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Rising stars

From The Rock to ”Gladiator”’s director Ridley Scott, these celebrities’ futures look bright

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THE ROCK
On the heels of a high-rated Saturday Night Live hosting appearance this spring, the WWF’s studly star, 28, is throwing his weight (all 275 pounds of it) around in Hollywood. After playing the Scorpion King in Universal’s upcoming The Mummy Returns, the hulk born Dwayne Johnston nabbed a $5.5 million pay-or-play deal to headline a Mummy prequel. That’s a wrap.

AALIYAH
So what if Ricky Martin mispronounced her name (it’s ah-LEE-yah) at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards? After scooping up two statues that night for her chart-topping hit ”Try Again” not to mention her impressive acting debut in Romeo Must Die, the singer-actress, 21, next stars as vampire Akasha in Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned.

INTERMEDIA
With a value of over $1 billion after going public on the Frankfurt stock exchange this May, the indie-movie financier (Nurse Betty, Small Time Crooks) is rich enough to produce the Jennifer Lopez romance The Wedding Planner and attract production deals with Nicolas Cage, Reese Witherspoon, and Kate Winslet.

Lava Records’ JASON FLOM
After five years, the 39-year-old’s imprint at Atlantic is bubbling over with A-list acts, including matchbox twenty, the Corrs, and the rap-metal volcano himself, Kid Rock.

Artists Television Group’s ERIC TANNENBAUM
Talk about a great opening act. In his first year of launching the TV division of Mike Ovitz’s AMG, the 37-year-old signed a huge talent roster (Ellen DeGeneres, Darren Star) and landed four shows on prime time this season, including The Street and Madigan Men — more new shows than his old employer, Columbia TriStar TV, put on air.

RIDLEY SCOTT
In Hollywood, everyone can hear you succeed. Scott, 62, battled back onto A lists with the $187 million-grossing Gladiator. Next? At his signal, MGM will unleash hell — in the form of Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. Though his commercial-production company placed an antiunion ad widely viewed as racist early in the commercial actors’ strike, his swift apology was good damage control.

TONOS.COM
Songwriting pros Carole Bayer Sager (Celine Dion), David Foster (‘N Sync), and Kenneth ”Babyface” Edmonds (Madonna) each boast enough gold statuettes to lend serious weight to this new dotcom, an online educational network for aspiring musicians who seek serious recording-industry know-how.

ALCON ENTERTAINMENT
What started as a diverting side venture for FedEx founder Fred Smith now has a five-year, 10-picture deal with Warner Bros., thanks to the $7 mil sleeper My Dog Skip fetching $39 million worth of bones. Next up: Ashton Kutcher’s comedy Dude, Where’s My Car? and the 18th-century drama The Affair of the Necklace, with Hilary Swank.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
Al Gore’s No. 2 is on a mission to clean up Hollywood. The early V-chip advocate and one-time stand-up, Lieberman, 58, helped call for the recent Federal Trade Commission study that found adult-rated films, CDs, and videogames are marketed to kids. The report made Hollywood’s elite scramble, even as they backed the chutzpah-driven veep wannabe. But is he ready for prime time?