The Power List 2004: Movie Creatives -- A look at the year's most influential writers, directors, and producers

By EW Staff
Updated October 22, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Mel Gibson
Director, Producer, Actor
Age: 48
In a cover story last February, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY posed the question: ”Can Mel Gibson survive The Passion of the Christ?

We now have the answer: Hell, yeah.

The brutal, controversial account of Jesus Christ’s final hours on earth didn’t fail to polarize. But it didn’t cast him out of the Hollywood heavens, either. On the contrary: $610 million in global box office later, Gibson has been transfigured. What once seemed like a zealous bit of risky business (Gibson even said God was directing the movie through him) has proved to be one of the most successful power plays in Hollywood history. ”He’s an entity now — a Spielberg, a Bruckheimer. He’s untouchable,” says one studio chief. Eight months ago, studios were taking a wait-and-see position on working with him. Now his next project is a Must-Have. ”Anything he does is hot, whether he’s acting or directing,” says Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, which released The Passion in the U.S. ”Just Mel as Mel is extremely hot.”

Gibson also controls his own creative destiny. The self-financed Passion cost him $25 million. He’s reportedly taking home more than $400 million, including DVD sales. Flush with cash, Gibson’s production and film distribution company, Icon, decided not to renew its alliance with Fox and is said to be charting a truly independent course, though he’s still figuring out where that course will lead him. Since The Passion, Gibson has turned down directing gigs and back-burnered acting work (in fact, he’s not slated to be in any upcoming movies) to produce TV series (CBS’ The Clubhouse, ABC’s Complete Savages). His next film might be another biblical epic — this one about the revolt of the Maccabees (Happy Hanukkah!). It’s a testament to his power surge that distributors who questioned The Passion now say they’d jump at another Gibson religious opus. Thing is, he might not even give them the chance. Notes Berney: ”The question is, would he need them or want them?”

Only God knows — or Mel. And neither of them is talking.

Peter Jackson
Director, Producer, Writer
Age 42
His $20 million paycheck for King Kong sent shock waves through Hollywood. No director — not Spielberg, not Cameron — has ever been paid such a huge up-front salary. But then, given The Return of the King‘s billion-dollar worldwide gross (and its 11-for-11 wins at the Oscars), Universal may have bought itself a bargain (the money also covers Jackson’s producing and writing fees). Still, it’s a groundbreaking precedent, making Jackson the current 800-ton gorilla of filmmakers.

Michael Moore
Director, Writer, Producer
Age 50
Love him. Hate him. It doesn’t matter. With his Palme d’Or-winning Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore obliterated box office records ($119 million and counting; DVD sales are through the roof), and cemented his place as his generation’s most important nonfiction filmmaker. Political observers claim he’s already had an effect on the election. Sounds like the definition of power.