2009's Top 12 Break-Out Stars

A sure sign that the "90210" actress Shenai Grimes is a rising star? She's already being plagued by tabloid rumors about eating disorders, hard partying, and a possible "feud" with her fellow CW stars from "Gossip Girls." "What these girls recognize is that it's not just about having a hit show," said Essence entertainment director Murray. "It's the amount of press you're getting. Going out and living it up is part of the job these days. Eating disorders, feuds. Whether it's true or not, it's getting Shenae's name out there. She's following in the footsteps of a Lindsay Lohan, of a Leighton Meester. We're so hungry for celebrity scoop now, and this is what makes a star."

Grimes, for her part, already has the party line down pat. "Nobody has the right to invade anybody's privacy or write false stories, even if the subject is a public figure," she said recently. "I know I have a good head on my shoulders. I think I've done pretty well for a Toronto girl who has moved to Hollywood alone. As long as I know I don't have an eating disorder and I'm not a diva on set, that's all that matters. If the people in America would rather believe otherwise, then my life will be proof enough."

Mickey Rourke

"Mickey's having a great year already, riding 'The Wrestler' wave," said Entertainment Weekly writer Adam B. Vary. "If he wins an Oscar, which he could, then he'll see a very strong 2009. There's the possibility he might score Sin City 2, which would be huge. And he's currently shooting 13, in which he'll play another hard-boiled, hard-scrambled type. But that's the thing with Mickey, he's got a very specific niche. Still, 'The Wrestler' did shoot him from back from relative obscurity to household name."

Jaden Smith

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith's 10-year-old son has had roles in "The Pursuit of Happyness" (alongside dad) and the current action flick "The Day the Earth Stood Still." But in 2009, he's set to star in a remake of the classic "The Karate Kid." "He's setting up his career to follow in his father's footsteps," said Essence entertainment director Cori Murray. But Murray notes that nepotism will only get you so far. "Will Smith sets the bar very high. He's producing his son's next film, and if he had any doubts that Jaden could do it, the kid would not be playing the lead. It's too risky in Hollywood right now. That said, Jaden definitely has the chops. He was really strong in 'Happyness,' and I have no doubt that he will bring home 'Karate Kid.'"

Cloris Leachman

Old school actress Cloris Leachman – best known for her Oscar-winning turn in "The Last Picture Show" and a nine-time Emmy winner ("Mary Tyler Moore," "Malcolm In the Middle") – made a triumphant return to TV this year on "Dancing With the Stars." "Baby boomers think of her fondly," says EW's Vary. "And she's having a nice resurgence, riding the 'Dancing' wave. It has jumpstarted careers for folks like Mario Lopez. But it depends on what she does next. She has a one-episode turn on 'the Office,' which has a nice pedigree. And she's up for 'Inglorious Bastards,' with Brad Pitt. It's a Quentin Tarantino film, and he's known for casting actors who he loves that are not doing as they could. It worked for John Travolta. It could work for Cloris."

Amy Poehler

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