Why nice guy Tom Hanks tops EW's Power List -- Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Oprah, and Julia Roberts also hit the top 10
Tom Hanks
Credit: Tom Hanks: Frank Wiese/AP

Proving that nice guys can finish first, Oscar-winning Everyman Tom Hanks tops Entertainment Weekly’s 2002 Power Issue list of the most formidable entertainers in Hollywood. Hanks gets credit for delivering strong grosses for the atypically dark ”Road to Perdition,” snagging Emmys for ”Band of Brothers,” and even having the savvy to coproduce the surprise smash ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” ”The guy’s got no marks against him,” says EW senior editor Jay Woodruff, who oversaw this year’s Power Issue (hitting newsstands Oct. 11). ”People love him.”

Hanks’ buddy Steven Spielberg is rated the No. 2 entertainer. ”There’s no more powerful director,” Woodruff says. This year, Spielberg easily rebounded from the disappointing ”A.I.,” leading ”Minority Report” to box office success and exec-producing the summer smash ”Men In Black II.”

”Signs” star Mel Gibson, meanwhile, lands at No. 3, where he’s cited for his enduring ability to draw in audiences — even to tepid fare like ”We Were Soldiers.” For similar reasons, plus his considerable clout as a producer, ”Minority Report” star Tom Cruise is No. 4.

Julia Roberts — Hollywood’s biggest female star — ends up at No. 5. Denzel Washington, who has exhibited Cruise-like drawing power at the box office (think $71 million for ”John Q”), hits No. 6, while Imagine Entertainment partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are at No. 7, thanks largely to ”A Beautiful Mind.”

The ever-mighty Oprah Winfrey grabs the No. 8 spot, while M. Night Shyamalan — having proven his name-brand clout with ”Signs” – finishes at No. 9. Media-shy comedian Adam Sandler rounds out the top 10, thanks to his ability to score $100 million-plus grosses for critically despised flicks like ”Mr. Deeds.”

True Hollywood power is often held by less famous faces, however, and for the first time, EW has made a separate Power List just for them. In the past, celebs and execs mixed on one list, but Woodruff says the new split makes sense. ”Part of the fun of the list is the apples and oranges quality of it, but the problem with suits and stars is that it’s more like apples and B-52s,” he says. ”The kind of power a studio head has is of a totally different order than the kind of power a top star has.”

Jeff Bewkes, chairman of AOL Time Warner’s entertainment and networks group, and Chris Albrecht, HBO’s chairman and CEO, jointly hold the No. 1 slot on the suits list — due in part to the impact of ”Sex and the City,” ”The Sopranos,” and ”Six Feet Under.” ”There’s no entertainment entity out there that has had as profound or wide a cultural influence over the last few years,” says Woodruff.

Only one person, meanwhile, appears on both lists: No. 2 among the entertainers, Steven Spielberg also pops up with the suits at No. 24, teamed with his Dreamworks SKG partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. ”Leaving him off either list would have been a glaring omission,” Woodruff says.

In the end, EW’s criteria for gauging Hollywood power is simple. ”What it boils down to is the ability to get projects that you care about off the ground. It’s all about greenlight,” says Woodruff. ”The greater someone’s greenlight power, the higher they are on the list.”