Considering Kentucky is only the 26th most populous state in the union — according to 2013 United States census figures — and it ranks even lower in some other measures, the Commonwealth enjoys a fairly outsize population of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Stapleton and some Judds and Clooneys.
Jackson native and Versailles-raised Sturgill Simpson is already a contender for album of the year in the 2017 Grammy Awards. But what else do Kentucky artists have in store for us in the new year? Here’s a look:
Jennifer Lawrence: The highest-paid female actor in movies has a film, “Passengers,” in theaters now. The movie, co-starring Chris Pratt, has not garnered the Oscar-winner awards season chatter and likely won’t. But some of her announced 2017 efforts might put the Louisville native in the conversation next year: In “Red Sparrow,” she will reportedly play a modern-day Russian agent assigned to seduce Joel Edgerton’s (currently in “Loving”) CIA agent.
The Louisville native is also in director Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother,” with co-stars Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. Other announced, but undated JLaw projects include a Ron Howard film in which she will star as Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott’s wife.
George Clooney: The handsome Kentuckian’s next effort will be behind the camera, directing “Suburbicon,” a script by Joel and Ethan Coen. Clooney and longtime collaborator Grant Heslov also have writing credits on the mystery starring Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac, Julianne Moore and Josh Brolin.
Ashley Judd: Of course, we expect to see Ms. Judd at some basketball games, but she has a number of projects in the works, the “Twin Peaks” revival for Showtime jumping off her IMDb page. No word on how big or what her role will be in the show that is set to premiere in April. Also on Judd’s list are “Trafficked,” a film about human trafficking, a cause very important to the actor; and a film called “Life Briefly” and the “Tangled” TV series for Disney.
Grace Victoria Cox: Also in the “Twin Peaks” revival is the Lexington native who first caught attention the CBS series “Under the Dome.” She was a bit quiet after her role there ended, but could be one to watch in 2017 with several projects coming including TV Land’s series based on the dark 1988 comedy “Heathers.” Cox will be taking on the Winona Ryder role in the series. IMDb also lists her in the crime dramas “Savage Youth” and “Public Affairs” and the drama “Triumph,” in post production.
Steve Zahn: The Lexington-area resident has a few coming projects listed on IMDb, the biggest being “War for the Planet of the Apes,” slated for a July release. He actually took the stage at the Singletary Center for the Arts recital hall for an on-stage interview last summer showing off his skills walking like an ape.
Michael Shannon: The Lexington native often seems like the hardest working Kentuckian in show business, and six projects in some state of production on his IMDb page seem to quantify that title. Projects include the made-for-TV “Waco” in which he plays FBI negotiator Gary Noesner to Taylor Kitsch’s David Koresh; “The Current War” which has him as George Westinghouse to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Thomas Edison; and maybe the most interesting description is “Pottersville,” which says Shannon will play “a beloved local businessman who is mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot during an inebriated romp through town in a makeshift gorilla costume.”
Chris Stapleton: The Johnson County native and breakout country star of 2015 and ’16 has a lot of tour dates planned, including two sold-out nights in April at Pikeville’s Eastern Kentucky Expo Center and a sold-out Wrigley Field stand with Tom Petty, one of several Petty dates. Thus far, there are no announcements of a follow-up to his breakout hit album “Traveller.”
Sturgill Simpson: Like we said, above, Simpson’s got to go to the Grammy Awards and see how he does against Adele, Beyonce, Drake and Justin Bieber in the Album of the Year competition. His “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” is also nominated for best country album, pitting him against fellow Kentuckian Loretta Lynn and her “Full Circle.”
George C. Wolfe: Next up for the iconic Broadway writer and director from Frankfort is “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” a film starring Oprah Winfrey for HBO. The film is based on Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction book about a Baltimore woman whose cancer cells were harvested without her permission and led to a number of medical breakthroughs.
Josh Hutcherson: The Union native and Lawrence’s “Hunger Games” co-star has a number of projects on tap including the James Franco-directed “The Long Home,” filmed in the Cincinnati area; starring in the Evan Goldberg-Seth Rogen directed series “Future Man,” for Hulu; Franco’s “The Masterpiece”; and the horror-comedy “Tragedy Girls.”
That’s a roundup of what we could find from some of the usual suspects. Of course, 365 days is a lot of time, and new things can be developed, surprises can be sprung. Remember, no one was talking about Chris Stapleton on Jan. 1, 2015. Keep watching these pages, and we will keep you up to date in 2017.