50. Ben Affleck, actor/director/writer/producer
SMART BECAUSE He learned from his mistakes. After bottoming out with his unholy trinity of Gigli, Jersey Girl, and Bennifer, Affleck did something few would dare: He disappeared. Two years later, he was a humble character actor in Hollywoodland; then he adapted and directed Gone Baby Gone with the assuredness of someone who'd been waiting for this shot his whole life.
On Real Time With Bill Maher,drops poli-sci bons mots better than the pros. And he's a college dropout.
49. Sarah Polley, actor/writer/director
SMART BECAUSE She showed that a young actress can also be a formidable filmmaker. Polley (The Sweet Hereafter) has always seemed mature beyond her years. Her directorial debut, the Alzheimer's drama Away From Her,was a revelation, landing Julie Christie on Oscar's short list and shining a light for the next generation of female directors.
Politically active in Canada, she served on the mayor of Toronto's transition team in 2003.
48. Gustavo Santaolalla, composer
SMART BECAUSE He altered Hollywood's aural landscape. Santaolalla's hauntingly spare, intimate scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel — which both earned him Oscars — proved you don't need a rousing horn section or soaring strings to move an audience. He's the anti–John Williams, capable of breaking hearts with a single guitar.
Composed the Brokeback score based on the script alone, and plays by ear. He can't read music.
47. Amy Powell, senior vice president of interactive marketing at Paramount
SMART BECAUSE She's discovering new ways for filmmakers and studios to reach alpha fans. Persuaded Ben Stiller to allow her team to film a Hearts of Darkness-style mockumentary about the making of his Apocalypse Now spoof, Tropic Thunder. The clincher? She plans to use it to market Thunder as the biggest disaster ever. (That's brilliant.)
Has quickly earned the trust of Spielberg, Abrams, and Jackson.
46. Jeff Walker, Comic-Con impresario
SMART BECAUSE He figured out how to make geek chic. As an independent marketer/sci-fi buff, Walker was one of the first to see the potential of Comic-Con as a launchpad for films like The Matrix and X-Men. His success with those movies, plus years of tub thumping, has turned the convention into a roaring buzz machine.
He's developing his own horror film, The Drive-In.
45. Cate Blanchett, actor
SMART BECAUSE No one else could play Queen Elizabeth I and Bob Dylan in the same year and succeed at both. Blanchett is the ultimate non-careerist — instead of fretting over bankability, she's focused on keeping herself fascinated with every role, and in the process, has become the heir apparent to Meryl Streep. Like Streep, she's no art-film snob either; she recently wrapped shooting the next Indiana Jones.
At 18, made her screen debut in Cairo as an extra in a boxing movie.
44. Roderick Jaynes, editor
SMART BECAUSE No film editor is more completely in sync with his director's vision. That's because he is the director: Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen edit most of their own movies but use Jaynes as their alias. The Coens do the impossible. They make films with big stars and high production values — and with zero studio interference. Over 23 years,they have created a body of work so distinctive, they could be their own genre. The results can be bizarre (The Ladykillers) or brilliant (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), but their vision is never compromised.
For most of their career, Joel has gotten directing credit while Ethan's worn the producer's hat, yet their nickname is ''The Two-Headed Director'' because they’re so creatively and professionally connected.
43. Beth Swofford, agent at CAA
SMART BECAUSE She's amassed the most coveted list of director clients in the industry (Joe Wright, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Paul Greengrass) and has an eye for spotting — and signing — new talent. Just as impressive, she's established her own blue-chip brand within the virile and very corporate culture of CAA.
She's an authority on contemporary art, listed in ARTnews' 200 Top Collectors.
42. Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax Films
SMART BECAUSE He successfully renovated the house that Bob and Harvey built. When Disney tossed him the keys to its indie arm after splitting with the Weinsteins, many thought the label would crumble. Instead, he's generated a string of Oscar magnets (The Queen, Venus) without the Weinsteins' bar-brawl ethos.
Earned six more Oscar noms last year than The Weinstein Company did.
41. Stefan Sonnenfeld, president of Company 3
SMART BECAUSE He's made himself the indispensable secret weapon of almost every A-list director in town (e.g., Gore Verbinski, Michael Mann, Zack Snyder, and J.J. Abrams). His specialty is digital coloring, which may sound banal, but he's the reason every blockbuster from Transformers to 300 is an eyepopper.
