ALANIS MORISSETTE: Irony may not be her forte, but this 22-year-old voice of a generation certainly knows how to define hit. With 13 million copies sold domestically, her Grammy- winning Jagged Little Pill broke Whitney Houston’s record for best-selling female album and paved the way for soundalikes Tracy Bonham and Patti Rothberg. After that, she should find more than one hand in her pocket.
LINDY DEKOVEN: The mastermind behind Gulliver’s Travels and The Beast, NBC senior VP of miniseries and motion pictures for television DeKoven, 42, oversees $200-300 million worth of long-form programming annually. She may report to NBC president Warren Littlefield, but she greenlights 50 projects each year on her own.
BOB COOPER: After duds like The Fan and Mrs. Winterbourne, no studio needs help more than TriStar Pictures. Fortunately, its new president, Cooper, 51, orchestrated such quality films as And the Band Played On and Truman as president of HBO Pictures. With a modest-budget mission and an upcoming slate that includes films from Julia Roberts (My Best Friend’s Wedding), Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire), and Jonathan Demme (The Stopwatch Gang), Cooper’s classy background seems a perfect fit.
JACKIE CHAN: The surprise success of Rumble in the Bronx, which earned $32.4 million, has turned kicking machine (and just-signed William Morris client) Chan, 42, into a fearless franchise. On the way: Western releases of fight-fests First Strike and Thunderbolt, and the inevitable buddy flick, Confucius Brown, with Wesley Snipes.
GWYNETH PALTROW: With a tony pedigree (mom Blythe Danner, dad Bruce Paltrow), an arsenal of strong supporting performances, and Brad Pitt on her arm, Paltrow, 24, had movie star promise. With the art-house hit Emma, she made good on it. In the works: major studio leading roles in Kilronan (opposite Jessica Lange) and Great Expectations (with Ethan Hawke).
MICHAEL BAY: A screenwriter might consider him a Machiavellian dictator, but director Bay, 32, has proven that financial ends justify any difficult means: His first two films, Bad Boys and The Rock, grossed nearly $200 million. He’s since formed his own production company, Bay Films, and is now choosing the kickoff project for his five-year, first-look deal with Disney.
ED GORDON: O.J. isn’t the only one who’s living the post-Simpson-trial high life. Gordon, 36, the former Black Entertainment Television journalist who last January conducted the first in-depth post-acquittal interview with Simpson, was wooed by the networks this spring. The victor: NBC, which signed him to a reported three-year, $1.5 million contract.
WILL SMITH: No longer just a fresh prince, rapper/actor Smith, 28, emerged as Independence Day‘s action king. Next up: He’ll star opposite Tommy Lee Jones in the comedy Men in Black and reteam with Martin Lawrence in the sequel to their $66.5 million Bad Boys.