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Entertainers of the Year
From Oscar winners to history makers, this year's lineup for Entertainment Weekly's Entertainers of the Year is unstoppable. Fnd out who made the cut, ahead.
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Jennifer Lawrence is that celebrity rarity — as effervescent, irreverent, and charming as she appears through the lens of talk shows, red carpets, and acceptance speeches. At 25 it feels as though Lawrence has already lived a few Hollywood lives. Beginning with her remarkable, Oscar-nominated breakout in 2010’s gritty Winter’s Bone, she’s kept busy over the past five years with box-office-busting franchises, but in between she managed to sneak in a couple David O. Russell films. This Christmas she and Russell have teamed up again for Joy, the story of one woman’s rise to power and wealth that unfolds over four decades.
So what does all this mean when it comes to her personal life? “I have a very small circle,” Lawrence explains to EW. “The moment I feel like someone is using me or is in it for the wrong reasons, I have zero guilt about just cutting them the f--- out of my life. My bulls--- detector is phenomenal. None of my friends bulls--- me. Everything in my life has to be real.” – Sara Vilkomerson
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The 36-year-old star bid adieu to Parks and Recreation, the comedy that made him known to America as a cuddly, lovable man-child, and kicked dinosaur ass as in Jurassic World, the highest-grossing blockbuster of the year so far. Through it all, though, he’s kept up his Andy Dwyer-ish good-guy image in real life. “When I first moved to L.A. Maybe 15 years ago, I remember hearing this small voice in my head warning me to not become an a—hole,” Pratt tells EW. “[It] really takes effort. I mean, my douche-meter is going off right now just talking about this stuff." – Keith Staskiewicz
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When Adele mysteriously teased a snippet of her comeback single “Hello” during a commercial break for U.K.’s The X Factor in October, she was initially fearful no one cared about her return. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Since the release of that anthem — and her third album, 25, weeks later — the 27-year-old British siren has broken sales and video-streaming records.
As Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote and produced “Hello,” tells EW about working with the singer, “I would press record, and she’d sing it from start to finish. In this day and age, not a lot of people do that.... She’ll do the first one, and it’s great. She’ll do a second one— and it’s even better.” — Kevin O’Donnell
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Taraji P. Henson
Surprisingly, Taraji P. Henson’s craziest moment of 2015 didn’t come when she learned about her first-ever Emmy nomination, for playing Empire’s Cookie Lyon. That moment came on an otherwise typical day of filming on location in Chicago when Henson had to return to base camp for a simple wardrobe change —and she suddenly got mobbed by fans. “The crowds kept growing and growing,” says Henson. “They were banging on the van, yelling, ‘Cookie, Cookie!’ The police were trying to stop them.”
For a minute, Henson had forgotten just how irresistible her alter ego had become to the drama’s nearly 17 million viewers. “I looked around and said, ‘Who the hell is in here?’ And the driver said, ‘Babe, they are chasing you. It’s all for you.’ I couldn’t believe it. The only way I could put it is if I were Madonna or Michael Jackson or Beyoncé. That’s how I felt.” — Lynette Rice
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The comedian, 32, bid farewell to one beloved sitcom (NBC’s Parks and Recreation) – and launched a new one of his very own (Netflix’s Master of None). He opens up to EW about the joys – and struggles – of pulling it all off. “I talked to other people who’ve done things where you’re acting and writing and directing. Everyone tells me, ‘You’re going to get tired.’
“The totality of that amount of work is tough. When you create a show, you just don’t realize how many things you have to weigh in on. It’s so much stuff! But it’s fun, and the biggest reward ever is seeing people respond the way they have. We put so much of ourselves in this show, and to see people respond to it in this way is amazing.” — Ray Rahman
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The cast of Game of Thrones
It doesn’t make any sense that the biggest cast on TV should also be one of the best, but so it goes with Game of Thrones, the epic drama that’s home to nearly 30 series regulars — a number that any producer can tell you is utterly nuts. Yet millions around the world obsess over Thrones’ characters and their riveting story lines, thanks mainly to the actors’ searing performances, which manage to stand out even when they share scenes with literal giants and dragons.
“There are so many ways this show could have died in the crib, but the most likely killer would have been the cast,” showrunners David Benio and Dan Weiss tell EW. “It’s diffcult enough to find a single actor who is perfect for a single role, and more difficult still to find, say, five ideal actors. But to find 30, 40, or more? The odds against that are astronomical.” – James Hibberd
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The hip-hop queen made up with Taylor and beefed with Miley, sure. But the 32-year-old will remember 2015 for so much more. "I love that I wrapped a movie that I’m really proud of, Barbershop 3," she says. "I loved getting the cover of The New York Times Magazine. I loved breaking a Billboard record with my singles of my album The Pinkprint. And I loved the performance [for Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal] at Barclays, me singing with Beyoncé and just knowing that we were doing it for Tidal and all of the artists came out." As for how she surprised herself this year, Minaj says she's grown up a lot, explaining, "I got a little bit more centered." – Marc Snetiker
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There were plenty of highlights for Schumer in 2015: the 34-year-old had a box office smash with Trainwreck, her own HBO special, Live at the Apollo, and hosted SNL. But opening for Madonna on the Queen of Pop's Rebel Heart tour? "That is a life highlight — not a year highlight," she says. "Wasn't it just like, what the f---? I could not be more in love with her. I can’t believe she even knows my name. For real. ... I’m so proud of my work, but never did I think that I would be recognized at this level." – Sara Vilkomerson
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In 2015 there was an explosion of hosts on the late-night landscape, but only one has been able to make news as often as he covers it. During Last Week Tonight’s second season, John Oliver, 38, has gone above and beyond (and abroad) with his headline-grabbing exploits.
