"In the wake of Heath Ledger’s tragic death, I contend that he was the most promising young actor working today. While we are all eagerly awaiting his portrayal of The Joker in this summer's The Dark Knight, his performances in Brokeback Mountain, Candy, I'm Not There, and Monster's Ball spoke for themselves. Now that he has died, we will never see what he was capable of, but it makes us wonder where he would have fit in. Because of this, here are the most promising actors under the age of 30. You can decide where Heath would have fit into this list, but if he was still living, I would have put him right at the top. He will be missed, but these men will continue on in his absence.
10) Seth Rogen (25)
Both Segel and Rogen first made it big as stars of Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks. I first became aware of Segel as Marshall on How I Met Your Mother, and he has gotten a lot of mainstream attention for his hilarious role as Rogen’s friend in Knocked Up. While Rogen has most of the buzz right now, I think Segel has more promise, which will be demonstrated in the forthcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which he also wrote).9) Michael Cera (19)
The Superbad stars have had a quick rise to stardom over the past couple years with Cera emerging from Arrested Development and Hill starring in several comedies. I don’t know if either of these guys will be able to shake off their early screen personas, but if they can they certainly both have promise.6) Jake Gyllenhaal (27)
From his early films such as October Sky and Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal has continued to develop towards a promising career. Recently, he has seemingly taken the next step with his roles in Jarhead, Zodiac, and of course his role opposite Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. With some more supporting roles, he could develop to be great.
5) Shia LaBeouf (21)
Who would have thought eight years ago that Louis Stevens would become a talented star of all genres? LaBeouf has become just that. He showed us in Transformers that he has a way about him that makes a great action star, who can bring humor to his roles. His role in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints proves that he has the dramatic prowess to do great things really soon.
4) Paul Dano (23)
It only took two films to skyrocket Dano up this list, but his performances in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood are so good that his talent can not be denied now. While previous entries are merely promising, Dano has already arrived with these two awesome performances.3) Emile Hirsch (22)
It’s hard not to love The Girl Next Door (I mean, she is Elisha Cuthbert), but since Hirsch broke out with that film (also starring Dano), he has successfully tackled more dramatic fare in Lords of Dogtown (with Heath Ledger) and Into The Wild. Many believe he was snubbed for awards this year, but his time will come, albeit not for next year’s Speed Racer.2) James McAvoy (28)
Like Dano, it didn’t take much for McAvoy to make this list. Not only is he the star of this years Oscar contending Atonement, but he more than held his own opposite Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. I personally thought he was better than Forest in that film (which is saying quite a lot), and really look forward to his future work.1) Ryan Gosling (27)
While he is probably most known for starring in every girl’s sleepover (a.k.a. his role in The Notebook), he has proved his worth through his Oscar nominated role in Half Nelson and his golden globe nominated performance in Lars and the Real Girl. Gosling, like others on this list doesn’t just have potential, but he has already displayed it. Like Heath Ledger, he has become selective with the roles he chooses, and is even more promising because of it.
Who do you think is today's most promising young actor?
I'd add also to this list at least three young actors I like:
Patrick Fugit.Ben Foster.