He keeps such a low profile that on his company website, he's listed alphabetically with the other colorists.
40. Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant Productions
SMART BECAUSE He believed movies should do more than make a profit — and did something about it. In 2004, Skoll cashed out his eBay billions and founded a company (led by Ricky Strauss and Jim Berk) that makes awareness-raising movies that also entertain: An Inconvenient Truth, Syriana, The Kite Runner.
Paid to have Gandhi translated into Arabic to spread a positive message in the Middle East.
39. Mary Zophres, costume designer
SMART BECAUSE While any designer can make actors glamorous, she makes them characters. She created The Big Lebowski's slouch-wear and O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s dusty duds. She marries clothing to each milieu so well, her work seems almost invisible; that's made her the top pick for directors who prize authenticity.
Oversaw a staff of more than 25 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
38. Diablo Cody, screenwriter
SMART BECAUSE Not since John Hughes has anyone mined the adolescent soul with such clarity and compassion. Next month's Juno is her first produced screenplay, but this former stripper's tender teen comedy has Hollywood in its thrall. Spielberg was an early fan, hiring her to write his Showtime pilot, The United States of Tara.
Warner Bros. wanted in on the Cody business so badly, it already has dibs on her next original screenplay.
37. Guillermo del Toro, writer/producer/director
SMART BECAUSE He elevated gothic horror to art. After adapting cult comic book Hellboy into a hit, he made the fantastical foreign-language political allegory Pan's Labyrinth, which scored three Oscars. Bilingual, bicultural, multigenre, he has a voice that feels both fresh and ancient.
NEXT Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.
Worked as a makeup artist for nearly a decade before directing his first feature.
36. Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of Media Rights Capital
SMART BECAUSE With his partner, Asif Satchu, he created a new model for film financing. The former agent gives stars control: For Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno, he got Universal to fork over $42.5 million for distribution rights, while securing the actor long-term copyright ownership. Also: linked with Google to pair star-generated content with advertisers.
In 1999, wrote a memo predicting a power shift from studios to filmmakers.
35. Tim Palen, co-president of film marketing for Lionsgate
SMART BECAUSE He made torture porn look cool. Palen walked the line between provocative and vulgar with his artful posters for the Saw and Hostel franchises. With partner Sarah Greenberg, used grassroots tactics to turn Crash into an Oscar winner and Tyler Perry into a household name. Plus: Palen shoots many of Lionsgate's movie posters himself.
His book of photos, GUTS, comes shrink-wrapped in a Styrofoam meat tray.
34. Sacha Baron Cohen, actor/writer/producer
SMART BECAUSE He shattered the film-comedy landscape with Borat, creating something blazingly new: guerrilla improv as social commentary. And he's about to try it again with another character — gay Austrian fashion journalist Brüno — after signing a massive deal with Universal.
NEXT Sings alongside Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.
Wrote his Cambridge thesis on Jewish involvement in the U.S. civil rights movement.
33. Angelina Jolie, actor
SMART BECAUSE She's discovered the real value of fame. While keeping fanboys happy with films like Beowulf, she uses her celebrity superpowers for good. Continues to travel the globe as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, the world media in tow, but this year she put her values on screen, too, delivering one of the best performances of her career as Mariane Pearl, widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, in June's A Mighty Heart.
She recently wrote for The Economist, alongside fellow contributors the Dalai Lama and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
32. Thelma Schoonmaker, editor
SMART BECAUSE She constructs beautiful violence. Schoonmaker has edited some of Martin Scorsese's most iconic films, from Raging Bull to The Departed, shaping complex footage into elegant narratives. She makes the thrills scarier, the dialogue sharper, the pacing snappier. In fact, she's almost as responsible for Scorsese's movies as he is.
Once wanted a job in the State Department, but blew her chances by voicing antiapartheid views.
31. Kathleen Kennedy, producer
SMART BECAUSE She has shepherded more culture-defining dramas than perhaps anyone working today. Spielberg's ally for 25 years, she's ensured that from E.T. to Schindler's List, the director's vision is realized. Produced The Sixth Sense and Seabiscuit with husband Frank Marshall. Solo, she did this winter's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Persepolis.
Was initially hired as Spielberg's assistant.
