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Jenni Miller

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Jenni Miller is a freelance writer in New York City. Inquire within!

The 15 Hardest Working Actors in 2012

There’s nothing like showbiz for these actors, who appear to barely take a breath between projects. Whether by chance or design, they’ve appeared multiple times on the big screen in 2012, and in the case of a few, they’re on your TVs, too. Not all of these movies were made in 2012 — you’ll see quite a few of these have been dusted off and released to take advantage of a soaring star’s career, for better or worse. (Usually for the worse. Sometimes a movie should stay in eternal limbo.)

In a strange and somewhat disappointing turn of events, nouveau shamanic actor Nicolas Cage didn’t make the list this year. He only appeared in two measly movies: “Stolen,” an action film with Malin Akerman, and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” which was released in the shameful wasteland of February. Let’s cross our fingers for 2013.

15. Jennifer Lawrence (3 roles)
Lawrence burned her way into our hearts with her performance as Katniss in the highly anticipated adaptation of “The Hunger Games.” Although some of us are still debating whether we’re on Team Peeta or Team Gale, we’re all Team Jennifer. She’s also getting some seriously awesome buzz over her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” opposite Bradley Cooper. On the other hand, the less said about “House at the End of the Street,” the better. The horror film had been through several incarnations and was finally released just in time to take advantage of her burgeoning “Hunger Games” fame. Fans didn’t fall for it, though. (Please insert a joke about the odds being in Jennifer Lawrence’s favor here.)

14. Kristen Stewart (3 roles)
K-Stew found herself at the end of the “Twilight” road with the long-awaited release of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” but she’s got plenty of other projects to keep her busy. She donned armor to kick some butt in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” although that particular project kicked up some well-publicized personal drama with director Rupert Sanders. Stewart, who’s tried her hand at “edgier” projects like “Welcome to the Rileys” and “The Runaways,” had everyone in a tizzy with her sexy turn in “On the Road” as Dean Moriarty’s child bride Marylou.

13. Taylor Kitsch (3 roles)
The “Friday Night Lights” star was definitely busy this year, but unfortunately, the response to his foray into leading man territory has been less than favorable. “Battleship” was based on a board game and its most memorable moment was when Rihanna tried to coin a “Die Hard”-esque catchphrase involving “Mahalo.” “John Carter” was trashed by critics, but did have its boosters, who blamed everything from confusing marketing to, uh, take your pick — none of it (probably) had to do with Kitsch himself. “Savages” was an Oliver Stone joint based on a sexy crime novel that would be categorized as a beach read if it had less violence and a pink cover. It was alternately unintentionally hilarious and cringe-worthy. Alas.

12. Jonah Hill (3 roles)
No one believed “21 Jump Street” was a good idea … until we saw it. Hill came up with the idea with screenwriter Michael Bacall and co-starred with Channing Tatum in this ridiculously funny spin on the TV show. He also appeared in “The Watch” with a host of other funny dudes, like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade, but it sort of fell between the cracks. Marketing was problematic, especially in the wake of the murder of Treyvon Martin by a supposed neighborhood watch nutcase. Hill has a very funny and all too brief cameo in “Django Unchained,” too.

11. Tommy Lee Jones (3 roles)
Human hound dog Tommy Lee Jones had three movies up his sleeve this year, the forgettable “Men in Black III,” the Spielberg epic “Lincoln” and the surprising “Hope Springs.” In the latter, he plays a stone cold husband who’s forced into couples’ therapy by his unhappy wife, played by Meryl Streep. “Hope Springs” was actually a lot more emotionally affecting than its romcom-y trailers would lead you to believe, no doubt because of its strong leads. It practically goes without saying that Lee Jones holds his own in “Lincoln” and gives Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money as the bewigged Thaddeus Stevens. (PS. We love TLJ and the term human hound dog is an endearment. Don’t change!)

