well on his way to cornering that market for his age group.
Possible directions: Jackie Earle Haley, Lukas Haas, or Wil Wheaton.
Gabriel Basso - Martin
IMDb.com Credits: 11
Based on his performance in Super 8, I would have guessed Basso was exactly like Martin, the case with most child actors. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that not only is he a regular on The Big C, but he plays a character nothing, not even remotely a little bit like his role in Super 8, proving the 16-year-old already has some epic range. Plus, once the period thick rims are removed, we start to notice Basso's intriguing look and wonder if Sam Worthington will need a teenage version of himself on the screen anytime soon. Based on The Big C and Super 8 simply on their own, perhaps no one would think twice about Basso as a performer to be reckoned with, but if there's anything rare in kid actors, it's the ability to actually act, so I'm already expecting lots more to come from this one.
Possible directions: Josh Brolin or Christian Bale.
Ryan Lee - Cary
IMDb.com Credits: 20
A veteran of short films and nameless small roles and guest spots, Lee's first major part was in Super 8 and since wrapping it, he has appeared in two more movies; The Legend of Hell's Gate: An American Conspiracy, co-starring Eric Balfour and Summer Glau, and Meeting Evil with Sam Jackson and Luke Wilson. The delightfully goofy Lee hands-down has the best comic timing of the entire Super 8 crew. His range beyond that beats me, but innate comic timing has launched plenty of successful careers, and if he (or rather, his agent) plays his cards right, there's no reason this kid shouldn't start playing with the comedy big boys right away.
Possible directions: Seth Green or Shia LeBeouf.
Riley Griffiths - Charles
IMDb.com Credits: 1
Practically stealing the movie (in my opinion) in his first role ever, Griffiths is a strong candidate to continue on with a successful career. Simultaneously tough and soft, the leader and the follower, the sympathetic comic relief, Griffiths pulls off a lot more in Super 8 than we may initially notice. His enthusiasm as Charles is infectious and he managed to completely convince me that the film we saw running through the credits was in fact a Charles Kaznyk production. Plus, based on interviews I've read, it seems the teen, who has been acting in theater his whole life, has a good head on his shoulders and despite deciding to pursue a career in acting, knows that he doesn't want to sacrifice his childhood to do so. As long as he can avoid the pitfalls of suddenly becoming famous, which it seems he is prepared to do, I have high hopes.
Possible directions: Jerry O' Connell or Sean Astin.
Joel Courtney - Joe
IMDb.com Credits: 1
Another total newcomer, Courtney is the emotional center of Super 8 and does a fine job grounding the extraordinary events unfolding around him. I thought EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum said it best when describing his biggest strength as an "unteachably open-faced sweetness." Spielberg's knack for discovering the ultimate adorable everyboy is just as right on here as it ever has been, as I bought everything the relatable Courtney was throwing at me, no matter how ridiculous the movie may have gotten at times. But nailing the endearing qualities of a young teen doesn't always mean there is an acting ability beyond that effortless naturalism and definitely doesn't always translate into a huge career (see Henry Thomas). While Courtney was wonderful in this role, I wouldn't be surprised if he chose not to pursue acting as a life commitment.
Possible directions: Henry Thomas, Joshua Jackson, (or, hey, Nicholas Hoult, no one saw his career coming!).
Elle Fanning - Alice
IMDb.com Credits: 32
Mature, statuesque, honest, and daring, Fanning is already an actress well beyond her years. I am consistently shocked when I hear how old she is and it really makes me wonder what gypsy put what magic into the Fanning blood that has produced two such talented and humble actresses at such young ages. There is no doubt in my mind that Fanning will continue to be awesome over the next five years, go get a great education somewhere, possibly at NYU, following in her sister's footsteps, then return to acting once more, better than ever. This girl's got it in the bag, so much so that while we would be remiss in not mentioning her here, she isn't actually in the running for Most Likely To Break Out simply because she already has -- that ship has sailed. Keep on keeping on, Elle Fanning.
Possible directions: Dakotah Fanning, Natalie Portman, or Martha Plimpton.
So based on the evidence presented here, who do you think will come away from Super 8 with the most illustrious career? Not including the lady of the group who already has one, of course. Did you see something in any of the actors that I didn't? Know of a part right now that any of them would be perfect for? Obviously, only time will tell which of these talented kids will stay on the acting track for the long haul, but in the meantime, I'm absolutely looking forward to seeing what each one does next.