76 BERNIE BRILLSTEIN/BRAD GREY
Rank last year: — Ages: 61 (Brillstein); 34 (Grey) Why they’re up: It’s hard to mount a big comedy project without coming up against their vast client list, which includes Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, Dennis Miller, and George Wendt. High point: They’re behind HBO’s acclaimed new The Larry Sanders Show. Low point: Their pet project, The Dennis Miller Show, was outta there in just seven months. New deal: Sony has committed $20 million to the duo’s film and TV projects.
77 ROBIN WILLIAMS
Rank last year: — Age: 41 Why he’s up: Williams received his third Best Actor Oscar nomination in five years for The Fisher King (though he has still never won) and played an adult Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s holiday hit Hook. Before Christmas he has two major releases: Aladdin and Toys. Next big move: He’ll star in Bill Forsyth’s comedy-drama Being Human, and he’s being wooed to portray slain gay activist Harvey Milk in an Oliver Stone-produced biopic. Bottom line: He’s not just a comic genius; he’s a serious actor.
78 ALBERTO VITALE
Chairman, Random House, Inc.
Rank last year: 64 Age: 58 High point: Random House had a year full of surprising high-road best-sellers-including Gail Sheehy’s menopause report, The Silent Passage; Art Spiegelman’s Maus II; and Gore Vidal’s Live from Golgotha. Low point: Despite Vitale’s reputation as a shrewd bottom-liner, bad deals — such as the millions shelled out for Marlon Brando’s still-nonexistent autobiography — hang over his head. X factor: His ’90 force-out of Pantheon’s Andre Schiffrin left lingering resentment in the publishing world.
79 ROBERT ZEMECKIS
Rank last year: — Age: 41 Why he’s up: Although the $56 million gross for the film Death Becomes Her wasn’t up to the blockbuster status of his other work (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the Back to the Future trilogy), it confirmed that Zemeckis can wring decent returns out of anything, even such box-office-poison genres as black comedy. Next big move: He’ll oversee his first network television series, Johnny Bago, an hour-long comedy-adventure about a con man that will appear on CBS later this season.
80 SPIKE LEE
Rank last year: 88 Age: 35 Why he’s up: Despite cost overruns, squabbles about the film’s length, and a lawsuit over its use of the Rodney King tape, the $35 million, three-hour epic Malcolm X will be released on Nov. 20 just the way Lee wants it. And his Spike’s Joint clothing boutiques are now open in Macy’s stores nationwide. New deal: After his headaches with Warner Bros. over X, Lee signed a multiyear pact with Universal Pictures, distributor of his films Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, and Jungle Fever.
81 AL TELLER
Chairman, MCA Music Ent. Group
Rank last year: — Age: 48 Why he’s up: MCA rode high with hits by Elton John, Mary J. Blige, and Vince Gill. Teller also made R&B deals with Andre Harrell (who launched Jodeci and Guy) and Louil Silas Jr. (executive producer of Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel). High point: The R&B deals may help offset MCA’s split with Motown, and the country division (George Strait, Reba McEntire) still rules the market, as does MCA’s jazz label, GRP (Chick Corea, Dave Grusin). X factor: Still MIA at MCA: good ol’ rock & roll.