The It List

The 2003 List

Dear Publicists,

Thank you for your many, many helpful suggestions for the 2003 edition of our It List. To answer your oft-repeated question of what constitutes the criteria for the list, rest assured, there is a highly scientific formula. The list is not -- as some of you have insisted -- ''totally unfair'' or ''a travesty of justice on par with the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti.'' The selection process comes down to this: These are people whose work thrills us. They are people whose careers we follow avidly and whose choices surprise us. They are also, in certain cases, simply people with whom we would very much like to slow-dance. If your clients failed to make the list, it was because they didn't meet these conditions. Face it: Your clients can't make us belly-laugh the way Jennifer Coolidge does. They haven't broken ground the way George Lopez has. They can't make us dance like Angie Stone does or bring us to our feet like Kathy Bates can. Your clients are not the Thunderbirds, and they never will be.

You may say, ''Your list includes a horse, for chrissakes.'' To which we reply, ''Yes, it does. And that horse gives a better performance than your client in her last six movies. And has better legs.''

Warmly, The Editors

IT Leading Man HUGH JACKMAN

AGE 34 WHY HIM? Because not only can he wow audiences playing an angst-ridden mutant with retractable nine-inch adamantium claws but he can sing! And dance! Before his Hollywood breakthrough as Wolverine in the X-Men movies -- not to mention less sideburn-intensive parts in pictures like Someone Like You, Swordfish, and Kate & Leopold -- Jackman hoofed his way across the stage in his native Australia (as the villain in a Sydney production of Beauty and the Beast) and London (in a 1998 revival of Oklahoma!). He'll make his Broadway debut this fall when he stars in The Boy From Oz, a musical based on the life of the late Aussie showman and songwriter Peter Allen. ''Peter wasn't the best singer or dancer in the world,'' says Jackman, ''but he was galvanizing on stage.'' WHAT HE'S DOING NOW After hosting the Tony Awards in New York in early June, he jetted back to L.A. to finish shooting Van Helsing, the latest monster mash from The Mummy director Stephen Sommers. ''I needed a man for the part, not a boy,'' says Sommers, explaining why he cast Jackman as the film's swaggering 19th-century vampire hunter (who also tangles with Frankenstein and the Wolf Man). ''And the only guys out there are either in their 20s or cost $15 million. Ewan McGregor and Viggo Mortensen were the only other possibilities, but they already have their big swashbuckling franchises.'' Jackman, of course, also has a franchise of his own, but says the compelling story was reason enough to sign on for another. ''It's very fantastical, but not completely unbelievable,'' he says. ''And also, to be honest, my agents thought it was time I did [an action movie with my name] above the title.'' THE PART THAT GOT AWAY Jackman turned down Richard Gere's role in Chicago. ''I thought I was too young for the role,'' he says. ''You have some 34-year-old guy up against Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger and it becomes a different movie. At one point Harvey [Weinstein, one of the film's producers] was telling me they were thinking of Kevin Spacey, and I told him, 'That's exactly right. You should hire him.' Then I was in New York when the movie opened and the queue was around the block. I sat down and thought that I had probably made the biggest mistake. But I still honestly think that it was the right thing for me to do. I still think I was too young for that part.'' ONE PART HE PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE TURNED DOWN ''The worst job I ever had was when I was 21 and I worked for the National Parks and Wildlife Foundation in Australia,'' he recalls. ''Half the time I dressed up as a ranger, and the other half I dressed up as a six-foot koala bear. Cooee Koala, I was called. I'd go around the parks and hand out leaflets. It was so hot in that koala suit, I lost track of how many times I passed out.'' BEST ADVICE ''Trevor Nunn, who directed me in two musicals, told me three key things to do in your career. First, never do it for the money because that's the road to doom. Second, do as little press as possible. And third...um, what was the third thing he said? I had it in my mind a second ago. It must have been pretty amazing but I just can't remember at the moment.''

Originally posted Jun 27, 2003 Published in issue #716-717 Jun 27, 2003 Order article reprints