30. Jodie Foster, actor/director
SMART BECAUSE She has refused to conform to conventional ideas of female stardom. Foster's one of the most consistently bankable actresses, but she's never gotten stuck playing the lovesick beauty or cute comedienne. Instead, she's forged a cinematic archetype all her own: the female action hero who out-thinks the bad guys. Although The Brave One scared off audiences, Foster opened Panic Room and Flightplan on her star power alone, and she continues to have the field all to herself.
At Yale, wrote her thesis on the novels of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
29. J.J. Abrams, producer/director
SMART BECAUSE He also writes screenplays and designs entire marketing campaigns. Used his clout from directing Mission: Impossible III to persuade Paramount to let him make January's monster flick Cloverfield and reboot the Star Trek franchise. Already conquered TV (Alias, Lost); now modeling his career after Spielberg, and just may get there.
Appeared in Six Degrees of Separation, starring fellow Smart Lister Will Smith.
28. Paul Greengrass, director
SMART BECAUSE He reinvigorated the action flick. Greengrass' jagged documentary style helped make the Bourne films so cool (and profitable), they influenced the Bond makeover in Casino Royale. He's unafraid to explore any topic, including 9/11 — last year's United 93 felt so real, it was almost unbearable to watch.
Once co-wrote an espionage exposé that hit too close to home for the British government. They tried to ban it.
27. Michael Moore, documentarian
SMART BECAUSE He revolutionized the genre, making it relevant for the first time since Edward R. Murrow's Harvest of Shame. Love him or hate him, there's no arguing that Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko) provokes real discourse about social issues. Besides, anyone who can make a health- care doc that reaps $25 million has to be some kind of genius.
Moore never graduated from college.
26. Stacey Snider, CEO of DreamWorks SKG
SMART BECAUSE She mastered the art of steady leadership. Snider steered Universal through three ownership transitions, emerging scratch-free, and now holds the tiller as DreamWorks weathers a rough sea with owner Paramount. She's strongest in times of crisis, whether calming the staff or helping a director find (and fix) the problems with a film.
Assembles ''favorite things'' holiday gift baskets for industry friends.
25. Zack Snyder, director
SMART BECAUSE He reimagined the sword-and-sandal epic for a new generation. Even after Warner Bros.' Alexander fizzled, Snyder so wowed execs with his vision of ancient Greece that they greenlit 300anyway. The film grossed $456 million worldwide, proving you don't need big sets or stars to make a blockbuster, just pixels and an imagination.
NEXT 2009's Watchmen.
Studied painting at London's Heatherley's School.
24. Emmanuel Lubezki, cinematographer
SMART BECAUSE He orchestrates seemingly impossible camera work. In Children of Men, Lubezki conjured a seamless six-minute shot of Clive Owen running through a war zone to rescue an infant. That kind of brilliance has made him the go-to DP for the industry's most demanding directors, like Michael Mann and Terrence Malick.
Just wrapped Burn After Reading, the Coen Bros.' first film in 17 years not shot by Roger Deakins.
23. Brad Bird, writer/director
SMART BECAUSE He stretched Pixar past its kid-centric comfort zone, twice. After winning an Oscar for the studio's first PG-rated action picture (The Incredibles), Bird made a culinary comedy about a rat. In a kitchen. In France. Ratatouille made only $206 million, but Bird had created an animated film for, yes, adults.
NEXT The live-action earthquake pic 1906.
Completed Ratatouille in just 18 months, after the original director dropped out.
22. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation
SMART BECAUSE He was the first studio chief to wholeheartedly embrace 3-D, by leading the charge to expand its reach: He put his money where his mouth is and signed a deal to shoot all future DreamWorks non-live-action movies in IMAX and digital 3-D. Oh, and he helped persuade Jerry Seinfeld to make the $112 million-grossing Bee Movie.
After dining at L.A. restaurant Craft, he sent chef Tom Colicchio menu suggestions.
21. Johnny Depp, actor/producer
SMART BECAUSE He's proven that you can sell tickets without selling out. Depp has carved a niche for himself as Hollywood's wizard of weird and showed the suits that audiences were hungry for his handcrafted oddballs. After piloting the Piratesfranchise to $2.7 billion worldwide, Depp is playing a murderous, singing barber in the bloody operetta Sweeney Todd. (Seriously, who else would do that?)
