September 2011

Scene Stealers

Hollywood is ripe for a new generation of leading ladies—meet four worthy contenders by LESLIE GORNSTEIN / photographs by MARK SEGAL / produced by KIM POLLOCK

  • IMOGEN POOTS <br>Vintage Vivienne Westwood 1970s Sex and Seditionaries muslin dress: $2,200, Resurrection, 323-651-5516,
  • JESSICA CHASTAIN <br>Vintage Karl Lagerfeld jumper with grape print from the early 1990s: $850, Resurrection, 323-651-5516,
  • DEBORAH ANN WOLL <br>Vintage Victorian long white dress: $1,250, What Goes Around Comes Around, 323-933-0250,
  • MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD <br>Yves Saint Laurent poppy-print silk-muslin V-neck dress with ruched sleeves: $3,250, 310-271-4110,

Imogen Poots
Jessica Chastain
Deborah Ann Woll
Mary E. Winstead

What manner of alchemy really divides a B-level ingenue from a budding leading lady? It’s a mysterious business, one that can’t quite be explained by parsing a gal’s credits on IMDb. Sure, most A-listers scrap their way into the spotlight, earning their chops in indies or TV guest roles, before finally landing that starmaking role. But when the real thing steps into the frame, we simply must look at her. When she finally takes her place at the top of the credits, we feel like we’ve been waiting for her all along. The ever-shimmering hair may come by way of a pricey colorist, but for a true movie goddess, the It factor can never be bottled. That said, we bring you four young women poised for cinematic immortality: Imogen Poots, whose dry London wit and bewitching gaze can slay vampires and fanboys alike; True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll, who is sinking her teeth into a slew of big-screen stories; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose slinky brown peepers can evoke a heartbreaker or a monster-hunting researcher with equal ease; and Jessica Chastain, a chameleonic redhead who reminds us, dare we say, of an up-and-coming Nicole Kidman. Yes, a true screen divine has lightning in her eyes from the very start...


Just what is an Imogen Poots, anyway? Well, not counting the wicked British wit, the Cameron Diaz smile and the sultry gaze that evokes an illicit union between Amanda Seyfried and Scarlett Johansson (just humor us), quite a bit, actually. The native Londoner first broke as a fleet-flooted teen outrunning zombies in 28 Weeks Later. Then came a flashback to ancient Rome with Michael Fassbender in Centurion, a jape with Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon in Solitary Man and a sojourn through the moors with Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre. She recently filmed the drama A Late Quartet, sharing the screen with heavyweights Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and this season, she returns to horror, helping to stake some vampire ham (Colin Farrell) in the latest take on Fright Night. Despite the impressive CV, there’s one sign of Hollywood success Poots has yet to experience: the paparazzi. Currently shooting the drama Greetings from Tim Buckley, she remains blissfully anonymous. “Oh my God, the paparazzi here have no clue,” Poots says. “I’ve never had a run-in. I’m sure they just think I’m some sort of road sign.”


Between the red hair and those girl-next-door good looks, Chastain hails more from the Nicole Kidman School of Sexy than the Jennifer Lopez Bombshell Academy. Sure, she can do the retro-glam thing (you no doubt saw her as curvy newcomer Celia Foote in The Help or the graceful wife of Brad Pitt in Tree of Life), but at her core, this copperhead is all steel. Check out her slate: She settles old scores as a young Mossad agent in The Debt—out now—spells doom for John the Baptist as the titular beauty in Al Pacino’s much anticipated Wilde Salome and, in the just-wrapped Wettest County in the World, rubs shoulders with a bootlegging gang in the Depression-era South. “You know,” Chastain mulls, “over the past four years, I’ve made 11 films, and I always approach things with the idea of, Who’s going to be my teacher on this set? What am I gonna learn? I never think about how much money I’m going to make or if a movie is going to make me famous. I just think, How is this a master class for me right now?


If you attended this year’s Comic-Con, that celebration of all things fanboy, you just may have rubbed shoulders with Woll, the anonymous geek girl sitting in, say, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel audience—in costume. In 2010, she went as Hit-Girl; this year it was Cousin Itt. Of course, she also took the mike herself to promote one of the Con’s most popular topics—True Blood, dishing alongside her costars about what’s next for her wildly popular baby-vamp, Jessica Hamby. What’s next for Woll, however, is a whole lot of movies. She filmed the golf drama Seven Days in Utopia with Robert Duvall (out this week), the new-generation western Catch .44 with Bruce Willis and the imaginative romantic comedy He Loves Me with Cowboys & Aliens’ Paul Dano. But Woll confides that as an actress she still—pardon the corn—has a hunger. “Yes, True Blood is a hit, and more people are aware of me,” she says. “But I still audition for everything—I just get better auditions. On the other hand, I’m not being handed anything. I’m still workin’ pretty hard.”


A producer recently told me that women like horror flicks more than men. That tidbit is a tad ironic, given the sheer number of ingenues who have met their doom at the end of a slasher’s knife. Winstead herself loves a good gorefest, having costarred in flicks ranging from Grindhouse to Final Destination 3. But her next horror gig holds particular significance: As the first female lead in the latest reimagining of The Thing, due out October 14, she straps herself into a parka, hardens her normally doe-like gaze into a stony stare and joins Milla Jovovich and Sigourney Weaver in the elite club of leading ladies who utterly kick monster butt. “I don’t have a lot of friends who relate to the girls walking around in Daisy Dukes,” says Winstead. “I don’t relate to it, and I don’t relate to the rom-com girl crying into her Ben & Jerry’s, either. But this character is strong, smart and takes care of herself. When I saw the script, I knew it was something I could not say no to.”

STYLIST: Ryan Hastings / Jed Root
HAIR: Laini Reeves / Tracey Mattingly
MAKEUP: Lisa Storey / The Wall Group