For almost two decades, magazines, including this one, have ranked the film industry’s elite in terms of power. When these ”power lists” began, stars’ salaries were only approaching $20 million, überagent Michael Ovitz lifeguarded the entire talent pool, and studio moguls held the keys to their kingdoms. Not anymore. Today, power is more limited and more diffuse. Even the top studio execs work for multinational conglomerates. Stars seem to cut their prices as often as they demand them. And agents have traded in their BMWs for Priuses. Real influence is now determined not by which table you can get at The Grill, but by the strength of your ideas. Smart is the new power.
This might seem surprising: When you think of Hollywood, the word smart doesn’t usually leap to mind. Movies often feel designed to stimulate every part of the body — the heart, the groin, the adrenal glands — except the brain. Truth is, it takes plenty of smarts to create even mindless entertainment. Beauty and talent get most of the attention, but intelligence really is Hollywood’s most valued currency.
So ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY set out to find these smart people — the 50 brightest minds leading the film industry forward today. (We’ll get to our TV-industry list after the New Year — hopefully by then those big brains will have figured out how to end the strike.) For the last three months, we’ve canvassed the town and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews, ferreting out the savants and wunderkinds, the geeks and gurus in every area of the business from the executive suite to the editing bay. We considered more than 300 individuals for these 50 slots and ranked them by their overall impact on how Hollywood thinks. We excluded people who aren’t actively involved in filmmaking right now, and we stayed away from megamoguls like Rupert Murdoch, Richard Parsons, and Sumner Redstone. As a result, many power-list mainstays didn’t make the cut, while lots of folks who’ve never appeared on a list before made this one. Taken as a whole, this group offers a glimpse of where the movie business is headed — and may even renew your faith in Hollywood. Well, almost.
Click here for our photo gallery of the 50 smartest people in Hollywood!
Here are some people who almost made the cut
Call us crazy: After months of reporting, and weeks of endless debate, we left a bunch of resident Hollywood brainiacs off the list. Here’s a small sample of smart folks who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t make the cut for 2007: Amy Adams, Jeff Berg, Matt Damon, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Alan Horn, Kevin Huvane, Ryan Kavanaugh, Kasi Lemmons, John Lesher, Bryan Lourd, George Lucas, Ron Meyer, Hayao Miyazaki, Mira Nair, Sean Penn, Sam Raimi, Scott Rudin, Adam Sandler, Julian Schnabel, Robert Shaye, Marc Shmuger, John Sloss, Tilda Swinton, Julie Taymor, Harvey Weinstein, and Jim Wiatt. Oh, well: There’s always next year. For now, log on to ew.com/smart to weigh in on why we were insane to omit these people — and to suggest others you think we completely overlooked.