A typical year for the average celebrity, filled with wealth, fame, and fancy clothes to wear to glamorous red-carpet events, puts our best years to shame. But even by star standards, there were a handful of celebs who truly won at life in 2011. While we may have known their names before the year began, the following celebs experienced breakout roles, pivotal projects, or enough Internet clicks to catapult them to newfound notoriety and respect in 2011, giving them reason to ring in the New Year with a smile.
We were pretty scared when Amy Poehler announced her departure from Saturday Night Live last year. We’d already lost Tina Fey and Will Ferrell; Poehler was our last hope for the weekend chuckles. That is until Kristen Wiig emerged from the ashes. Her hilarious hijinks on SNL had us pretty sure she was going places, but we had no idea she was poised to become the next box-office sensation. And then she wrote and starred in Bridesmaids, one of the highest-grossing movies of 2011, and changed the way everybody talked about female-anchored comedy. The film has been nominated for two Screen Actors Guild awards and Wiig has received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. We think this little lady is gonna make it in show biz.
Mr. Gosling had a busy year full of professional milestones: he starred in two sleeper hits, Drive and Crazy Stupid Love, and he went head to head with heavyweight George Clooney in Ides of March. But those aren’t the reasons he made this list. 2011 was Ryan Gosling’s year because he became a bona fide Internet sensation. His mere existence spawned a plethora of Ryan Gosling–themed blogs this year, each one funnier than the last, and each one answering crucial questions, such as is Ryan Gosling cuter than a puppy? What are Ryan Goslings feelings on feminist theory? And how would Ryan Gosling format a manuscript?
This year, Emma Stone emerged as the girl everyone loves to love with standout roles in Crazy Stupid Love and Friends with Benefits, and the lead role the summer’s box-office smash The Help. She scored massive style points with her impeccable red-carpet ensembles and won television audiences over as the host of one of the best episodes of Saturday Night Live of the year. The actress’s popularity among women is no surprise: her sense of humor and down-to-earthness are a breath of fresh air in industry cluttered with out-of-touch glamazons and celebutants. She’s like the Linsday Lohan we all hoped for after Mean Girls, before things got all dark and ankle bracelet-y.
Muppetmania seized the nation this year as the furry friends made their triumphant return to the big screen and filled the Muppet-shaped hole in all of our hearts. Their faces were everywhere—plastered across the sides of buses, hawking nail polish and cosmetics, even posing in the pages of InStyle wearing couture ensembles from the hottest designers. And now there’s even Oscar buzz swirling for the movie’s brilliant opus, “Muppet or Man” by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. Apparently Fozzie wasn’t the only one who was waiting to welcome back Kermit and the gang with open arms.
Nobody’s rise to stardom this year was as meteoric as Rooney Mara’s, who in 2011 went from being virtually unknown to nabbing the most coveted role in Hollywood, starring opposite Daniel Craig as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The actress gained some notoriety as Jessie Eisenberg’s love interest in 2010’s The Social Network, though few knew her by name at the time of the movie’s release. But she won the admiration of the film’s director, David Fincher, who cast her as the heroine in his next project (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and put her well on her way to becoming a household name.
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