Stardom is a fickle alley cat. Sure, young actors can tame it with a saucer of good looks and sexy vampire movies, but once the milk runs dry, that feral kitty is just as likely to claw your eye out as it is to let you rub its belly. Is this a ridiculous metaphor? Yep. But my point is still valid: there are dozens of young talents out there who are known for looking good with their shirts off, when what they really want is to be recognized as serious actors. Will they prove their worth and one day become the next Johnny Depp? Or will they languish as this generation's Richard Grieco? If you just Googled Richard Grieco, you totally proved my point.
1. Taylor Lautner: Dude looks great in a pair of jorts, which is a skill unto itself. But will he make it beyond the Bella and Edward saga? He certainly tried to prove he could be an adult action star in last year's Abduction, but the film fizzled at the box office and critics weren't kind. He was nominated for one award—unfortunately, it was the Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor.
2. Zac Efron: After the curtain came down on High School Musical, Efron took his turn showing he could be a dramatic star with films like Charlie St. Cloud and Me and Orson Welles. The movies didn't smash the box office or inspire anyone to do synchronized backflips the way his dancing did, but they weren't huge disasters either. Here's hoping one of the five upcoming films Efron is slated to star in finally graduates him to "legit actor" status.
3. Daniel Radcliff: With the Harry Potter franchise wrapped, a lot of critics predicted Avada Kedavra Careerus! for the former Gryffindor, but Radcliffe might prove them wrong yet. He's got hardcore Broadway credentials with successful runs in plays and musicals (including the dark critically acclaimed Equus and the smash hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), plus he just finished playing Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg for 2013's Kill Your Darlings, a role that practically screams "I am a serious artist, you stupid Dementors!"
4. Shia LaBeouf: The Beef made his name in movies about cartoon robots beating each other up, but now that he's free of all things Decepticon, LaBeouf has been on an artsy roll. First he showed the er, um, full beef (cough cough) in a video for the band Sigur Ross. Then he renounced big budget filmmaking in a series of interviews, and now he's promised to only work with possibly-criminally-insane art house directors like Lar Von Trier for the near future. And he grew a beard! It's as if he feels he has to atone for something. And that something rhymes with Transpormers: Bark of the Spoon.
5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The poster boy for how to transition from teen idol to man of action. It wasn't so long ago that Gordon-Levitt was associated with high school movies like 10 Things I Hate About You. Then he got moody. Went indie. Started dressing almost as well as Ryan Gosling. Starred in a slew of amazing films, including 500 Days of Summer, Inception, The Lookout, The Dark Knight Rises, and 50/50. Now we can't imagine a film that wouldn't be improved with a little TLC from JGL.
6. Robert Pattinson: The second Twilight hunk to make it on this list. There's still time to speculate on whether he'll get a career bump from his highly publicized breakup (and possible make-up?) with KStew, or if the best thing to come out of that scandal will be the birth of the term Trampire, but Pattison isn't waiting around. This summer he appeared in the uber-literary adaptation of Cosmopolis by critical darling director David Cronenberg, and last year he starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants. They didn't go over so great. But he's trying. And he's got a broken heart! Hang in there, Rob. You might still have a chance to regain the glory of your Cedric Diggory days.
Do you think Taylor and Zac have the chops to become "serious actors"?