11. Samuel L. Jackson (3 roles)
When he wasn’t busy tweeting or talking to Siri, Samuel L. Jackson was working. It was a slow year for Jackson, with only three theatrical releases. Pick up the slack! Naturally, he donned his Nick Fury eye patch and assembled “The Avengers” for a billion dollars and counting (estimated box office tally). His movie “The Samaritan” didn’t get as many eyeballs, but what does Jackson care? He reunited with his buddy Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained” as Stephen, the right-hand man of evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Jackson never sleeps.

10. Jessica Biel (4 roles)
Biel was definitely busy, although it’s possible her work was all for naught. Harsh but true! She appeared in the “Total Recall” remake with Colin Farrell, and while sometimes remakes/reboots/re-whatevers can be successful and entertaining, sometimes they’re … just not. She also appeared in “The Tall Man,” a lackluster movie from French new wave horror director Pascal Laugier. (It’s possible that Laugier is still traumatized after making the incredibly bleak and grisly “Martyrs.”) She also appeared in “Hitchcock,” which stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren and, by all rights, was anticipated to be an awards contender. Biel’s ending the year with the toothless Gerard Butler romcom “Playing for Keeps.” That happened.

9. Chris Hemsworth (4 roles)
Hemsworth had a great year. He starred in “The Avengers” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” two blockbusters that cement his role as an action star to be reckoned with. The meta-horror movie “Cabin in the Woods” finally hit theaters after being tossed around for a couple of years, but this was one of those movies that really needed to see the light of day. Then, there was “Red Dawn,” a terrible, terrible remake that was held up by the same studio problems that plagued “Cabin.” Sadly, without one, we probably wouldn’t have gotten to see the other. “Red Dawn” couldn’t even capitalize on Hemsworth’s global star status to get any attention.

8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (4 roles)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an excellent multi-tasker. Besides appearing in at least three much-ballyhooed big budget films, he also tweeted up a storm and continued work on his cool “collaborative production company,” hitRECord. Unsurprisingly, he was totally adorable on “Saturday Night Live,” too. Although people are still arguing about “The Dark Knight Rises,” it’s clear that the last (?) entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was buoyed by his role as earnest and hardworking cop Blake. “Looper” has had fans of smart sci-fi chattering all year, and some of us are still debating its time travelling antics. Although “Premium Rush” didn’t get the same attention as the others, JGL and Michael Shannon in one movie is certainly something to enjoy. Naturally, he also managed one prestige pic this year as well, with his role as Robert Lincoln in, uh, “Lincoln.”

7. Channing Tatum (5, almost 6 roles)
You can’t throw a rock without hitting Channing Tatum being awesome in some medium or another. He took it nearly all off in “Magic Mike,” the star vehicle directed by Steven Soderbergh about his adventures as a male dancer. He busted skulls in Soderbergh’s “Haywire” alongside Gina Carano. He made us laugh in “21 Jump Street,” a project that sounded terrible on paper but is actually very funny in action. Tatum didn’t forget his bread and butter — romcoms — so he popped up in “The Vow,” and then there was the ensemble comedy that sort of went nowhere, “10 Years.” If “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” wasn’t pushed back until 2013 (possibly to add more C-Tatez for the masses?), he would have been closer to the top of this list. With sequels and other films up his sleeve, Tatum will have an equally busy 2013 and beyond.

6. Liam Neeson (5 roles)
Between “Battleship,” “Taken 2″ and “Wrath of the Titans,” Liam Neeson had a few big-budget yawners this year, but let’s be frank: Neeson gives none of the f**ks what we think. He will always be the bad daddy who has “a very particular set of skills” that will get butts in seats. He also put in a surprise appearance in “The Dark Knight Rises” that added a big twist to the dark actioner. Although “The Grey” was sort of marketed as “Liam Neeson punches wolves,” it got a lot of critical attention for its grueling action and emotional resonance.

5. Chris Messina (5 roles)
Although not all of Messina’s movies got a ton of peepers peepin’ ‘em (such as “The Giant Mechanical Man” and
“28 Hotel Rooms”), it’s clear that this indie actor’s career is taking off like one of Katy Perry’s fireworks. Joining the giant ensemble of respected actors in “Argo” is a feather for anyone’s cap, and appearances in arty romantic dramas “Ruby Sparks” and “Celeste and Jesse Forever” boosted his profile as well. Plus, he’s appeared on “Damages,” “The Newsroom” and “The Mindy Project,” meaning he has a lock on the small screen too. Is this where we make a creepy comment about his role as a cranky ob-gyn? Too soon?