NEXT Although it's delayed by the writers' strike, he'll produce and star in the international narco-thriller Shantaram, directed by Mira Nair.
He first moved to L.A. as a musician, not as an actor. His band once opened for Iggy Pop.
20. Ben Stiller, actor/director/producer
SMART BECAUSE He cracked the code for making comedy bankable overseas. Stiller folds broad slapstick into universal situations and creates movies that are hilarious no matter where you live. The Heartbreak Kid was a rare miss, but the Meet the Parentsfilms grossed $847 million worldwide, and Night at the Museum made $574 million. He's extended his reach off screen, too, producing this year's Blades of Glory and the thriller The Ruins, scheduled for 2008.
NEXT His Apocalypse Now parody, Tropic Thunder.
Suggested to Tom Cruise that they make Hardy Men, playing grown-up Hardy Boys who hate each other. Cruise said yes.
19. Tom Rothman, co-chair of Fox Filmed Entertainment
SMART BECAUSE He runs one of the most profitable studios in town (the X-Men franchise, The Simpsons Movie, The Devil Wears Prada, indie hits from Fox Searchlight, etc.). With co-chair Jim Gianopulos, he keeps a keen eye on the bottom line. Their slate is low on star power and prestige, but it' s hard to argue with success.
After Titanic, James Cameron gave him a signed life jacket as a survivor's gift.
18. Robert Zemeckis, director
SMART BECAUSE He resurrected 3-D. Zemeckis' decision to exhibit The Polar Express on IMAX' s 3-D screens made moviegoing an event again. His movies haven't all been hits, but Beowulf killed on 3-D screens, and his experimentation has inspired theater owners to install 3-D-friendly digital projectors nationwide, paving the way for how all movies will eventually be viewed.
One of his first jobs in the early '70s was working for IMAX.
17. Will Ferrell, actor/producer
SMART BECAUSE He proved himself a new-media pioneer, launching the trailblazing comedy site FunnyOrDie with director Adam McKay and a little help from a foulmouthed toddler. Still the king of tighty-whitie mountain, Ferrell is so genius at playing dumb that even a one-joke wonder like Blades of Glory skates past the $100 million mark.
In a 2003 Harvard commencement address, he boasted ''a degree from the school of hard knocks.''
16. Peter Jackson, director/producer
SMART BECAUSE He revitalized fantasy. The Lord of the Rings begot Narnia and The Golden Compass — and Gollum set the F/X standard. Runs his tech-savvy empire from New Zealand. When New Line ''fired'' him from The Hobbit, he rallied fans online. Has an interactive deal with Microsoft, plus a new movie, The Lovely Bones.
Lets co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, who prize characters over F/X, win most of the arguments.
15. Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment
SMART BECAUSE She has the best talent relationships in the business (Will Smith, Adam Sandler, and Judd Apatow among them). With chair Michael Lynton, puts grosses over prestige. A veteran at the top, Pascal is sometimes underestimated because of her decidedly uncorporate demeanor, but the numbers don't lie: The Spider-Man franchise has grossed $2.5 billion worldwide.
Greenlit Superbad when nobody else would.
14. Jerry Bruckheimer, producer
SMART BECAUSE He has set the standard for the summer blockbuster and created a critic-proof brand ($4 billion in domestic ticket sales can't be wrong). Makes his share of clunkers — no one's going to see Déjá Vu twice — but as audiences drift toward watching films on their iPods, his movies still demand to be seen on the big screen. The bigger the better, in fact.
So hands-on, he's even weighed in on melodies for his films' scores.
13. George Clooney, actor/director/producer
SMART BECAUSE He's turned Sinatra-style cool (the Ocean's franchise) and Redford-esque activism (Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck) into a dynamic modern career. His films don't always cash in, but they usually draw plaudits: Michael Clayton could score him another Oscar nod.
NEXT April's Leatherheads — directing himself in a period comedy.
Clooney owns — and sometimes drives — an electric car.
12. Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios
SMART BECAUSE He refocused the best-known brand in entertainment. Last year, Cook cut the studio's slate and articulated a new vision: Disney movies would reinforce its family-friendly image. Out: arty dramas. In: Pixar, princesses, and pirates — cash cows (Pirates grossed $2.7 billion worldwide) that drive theme park traffic and toy sales. That strategy works in music, too. Witness the success of Hannah Montana.