On founding a legit, IRS-recognized church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, Oliver says, “We tried a few different longer-form things this year, which I’m very proud of. Like starting a religion, which involved, like, seven months of back-and-forth through the mail with a pseudo church — or an actual church, as proven by the IRS. So that was fun. Seeing as it seems HBO will let us get away with anything, we’re trying to see how true that is.” – Ray Rahman
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Hamilton is also one of Broadway’s unlikeliest successes: With an ethnically diverse cast playing a slew of dead white guys, the musical about the Founding Father’s rise and fall challenges the traditions of theater melodies with a rap-heavy score and a history-spanning narrative. “I’ve chased musical ideas that were dead ends, but the ones that dig in, they grab you,” says Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative force behind — and star of — the year’s hottest Broadway musical. “I felt like a mosquito that hit an artery. Hamilton grabbed me and would not let the f--- go.”
The media is doing the same to Miranda. He’s been dubbed a pop culture icon, a visionary, and a genius (he has a 2015 MacArthur grant to back it up). “I’m enjoying the s--- out of it, honestly, but I’m mindful of staying appreciative of what rare ed air it is,” he says. – Marc Snetiker
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The stars of Shondaland
It's thanks to Shonda Rhimes – the bold brains behind the TGIT lineup – that the stars of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder have redefined must-see TV. In EW’s new issue, Rhimes and her leading ladies take us behind the scenes. “We have a movie theater in our basement,” says Rhimes. “Every Thursday night, we pipe in the East Coast feed of the shows, I buy pizzas for everybody, and we do – against the rules – bring down a bunch of bottles of wine from my office. Any of the actors or crew members come to the theater, and you can live-tweet the shows there with everybody else so you’re not doing it by yourself. The party’s always waiting.” – Natalie Abrams
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The pop star had one of the biggest tours of the year with her 1989 World Tour. Just how massive was it? EW breaks it down by the numbers:
85: Number of tour dates
$5,397,066: Average gross per city
9: Number of Swift's outfit changes per show
4,579,000: Number of times the hashtag #1989Tour was tweeted
1.2 Million: Number of times the hashtag #SquadGoals was tweeted
101: Number of celebrity guests who appeared on stage
1: Number of professional sports teams in her squad (the U.S. Women's Soccer Team)
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From saying goodbye to one history-making franchise to taking the helm of another, the actress-director hit all the right notes in 2015. Fans aren’t the only ones upset to bid farewell to Banks’ eccentric Effie Trinket in the final Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay – Part 2, in theaters now. “I’m very sad,” Banks, 41, admits to EW. “She became really iconic. I think I’ve made more out of Effie than anyone imagined, including (author) Suzanne Collins.”
In addition to her turn behind the camera directing this summer’s hit Pitch Perfect 2, Banks will be back to helm the third installment of the female-fueled comedy. “I’m an actress over 35, so the number of really interesting roles that are going to come my way is not as high. The number of directing jobs that will come my way will be slightly more interesting,” she says. “I just want to keep being a storyteller.” – Nicole Sperling
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The cast of Straight Outta Compton
From “F--- tha Police” to “for your consideration,” Straight Outta Compton stands as 2015’s unstoppable biopic. The film, which dramatizes N.W.A’s crossover from underground rap group to multiplatinum-selling phenom, took in more than $200 million in ticket sales worldwide. Now Universal has launched a full-blown Oscar campaign, the first of its kind for a hip-hop biopic.
It wasn’t an easy journey to bring the movie to the masses. As a producer, N.W.A’s Ice Cube spent seven years helping to shape the screenplay about his rise with groupmates Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Dr. Dre, bring director F. Gary Gray onto the project, and iron out a studio deal. The biopic’s wild success serves as more than just personal validation for Cube. “I wanted this to connect more than any movie I’ve ever done,” says the actor-producer. “Not only is it my history, it’s a time capsule of a moment that a ected the whole world.” – Chris Lee
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There was a time when, if you told anyone that the year’s most politically groundbreaking pop culture icon would be a member of the Kardashian clan, no one would’ve believed you. That changed when Caitlyn Jenner, 66, came out as transgender in a brave interview with Diane Sawyer last April, revealed her new look on the cover of Vanity Fair in June, broke Obama’s Twitter record by racking up one million followers in four hours, and, one month later, premiered a reality TV show so radical, it’s hard to believe it aired on E!, the channel that brought you Bridalplasty.
With her docuseries I Am Cait, Jenner reignited debates about what really makes a woman, reminded everyone that she could be female and transgender and still vote Republican, still ride dirt bikes, and still refer to herself as her daughters’ “daddy.” “Do I project the right image?” she wondered on the show, before admitting, “I just hope I get it right.” – Melissa Maerz