By EW Staff
June 29, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT


AGE 35 WHY HIM? The smoldering and smooth-handed dealer from 1998’s Croupier is now playing the Hire, an unflappable driver who takes on dangerous passengers in a series of online-only five-minute films sponsored by BMW. The British actor admits he was ”wary of doing commercials” — until he got a load of the directors, including Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), John Frankenheimer (Ronin), and Guy Ritchie (Snatch), who even coaxed a cameo out of wife Madonna. UNLIKELY INSPIRATION ”David Bowie — much more than any actor I’ve ever come across.” Dream Collaborator ”A few years ago I would have said director Krzysztof Kieslowski (Decalogue), but he’s not around now.” TV SHOW THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE Britain’s cult classic The Prisoner (1967), a harbinger of today’s alternate-reality dramas. GADGET HE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT PowerBook G3 laptop IF HE WEREN’T ACTING, HE’D… Be lost. ”It scares me to think of the Clive Owen who didn’t get into acting.” NEXT He’ll play a convicted prisoner turned, yes, award-winning gardener in Greenfingers; a villain tailing Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity; and a valet with attitude in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.


AGE 36 WHY HIM? In May 1999, he launched the most ambitious and fan-friendly studio website in Internet history: New Line’s, the official Lord of the Rings trilogy hot spot. It remains the home port of choice for Ringers, not only because of goodies like insider production updates and Internet-debuted preview footage (downloaded over 1.7 million times in the first 24 hours), but because Paddison’s pet project has forged a genuine Web community. INSPIRATION Hobbit fanciers. Paddison’s no snob: He spends part of each day fielding questions from fans and chatting with webmasters — a practice that’s yielding good vibrations way beyond Middle Earth. ”It’s about engaging — and not with sexy hoo-has and downloadable blah-blahs. It’s about opening a dialogue for fans and nonfans alike.” ON THE OTHER HAND… Sometimes Tolkien fans can be a wee bit arcane: ”I have no idea the color of the bridle on the horse in the fourth chapter in the third book.” WORK HABITS ”I do a lot of creative work between midnight and 3 a.m. That’s when most people who’ve been e-mailing have given up.” BEST ADVICE ”Tell the truth. Those people on the other side of the monitor, they’re a bit savvier than the usual consumer. They can smell hype.”


AGES Cocreators James Hong (bottom), 27; Jim Young, 28 WHY THEM? Rating perfect tens has never been so addictive: People send in photos of themselves — you give ’em a score. Genius. APT BEGINNINGS Hong, a laid-off dotcommer, and Young, a Berkeley grad student, concocted HotOrNot over a beer. ”There was no formula,” says Hong. CAREER HIGH The first week. Traffic to the site doubled daily after its inception last October, and the duo spent their own money on Web servers to keep up with the popularity. ”We didn’t know if it was going to last six months or six days,” says Hong. CAREER LOW Their own ratings: Hong, 3.8; Young, 3.5. NEXT Meet Me, a dating service that lets Hot voters connect via e-mail — or not. So far, 160,000 people have signed up, with 20,000 matches made each day.