The annual South by Southwest (better known as SXSW) Conference and Film Festival runs in Austin, Texas from March 8 – March 17th. It’s annually considered one of the top three or four festivals for discovering great acting talent. In between all of the partying, some careers will leap from complete or partial obscurity onto the fast-track. That’s the real excitement of these events – to watch stars develop before our eyes.
While trying to pick who the breakouts will be is an exercise typically fraught with unreliability, let’s nonetheless take a look at five who are already being singled out as SXSW departs the starting gate:
Camila Morrone – “Mickey and the Bear”
Morrone drew attention her way with a scene-stealing supporting turn in the Bruce Willis-starring reboot of “Death Wish” last year – this, after a turn as a runway model. In Mickey and the Bear, she travels far from the world of glamor, starring as Mickey, a headstrong Montana teenager forced to care for her opioid-addicted, grief-stricken, military veteran father (James Badge Dale). Mickey dreams of bagging it all and heading off to college on the West Coast and living the life she wants, particularly when her dad’s condition worsens. Morrone’s tour de force performance spotlights the ties that bind and the wrenching gap between obligation and independence. It’s Morrone’s second premiere at SXSW following last year’s Never Goin’ Back.
Dave Bautista – “Stuber”
Bautista has been around for a while and achieved plenty of fame and fortune in the WWE pro wrestling world – as well as portraying Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War flicks. Yet he’s still searching for a role that will break him out of being a mere living cartoon and start him down the road to emulating Dwayne Johnson. Stuber could well be it, pairing Bautista with Kumail Nanjiani of The Big Sick fame in this action comedy. It charts the madcap mixups when a mild-mannered Uber driver named Stu (Nanjiani) picks up Vic (Bautista), a passenger who turns out to be a cop tracking a brutal killer. Can Stu hang onto his life…and his five-star rating? It’s Bautista’s time to shine, as the early buzz on his performance tells us.
Beanie Feldstein – “Booksmart”
After her small but memorable role in the 2017 indie sensation Lady Bird, Feldstein co-stars with Kaitlyn Dever in one of the buzziest films premiering at SXSW. Booksmart represents actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut and is already being hyped as the toast of the festival. It casts Feldstein and Dever as high school best friends Molly and Amy, respectively. They realize too late that they have wasted their prime adolescent years as buckle-down studiers and plot to make up for it in a single night of madcap partying. Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis help fill out the cast of a film that promises to be Beanie’s own coming-out party after a few years of bubbling on the cusp of notoriety.
Zack Gottsagen – “The Peanut Butter Falcon”
Gottsagen, who is himself afflicted with Down syndrome in real life, heads a phenomenal cast in a film that promises to take SXSW by storm – and has magic written all over it. In The Peanut Butter Falcon, Gottsagen portrays Zak, a 22-year-old man with Down syndrome who escapes his nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attend a school run by a man who calls himself The Salt Water Redneck (none other than Thomas Haden Church). He’s taken under the wing of small-time hood Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who becomes Zak’s coach and toxic influence. Think of it as the second coming of Rain Man. Dakota Johnson and Bruce Dern costar.
Kaley Wheless – “Frances Ferguson”
Wheless may be the only actress with two films premiering at South by Southwest this year – certainly the only one whom you’ve never heard of. But that anonymity figures to change rather rapidly. She stars in Frances Ferguson as the eponymous title character in the quirky, deviant comedy from director Bob Byington and narrated by Nick Offerman. Based on actual events, it tells the story of a wildly dysfunctional woman who so shames herself in her small town that she’s forced to adopt a new identity. Besides Frances Ferguson, Wheless has a cameo in The Highwaymen, starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the cops who came out of retirement to nab Bonnie & Clyde.