January 22, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Here’s the thing about being any year’s next new thing: Effective now, you have to start proving it. Fortunately, 1998’s breakthrough stars will be working overtime in 1999 to avoid making 2000’s ”What ever happened to…?” list.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO
’98 Recap Partied like the millennium was tomorrow, shedding six syllables to become the artist now known as Leo.
New for ’99 Took a reported $20 million gig as a rootless American backpacker in The Beach. He’s also scheduled to play legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, and while the biopic has no start date, we can’t wait to see him flash Baker’s toothless grin.
Prediction Riskier choices won’t line ’em up at the box office but could give him a reason to show up on Oscar night.

LAURYN HILL
’98 Recap Made the most acclaimed album of the year, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
New for ’99 Well, there are the Grammy nominations — she got 10 of ’em, including Best Album and Best New Artist. She’ll kick off a solo tour in February and reunite with the Fugees, perhaps next fall.
Prediction She faces a legal tussle with the studio band New Ark, who claim Hill hasn’t given them the songwriting and production credits they deserve on Miseducation. (Hill denies the charges.) It won’t hurt her awards chances. Grammy won’t take its eyes off Hill.

ANGELINA JOLIE
’98 Recap Nabbed a Golden Globe for her role as Cornelia in TNT’s George Wallace and an Emmy nod for her chilling turn as the title character in HBO’s Gia.
New for ’99 Starring as a police detective in The Bone Collector, with Denzel Washington, due out this fall. She’ll portray a club hopper in Playing by Heart with Sean Connery, and will turn plum crazy in the coveted role opposite Winona Ryder in Girl Interrupted — a female One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Prediction Trés Jolie.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES
’98 Recap Put the zest in Zorro.
New for ’99 Two high-profile flicks: the crime caper Entrapment, with Sean Connery (who continues his clear fondness for twentysomething costars), and The Haunting of Hill House, a remake of 1963’s Julie Harris/Claire Bloom classic The Haunting.
Prediction She’s zeroed in on two potential hits, but is she Hollywood’s exotica flavor of the month?

ADAM SANDLER
’98 Recap Hollywood’s No. 1 Brillo-topped goofball, with more than $200 million in combined grosses for The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy.
New for ’99 Will become a Big Daddy on June 25, and spoofs Beelzebub as Little Nicky, the independent-minded son of Satan.
Prediction Summertime purebreds (Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace, the next Austin Powers, and Wild Wild West) might make Big Daddy sound like an underdog, but to underestimate Sandler’s box office appeal is to bark up the wrong tree.

CHRIS TUCKER
’98 Recap Wired comic with a whiny machine gun for a mouth yammered his way to $139 million and counting in grosses for Rush Hour.
New for ’99 A film version of his stand-up act will be shot and edited for theatrical release. He has yet to sign on for a Rush Hour sequel, but will spend time presiding over his new club, Chris Tucker’s Comedy Club Cafe, in Atlanta.
Prediction He’s built up a fan base (see Friday, The Fifth Element, and Money Talks), but with Universal’s Double-O Soul, his spy flick with Mariah Carey, stalled in preproduction, Tucker may lose a little motor to his mouth in ’99.

WRESTLING
’98 Recap Went from entertainment oddity to big-time pay-per-view, cable TV, and merchandising performer.
New for ’99 A nearly $2 million Super Bowl spot for the WWF; both leagues are developing made-for-TV movies and kids’ TV series starring their actors…er, we mean wrestlers.
Prediction A backlash? The A&E documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows offers a sober, behind-the-scenes look at the WWF and WCW. And remember: The bigger you are, the harder the body slam.

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