Has a Pirates pinball machine in his office.
11. Brian Grazer, producer
SMART BECAUSE He has mastered the art of the successful adult drama. There's no tougher genre to ram through the studio system, but Grazer does it year after year, producing box office hits as varied as The Da Vinci Code and 8 Mile, while folding in Academy-friendly fare (often directed by partner Ron Howard) like A Beautiful Mind.
THIS YEAR Ridley Scott's American Gangster, a violent period film that had seemed impossible to make, has reaped $116 million so far and could make a run for Oscar gold.
Grazer consistently meets with experts in various fields to expand his worldview. He recently sat down with Harvard professor Howard Gardner, a leading theorist of intelligence.
10. John Knoll, visual-effects supervisor of Industrial Light & Magic
SMART BECAUSE He designed some of the most groundbreaking computer-generated effects of this generation. In 1989 he helped conjure the morphing magic in James Cameron's The Abyss, and he has overseen the effects on all three Star Wars prequels and the entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Long after audiences forget that Orlando Bloom is even in Pirates, they'll remember the startling octopus face of Davy Jones, a breakthrough in realistic animation. As studios increasingly depend on blockbusters to stay in the black, visual effects have become indispensable to their success. The industry has come to rely on ILM to blow audiences' minds every time out of the gate. Thanks in large part to Knoll, it does.
Ever use Adobe Photoshop? Knoll created the software with his brother.
9. David Heyman, producer
SMART BECAUSE He has expertly steered the highest-grossing global franchise in film history. Heyman secured the rights to the Harry Potterbooks in 1997 and has done just about everything right since, including bonding with author J.K. Rowling and wisely seeking her input. He helped find unexpected directors (e.g., Alfonso Cuarón, David Yates) who've kept things fresh. And he's kept the cast intact through five films, without any of his three teenage stars succumbing to a Lohanesque episode. While Warner Bros. president Alan Horn deserves credit for making the correct macro decisions, the franchise's success rests on a thousand micro choices Heyman made, including creating a world, on set and on screen, where people want to be.
Supported star Daniel Radcliffe' s choice to appear nude in Equus.
8. Peter Rice, actor/director/writer/producer
SMART BECAUSE His impeccable taste and savvy business skills have transformed Searchlight into the gold standard for studio specialty divisions. Together with distribution chief Stephen Gilula and marketing maven Nancy Utley, Rice sees the profit potential in unconventional films and turns low-budget indies into genre sensations (28 Days Later), culture-shifting comedies (Napoleon Dynamite), acting showcases (The Last King of Scotland), and Oscar bait (Sideways, this year's Once and Juno). No indie division is more consistently successful with a more eclectic slate, and Searchlight's marketing concepts — e.g., using that now-iconic yellow for Little Miss Sunshine's posters — are envied (and copied) industry-wide. Rice has also navigated the corporate culture of Twentieth Century Fox with grace, keeping a low media profile and letting his label — and his films — get the light.
He began working at Fox as a summer intern in 1989.
7. Tyler Perry, president of Fox Searchlight
SMART BECAUSE When Hollywood studios passed on him, he decided to pass them by. For 10 years, Perry has built a dedicated black, pro-faith audience with his ''chitlin circuit'' plays and parlayed himself into a powerful brand. Almost every movie he's made — e.g., Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Why Did I Get Married? — has opened at No. 1, proving that his name above the title can generate millions. Now he's using his clout to create a self-sustaining empire, including his own studio in Atlanta and a $200 million TV deal with TBS. The film industry still doesn't seem to know what to do with him — he has yet to direct or star in a major studio movie — but Perry may be better off staging his own party rather than waiting for an invitation to theirs. He clearly knows something they don't.
Perry owns all his films and plans to broadcast them on his own network one day.
6. Meryl Streep, actor
SMART BECAUSE She's rewritten the rules. By age 50, actresses are supposed to be extinct. Even with 14 Oscar nominations, Streep should have been shuffled into granny roles by now. Instead, she's blown the roof off ageism. The Devil Wears Prada grossed $125 million, making her more bankable at 57 than she was at 37. She's doing some of her best work (Adaptation, The Hours) and redefining what middle age looks like. Most important, she's opened the door for those behind her, giving Julia and Nicole and Reese a shot at careers beyond their first gray hairs.
