The Famous 50


(page 2 of 5)


11. JIM NANTZ: The lead CBS sportscaster remains a calm, and calming, voice in what has become an across-the-dial sea of noise and hype. He can get a little schmaltzy from time to time, especially at The Masters, but his basketball and football work rarely calls attention to itself.

12. PHILIP ROTH: He won the 2011 Man Booker International Prize, honoring a lifetime of literary achievement (which he didn’t collect in person, though the committee was hotly divided over the choice), and as we go to press, Nemesis is on the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist, awarded for the outstanding portrayal of medicine in literature. Nope, still no Nobel, and his staunchest fans are now hyperventilating on the Internet (Google “An Open Letter to the Swedish Academy” at the website The Millions and The New Yorker blog The Book Bench for some hand-wringing over Roth’s biological clock).

13. KEITH RICHARDS: His recent memoir Life has already earned “Keef” this year’s Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Biography (presented to him by ex-prez Bill Clinton), and at press time, he was also on the shortlist to receive a Galaxy Book Award. Critics are raving about his guitar work on Tom Waits’ lauded Bad As Me. But we’re guessing he’s most pleased about the portraits of him painted by good friend Johnny Depp—in one, he’s surrounded by Rizla rolling papers.

14. BARRY LEVINSON: In what may be our favorite news of the celebrity year, Levinson is reportedly collaborating on a musical version of his 1984 film Diner with pop chanteuse Sheryl Crow; Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall will direct. His own slate of movie-directing projects is experiencing the usual ups and downs: His eco-horror film The Bay was scheduled to hit theaters this fall—but work on Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, with John Travolta and Al Pacino, has ground to a halt. (His take on Philip Roth’s The Humbling, the math-prodigy film Charlie Irish and HBO’s Fatty Arbuckle biopic, The Day the Laughter Stopped, are all in pre-production.) Meanwhile, he’s co-executive producer of HBO’s upcoming Phil Spector biopic as well as two historical TV series: Showtime’s “The Borgias” and BBC America’s “Copper.”

15. JASPER JOHNS: The Papa Bear of all Neo-Dadaists received a 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama—joining the select list of other visual artists so honored, including Andrew Wyeth, Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell. Like all true greats, he has a becoming sense of humor about his reputation: Does anyone else remember when he portrayed himself on “The Simpsons” as a kleptomaniac?

16. RON HOWARD: As both producer and director, he’s been behind three recent resounding critical/commercial flops (which all looked promising in development, we’re sure): The Dilemma, Cowboys & Aliens and Restless. At press time, his best shot at redemption for 2011 was as co-producer of director Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar—a warts-and-all look at the FBI’s iconic head man, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Howard is said to be angling for a chance to direct DiCaprio himself in a recently optioned bio of math genius Alan Turing. Meanwhile, his current big project is Under the Banner of Heaven, based on the book by Jon Krakauer, which began filming last month.  

17. KYRA SEDGWICK: With “The Closer” series finale around the corner, Sedgwick is back on the big screen in two January releases: The Possession, a horror-thriller, and the old-school thriller-thriller Man on a Ledge. Along with a number of other environmentalist celebs (from Mark Ruffalo to the Dalai Lama), she’s also publicly protesting the proposed Keystone Pipeline expansion.

18. OLIVER PLATT: We think they killed him off in “The Big C” (on TV, one never knows), but now he’s an immortal—Apollo, that is—in Marc Turtletaub’s loopy, much-anticipated Greek-deities-in-modern-New-York-City farce Gods Behaving Badly. He also has a recurring role on HBO’s “Bored to Death,” which firmly places him in our Hip Hall of Fame.

19. HARVEY WEINSTEIN: His The King’s Speech and The Fighter bested movie-producing rival Scott Rudin’s The Social Network at the 2011 Oscars, but the rest of this year has been pretty much a clunker, from Scream 4 to I Don’t Know How She Does It (his strongest contender going into awards season 2012 is My Week with Marilyn, starring Kenneth Branagh and Michelle Williams). When it comes to aggravating people, he’s reportedly still No. 1: Former Miramax protégé Kevin Smith (Clerks) famously demanded Weinstein “shut the f--k up” during an altercation at the Sundance 2011 screening of Smith’s latest, Red State. And the long shadow he casts is allegedly the reason Barry Avrich’s documentary Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project morphed from scandalous tell-all to awkward love letter.

20. DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Dusty’s far from the first veteran actor to turn to cable TV for a steady paycheck, but he’s the only one whose series bears the fates-baiting title of “Luck” (it debuts in January). Focused on the down ’n’ dirty aspects of horse racing, it has a good pedigree: It’s produced by Michael Mann for HBO and written by David Milch, who created the network’s once beloved “Deadwood.”

The Famous 50

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