By EW Staff
October 18, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

I AM EW — THE ENTERTAINMENT WATCHER!

IN THE NEVER-ENDING BATTLE AGAINST THE EVIL OF BOREDOM, IT IS MY DESTINY TO SEEK OUT THE MOST POWERFUL STAR IN THE ENTERTAINMENT UNIVERSE: ONE WOH COMBINES ALL THE POWER OF…

BRUCE SPRINGTEEN’S PURE ARTISTRY… OPRAH WINFREY’S ENORMOUS INFLUENCE… TOM CRUISE’S MONEYMAKING MAGIC… KELLY RIPA’S IMMENSE POPULARITY… AND MEL GIBSON’S AMAZING ENDURANCE!

WHAT THE — THAT STAR — BURNING SO BRIGHT AS TO BLIND EVEN ONE SUCH AS I!

MY QUEST IS OVER! I HAVE FOUND THE MOST POWERFUL STAR IN THE GALAXY!

WHO COULD POSSESS ALL OF THESE POWERS?

ENTERTAINERS

1 TOM HANKS ACTOR-PRODUCER-EVERYMAN AGE 46

No scandalous secret here. No stash of blackmail photos. No childhood pact with Satan. Just the simple fact that you trust this man completely. Take the two-time Oscar winner’s against-type turn in Road to Perdition, the dark, dirge-paced drama that DreamWorks counterprogrammed into the shiny happy summer season. The result: a $22 million opening (once more justifying his $20 mil-per-pic fee) and his seventh consecutive $100 million-plus grosser (ninth, if you count those Toy Stories). His formula? Partner with the right people (Steven Spielberg directs his other 2002 offering, Catch Me if You Can); plug into the right places (HBO produced his Emmy-winning Band of Brothers); and mix populism (he’ll appear in 2003’s Christmas fable The Polar Express, which Hanks is producing through his Playtone company) with prestige (after Express he boards the Coen brothers’ The Ladykillers). Oh, and listen to your wife; Hanks’ savviest power move of 2002 may have been producing My Big Fat Greek Wedding at the suggestion of his better half, Rita Wilson. Gifted and smart, trusting and trustworthy. Yep, nothing sexy about that package at all.

2 STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTOR-PRODUCER AGE 55

Okay, so Tom Hanks may have edged him out for the top spot, but his old foxhole buddy Spielberg is the only fella on both of this year’s Power lists. Why? Well, forget double threat, Spielberg’s a triple threat: In addition to his 9-to-5 gig at DreamWorks, he still manages to moonlight as an executive producer on such cash cows as Men in Black II, while cranking out art-film/mainstream hybrids like Minority Report — which, it should be noted, was a pretty fleet rebound from A.I. Plus, we defy you to name an A-list star who wouldn’t kill to work with him. To wit, he’ll segue from Cruise to DiCaprio and Hanks for the upcoming Catch Me if You Can, which could become this year’s Ocean’s Eleven.

3 MEL GIBSON ACTOR-DIRECTOR-PRODUCER AGE 46

He can open even a dog tag like We Were Soldiers at No. 1. All Signs point to a comfy retirement when the time comes, given his $25 million salary and hefty percentage points in M. Night Shyamalan’s $200 million-plus grosser. But instead of hanging in Malibu with his posse of kids, this practicing Catholic — who recently wrapped The Singing Detective — is taking on what may be his biggest challenge yet: directing The Passion, starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus. Renowned prankster Gibson is saying the film will be in unsubtitled Latin and Aramaic, a cross we doubt he’ll make audiences bear.

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