NEXT Belting out ABBA in Mamma Mia!
Got her Oscar-winning role in Kramer vs. Kramer after Kate Jackson passed.
5. Will Smith, actor/producer
SMART BECAUSE He has revitalized and redefined old-fashioned movie stardom in an era when movie stardom has become small and suspect. After hitting the scene in the mid-'80s as rapper Fresh Prince, then transitioning successfully to TV, Smith soon demonstrated surprising versatility and a knack for picking blockbusters that have given him license to do...well, anything, from Oscar-nominated drama (The Pursuit of Happyness) to event-film spectacle (I Am Legend). He credits Ali director Michael Mann with enlightening his filmmaking mind, and pure elbow grease for achieving a level of global popularity unprecedented for an African-American actor. Smith sums up his work ethic this way: ''I don't like to lose.''
4. Ari Emanuel, partner of the Endeavor Agency
SMART BECAUSE In just over a decade, he's built Endeavor from the ground up, taken on the industry's big four talent agencies, and made his the second-most powerful in town. A maverick thinker, Emanuel seems congenitally incapable of following the crowd. Instead of losing sleep over who signs Halle Berry (ICM ended up nabbing her last year), Emanuel and partner Patrick Whitesell have shifted Endeavor's focus to helping filmmakers expand their businesses and gain autonomy from the studio system. While everyone's trying to break into China (and, so far, failing), Emanuel's thinking about AT&T's plan to deliver original content to consumers and how his clients can profit. Emanuel was the inspiration for Entourage's brash Ari Gold: When Disney refused to release his client Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, he came out swinging at then CEO Michael Eisner. But behind that street-fighter facade is the sharpest strategist in the business.
He starts calling studio heads at 4 a.m. to lobby for his clients.
3. James Cameron, director/producer
SMART BECAUSE He's reinventing the technology of cinema and may alter the entire industry along with it. Ten years after Titanic made $1.8 billion worldwide, Cameron is at work on the futuristic Avatar, a top secret 3-D project involving a super-advanced stereoscopic technique (and a camera system he designed) that supposedly allows him to digitally manipulate actors into any shape he desires with even more startling realism than in Beowulf. Peter Jackson' s effects team at Weta is involved, and Spielberg, Jackson, and a few others have popped in on Cameron to take a peek at the future. Avatar won't be out until summer 2009. He may never beat Titanic's box office, but by then there should be enough 3-D theaters nationwide for him to give it a shot.
Unlike some other celebs, he wisely evacuated his Malibu home during the October 2007 fires.
2. Steven Spielberg, director/producer
SMART BECAUSE No other filmmaker has a sharper understanding of how to arrange a story on a movie screen. Thirty-two years after inventing the Event Movie with Jaws, Spielberg isn't just some Mt. Rushmore-like figure looming over Hollywood. He greenlit most of DreamWorks' slate this year, handed to him by production head Adam Goodman. As a producer, he saw the blockbuster potential of Transformers when few others did and the star potential in Shia LaBeouf before the actor broke out in DreamWorks' Disturbia. Not that he doesn' t miss the mark sometimes. The public passed on Munich, and selling DreamWorks to Paramount turned out to have been a bad idea. But has any filmmaker in history shaped American culture more?
NEXT Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Even now, he suffers from a recurring nightmare that he's broke.
1. Judd Apatow, director/writer/producer
SMART BECAUSE This year, he didn't just bring the funny; he changed the whole funny business. On the heels of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, he hit the zeitgeist with two raunchy-yet-resonant laughfests — Knocked Up and Superbad — that mopped up a combined $270 million. Dramas are tanking, comedy is king, and Apatow is defining humor for this generation. His frank sex comedies have an innocent center: All that horniness aside, love, friendship, and commitment do matter. Apatow has become both a brand and a star maker, slingshotting guys like Steve Carell and Seth Rogen onto the A list. Reaching beyond the big screen, he recently joined forces with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on the Web sensation FunnyOrDie.com. And although Apatow's next film, the music-biopic parody Walk Hard, may be a slightly hard sell this December, he has so cemented his place as the lord of LOL hits that studio execs now speak of making comedy in a ''post-Judd world.'' If that's not smart, we don't know what is.
After his early TV shows (e.g., Freaks and Geeks) failed, Apatow had a reputation for being a consistent money loser.