Hanks, Cruise and Gibson used to be the top guns, but not anymore. Meet the new most powerful actor on the planet—Will Smith.
April 9, 2007 issue - A few decades ago, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which states, in essence, that evolution doesn't happen at a slow, steady rate. It happens fast, in bursts, after long periods of stasis. Maybe he should be required reading in Hollywood.
For almost as long as there have been power lists, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise—"The Toms"—have jockeyed for first position, occasionally letting Mel Gibson sneak up on the rail, just to keep things interesting. But just like that, the race has changed. Gibson hasn't starred in a major film in five years. Cruise lost his cool on Oprah's couch, and it's unclear if he can get it back. And Hanks, while undeniably bankable, is, at 50, no longer viable for most leading-man scripts. In the past year, all three men have been eclipsed. With a worldwide career box office of $4.4 billion, Will Smith is now the most powerful actor in Hollywood, followed by Johnny Depp and Ben Stiller. Talk about punctuated (or maybe that should be "punctured") equilibrium. "The industry is going through a sea change, not just with actors, but in every way," says one industry insider who, like others interviewed for this story, asked for anonymity to prevent offending other stars. "Will Smith is the only thing in this business—the only thing—that represents a guaranteed opening weekend." He may be even bigger than that. "Let's put it this way," says one studio head, "there's Will Smith, and then there are the mortals."
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