4. Richard Jenkins (5 roles)
We always love seeing Richard Jenkins in movies, so it’s been especially pleasing to see him work so much. Even though he usually plays the straight man, he’s always crazy good in so many different types of movies. He popped up in arthouse fare like “Darling Companion” and “Liberal Arts, ” the uber-violent drama “Killing Them Softly” and weird horror-ish fave “Cabin in the Woods,” pretty much covering all possible movie genres. He’s also appearing in the upcoming Tom Cruise actioner “Jack Reacher,” alongside, uh, Werner Herzog. Which is awesome.

3. Mark Duplass (5 roles)
Shagged-haired indie hero Mark Duplass is always a busy guy, but this year has been more high profile. “The League” star starred with Aubrey Plaza in the strange sci-fi romance “Safety Not Guaranteed” and the loveable Sundance drama “Your Sister’s Sister.” Although “Darling Companion” didn’t get much press attention, it’s clear more people than we might have realized appeared in it. “People Like Us” didn’t get much play, but it had an interesting cast that included Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chris Pine, and it was penned by “Star Trek” blockbuster-makers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Duplass seems like one of the few on this list who didn’t show up in “Argo,” but perhaps he did them all one better by taking on “Zero Dark Thirty,” the thrilling drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow. His guest stint on “The Mindy Project” as a touchy-feeling midwife was the cherry on top of a great year.

2. Bryan Cranston (6 roles)
Jeez, slow your roll! We no longer remember you just as the dad from “Malcom in the Middle,” Cranston. It’s okay. You can leave some roles for other actors. Although Cranston usually has smaller roles, he’s still everywhere. He had several smaller roles in ensemble pieces like “Rock of Ages,” “Red Tails” and “Argo,” and he did the voice of Vitaly the rocking Russian tiger in “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.” Like Biel, he also showed up in “Total Recall,” albeit in less sexy outfits. And then there was “John Carter.” Poor “John Carter.”

1. Rosemarie DeWitt (6 roles)
How awesome is Rosemarie DeWitt? How great is it to see her all over the place? SO GREAT. She sealed the deal in “Your Sister’s Sister,” costarred in the very odd “Odd Life of Timothy Green,” got stern as a shrink with an increasingly unwelcome house guest in “Nobody Walks” and visited “A Little Bit of Heaven” with Kate Hudson and Gael García Bernal. She showed up in “The Watch” as Ben Stiller’s wife Abby, and you can catch her in the new Gus Van Sant drama “Promised Land” with Matt Damon and Frances McDormand in time for Oscar season.


Categories: Features, Lists

Tags: 10 Years, 21 jump street, 28 Hotel Rooms, A little bit of heaven, Argo, Battleship, Bryan cranston, Cabin in the Woods, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Channing tatum, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Messina, Darling Companion, Django Unchained, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Haywire, Hitchcock, Hope Springs, House at the End of the Street, Jack Reacher, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica biel, John Carter, Jonah hill, Joseph gordon-levitt, Killing Them Softly, Kristen stewart, Liam neeson, Liberal Arts, Lincoln, Looper, Madagascar 3, Magic Mike, Mark duplass, Men in Black III, On the Road, People Like Us, Playing for Keeps, Premium rush, Promised Land, Red dawn, Red tails, Richard jenkins, Rock of Ages, Ruby Sparks, Safety Not Guaranteed, Samuel l. jackson, Savages, Silver Linings Playbook, Snow White and the Huntsman, Taken 2, Taylor Kitsch, The avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Giant Mechanical Man, The Grey, The Hunger Games, The odd life of timothy green, The Samaritan, The tall man, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, The Vow, The Watch, Tommy lee jones, Total recall, Wrath of the Titans, Your Sister's Sister, Zero Dark Thirty

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