The Famous 50

 

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31. CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: Having not received his first Oscar nomination until 2009 (after a half-century onscreen), Plummer is expected to walk away with a 2012 Best Supporting Actor award for Beginners, in which he played a terminally ill 70-something who comes out to his family. The awards are piling up, in fact: He’s already been honored at October’s Hollywood Film Fest and received this year’s lifetime achievement award from Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival (he plans to return there next year with his one-man show, A Word or Two). We only wish he’d get an award for being Connecticut theater’s biggest supporter, but we’ll settle for cheering him one in one of the year’s highest profile movies, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, opening Dec. 21.
 

32. 50 CENT: He may seem like the eight-zillionth rapper-turned-actor/producer, with the usual slate of urban thrillers and crime dramas in the works—but he could do a lot worse than scoring co-stars like Meg Ryan, Nicolas Cage, John Lithgow, John Cusack, Bruce Willis and Robert De Niro. And his image is growing ever kinder and gentler with his commitment to hunger relief (recently expressed in his determination to feed one billion African children over the next two-and-a-half years) and his renouncing of his rough ’n’ tumble youth in a new book, Playground: The Mostly True Story of a Former Bully.
 

33. JUDITH SHEINDLIN: You say “Judge Judy” is tacky? We say being the star of the top-rated show in all of syndicated TV—and arguably the medium’s strongest feminist role model—is nothing to sneer at. With a total of 13 Daytime Emmy noms and a daily viewership of 10 million (75 percent of whom are women), she’ll be on the bench through 2015, her 19th season.
 

34. TOM BERGERON: You couldn’t build a more genial TV emcee than Bergeron, onetime comically unflappable host of “Hollywood Squares” (which won him a Daytime Emmy, fergoshsakes), who has long presided over ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (AFV) and “Dancing with the Stars” (DwtS). The more we watch every pratfall, gross costume, false turn and bad decision on display—and this is AFV we’re talking about—the more we’re convinced he’s too good for this shtick. We suspect he knows that, too, but to his credit, never lets on.
 

35. KEVIN BACON: We loved him in the small-but-key part of clueless “other” man David Lindhagen in Crazy, Stupid, Love., and are only sorry that we’ll have to wait till 2013 to see him in director Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car (with John Hurt and Robert Duvall) and R.I.P.D.—a crime comedy with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds—in which he plays an undead cop. Meanwhile, The Bacon Brothers, his musical “side project” of almost 20 years with composer brother Michael, tours on.
 

36. DON IMUS: Say what you will about the crusty I-Man—he still surprises us, most recently for his wholehearted support of Occupy Wall Street (and sharing those views with Harvard intellectuals like Doris Kearns Goodwin, as well as endorsing the arguments of diehard lefties like journalist Matt Taibbi). Then again, his comments on the Sarah Palin-Glen Rice controversy were a little too “nappy-headed ho” for comfort. What the heck—he’s clearly a free-speech kind of guy, and more power to him.
 

37. CHRISTINE BARANSKI: Continues to brighten CBS’ “The Good Wife” as Stern, Lockhart & Gardner litigator Diane Lockhart, a role that has won her Emmy nominations in 2010 and 2011. She’s also used her celebrity clout in support of the Connecticut Farmland Trust.
 

38. A.R. GURNEY: It’s been a quiet period overall, but off-Broadway’s Actors Theatre Company recently revived Children, an early Gurney play loosely based on a John Cheever story, for the first time in 37 years. Of course, classics like Love Letters, The Dining Room and Sylvia remain perennial regional favorites.
 

39. STEPHEN SCHWARTZ: 2011 has been a big year for celebrating the Schwartz—a revival of Godspell has opened on Broadway, where Wicked just marked its eighth anniversary, and an honest-to-God revue of his songs, titled Snapshots, was recently mounted in Chicago (actually, it’s based on an idea attempted at the Westport Country Playhouse in 1996). We thought musical lovers felt nostalgia only for Sondheim.
 

40. BRIAN DENNEHY: The Big Year turned out to be no big whoop, but Dennehy continues to dedicate himself to live theater, most recently at this year’s Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival and in the production of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape currently running at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre. Time will tell if it’s Broadway-bound.

The Famous 50

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