For the past 25 years, Variety editors and staff have compiled annual lists of industry talent to look out for, stretching various capacities, including directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and comics. When looking back on the lists from each year, it’s striking to see how many impactful names have blossomed with hugely successful careers within Hollywood, and with some of the individuals taking a surprising route to stardom. It also underscores the innate ability of the Variety team to discover and take early note of the many talented people who have become entertainment icons over several generations.

The first 10 Actors to Watch list was released in 1998, with Luke Wilson (“Rushmore”), Sarah Polley (“Go!”), Adrien Brody (“The Thin Red Line”), Patricia Clarkson (“High Art”), Larenz Tate (“Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”), and Samantha Morton (“Under the Skin”) finding inclusion. It’s interesting to note that Polley would later be selected for the 2007 10 Directors to Watch list (“Away From Me”).  She’s followed up that acclaimed effort with 2011’s “Take This Waltz,” as well as the very-personal 2012 documentary, “Stories We Tell.” Brody went on to win best actor for 2002’s “The Pianist.”

Timothée Chalamet made the 10 Actors to Watch list in 2017 with “Call Me by Your Name” and has since starred in some of the most discussed films in recent memory, including awards hopefuls “Dune” and “Don’t Look Up,” while Mahershala Ali appeared on 2016’s list, and snagged supporting actor Oscars for his work in 2016’s “Moonlight” and 2018’s “Green Book.” Maggie Gyllenhaal was chosen for 2002’s list when she debuted with “Secretary” and now finds a spot on 2022’s 10 Directors to Watch list for her startling helming bow, “The Lost Daughter.” Octavia Spencer’s performance in 2011’s “The Help” landed her on the list of 10 Actors to Watch, and since then, her career has exploded, becoming one of the most recognizable screen talents of her generation. Other actors to have been named include Viola Davis, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Melissa Leo.

Several pivotal DPs have gotten the spotlight on Variety’s 10 to Watch list, including Bradford Young for his 2014 duo of “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year”, Ari Wegner for 2017’s “Lady Macbeth” (now an awards contender for 2021’s “The Power of the Dog”), Erik Messerschmidt for 2019’s “Mindhunter” (followed by an Oscar nom for 2020’s “Mank”), and Rachel Morrison for 2013’s “Fruitvale Station” (so far the lone woman with an Oscar nom for 2017’s “Mudbound”).

In 2001 Julian Fellowes wrote “Gosfard Park,” which put him on the 10 Screenwriters list and followed that up with the ultra successful “Downton Abbey.” The following year fellow Brit Steven Knight “Spencer” made the group with “Dirty Pretty Things.” Uber-successful screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (“Wind River,” “Yellowstone”) was featured on 2014 list, along with Oscar nominee Phyllis Nagy (“Carol”), while Oscar winner Chris Terrio (“Argo”) found placement in 2012. Innovative producers landing on the 10 Producers to Watch list include Will Packer (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Ride Along”) in 2007, Anthony Bregman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Foxcatcher”) in 2002, and the former team of Chris Bender and JC Spink (“American Pie,” “A History of Violence”) in 2001.

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