Women in Entertainment Power 100
The Hollywood Reporter’s 19th Annual List of the Females Who Rule Entertainment
26. Angelina Jolie
Even though her box office has veered wildly from sleepers like Changeling to this year’s modest hit Salt, the latter gave her the female James Bond role she’d always dreamed of — and Sony a worldwide take of $292 million. Her box-office success will be tested with Johnny Depp co-starrer The Tourist, which opens Dec. 10. She currently is directing her first feature, which has stirred controversy for its rumored depiction of a love story between a Serbian man and Bosnian women during wartime.
27. Hannah Minghella
President of Production, Columbia Pictures
“My parents were fascinated with studying human behavior,” says Minghella, 31, daughter of the late filmmaker Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and psychologist Carolyn Choa. Columbia’s newly minted president of production is now doing the same through movies as one of the fastest-rising executives in modern history. The Cambridge graduate started as an assistant at Miramax under the Weinstein brothers then landed as a creative executive for Sony’s Amy Pascal. In 2008, she was named president of production at Sony Pictures Animation, where she oversaw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The Smurfs.
28. Carolina Lightcap
President, Disney Channels
After eight years in Argentina, Lightcap made a gigantic transition, moving her family back to Los Angeles, where she now has Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross’ old job. The Buenos Aires native now oversees 94 channels in 169 countries, of which 26 channels were launched during the past 12 months alone. Lightcap, who was vp and chief marketing officer for Disney in Latin America, says her next goal is to get the Disney Junior brand greenlighted in the U.S., including a 24-hour channel aimed largely at a preschool audience. “It’s an area in which we hadn’t been as active [in North America],” says the mother of a 3-year-old, whom she refers to as her “focus group of one.” “We had Playhouse Disney Channel in Buenos Aires. I can’t wait to have it here.”
29. Sandra Bullock
Hollywood loves a good comeback, and Bullock’s was this year’s favorite. She might only have received $5 million upfront for The Blind Side, but with a backend that climbed to 20 percent of the studio’s take, she’s the biggest-earning female star in any movie last year. Add to this the success of The Proposal ($317 million worldwide), and it’s hard to find as surefire a topliner, male or female. The newly divorced mom took a break to care for her adopted baby, but she’ll be back in the Sept. 11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (opposite Tom Hanks) and in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2012 sci-fi project Gravity.
30. Michele Ganeless
President, Comedy Central
The woman who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for fun also happens to be the one behind the bad boys of South Park, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Under her leadership (she’s on her third stint with the network since 1990), Comedy Central has hit ratings highs with new originals from series like Futurama, Tosh.0 and Ugly Americans; she’s also been developing fresh content to feed the network’s pipeline with origins on the Web, like the upcoming Workaholics. “Sometimes you find the nugget of an idea that’s the greatest series ever,” she says. “And sometimes you find a nugget that was meant to be a nugget.”
The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “MTV CEO Judy McGrath is someone who is a mom, manages a huge company and balances the creative and business in a way I can only aspire to. She let us take risks, even in difficult times.”
31. Cyma Zarghami
“There were only 30 people in the entire company back then,” Zarghami recalls of her early days as a Nick clerk in 1984. “We pretty much scheduled the network in pencil.” Today it is the No. 1 cable channel for children, with a trio of successful spinoff networks (Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick) and a stable of iconic animated shows (SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer). Zarghami has grown with Nick since taking charge in 2006, having added a hit lineup of live-action sitcoms (iCarly, Victorious, Big Time Rush) and reviving non-Nick franchises such as Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
32. Frances Berwick
President, Bravo Media
Berwick has come a long way from her first job as a staffer at the U.K.’s Channel 4. Today, the native Londoner is the presiding queen of Bravo, having overseen gangbuster growth — ratings are up 6 percent year-over-year, and Bravo has increased original programming by 20 percent — and cemented her June promotion to president after 14 years with the network. It’s also a recognition of her ability to turn guilty-pleasure juggernauts like the Real Housewives franchise into mainstream hits and reality favorite Top Chef into an Emmy winner. “That was huge,” marvels Berwick of Chef’s unseating of the Amazing Race’s seven-year chokehold on the reality competition category. She is taking a long view on Bravo’s future. “We’re transitioning from being a network into a media entity,” she says, pointing to brand extensions like the online Top Chef University and exclusive DVD sales deals with Target and an iPad Bravo Now app. Berwick says she continues to draw inspiration from one of her first bosses at Channel 4, Jane Small. “She believed in her own opinions and was prepared to fight for them,” Berwick says. “She also had a great sense of humor, which made work fun and fair.”
33. Debra Lee
CEO, BET Networks
The Innovator: It’s 10:30 on a Saturday morning in October, and Debra Lee is sitting inside the Manhattan Four Seasons’ bright restaurant, eating oatmeal and slices of peeled grapefruit. Tonight the D.C.-based mother of two teens will be at the Bronx’s historic Paradise Theater for this year’s installment of Black Girls Rock! an annual ceremony honoring influential African-American women. Lee is downright giddy as this is the first year it will be televised.
“I made a commitment to improving images of women,” she says, stirring her coffee. “Black Girls Rock! Every time I say it, it makes me happy.”
Dressed in a teal sweater and black slacks, Lee is that rare network executive willing to say that she’s happy. And the Harvard lawyer has lots of reasons for being so.
BET is coming off its best year to date. Its June BET Awards telecast attracted a record 7.5 million viewers, and the network is set to unveil its first lineup of scripted programming, including The Game, a football-themed comedy that originally ran on the CW, and Staying Together, a sitcom produced by Queen Latifah. Lee has also overseen development of BET’s offshoot network Centric, which debuted in 2009 and targets an older demographic. This expansion, coupled with BET’s growing profile around the world — it has 14 million viewers in the U.K. and can be seen in 28 countries in Africa — has poised the once music-centered cable brand to lead black programming.
“You just get to a point where you need a real identity,” Lee says. “Rebranding has forced us to ask, ‘What does BET really stand for?’”
Lee grew up the daughter of an Army general and hospital administrator in the thick of the civil rights movement. Born in 1955 in Fort Jackson, S.C., she and her family lived in Germany before settling back in Greensboro, N.C., at the height of segregation. “I went to an all-black junior high and high school,” she says. “But we didn’t feel like we were suffering. We had our own community.” When integration happened during her senior year of high school, Lee says, “it disrupted everything. It was hard to see then that, in the long run, this would be the right thing.”
Lee’s parents hammered into their children the crucial need for education. But Lee had a rebellious streak that often collided with her father’s conservative sensibilities. “I mean, I had a huge Afro in high school; my father did not approve,” recalls Lee, smiling. “He said I looked like [Black Panther activist] Angela Davis. He thought the FBI was going to pick me up on the street.”
After attending Brown for undergrad, Lee entered the white, mostly male world of Harvard Law. She landed at a 300-person firm in D.C. where there were “only three or four women, and they were all unhappy,” she says. In 1986, she had a life-changing lunch with BET founder Bob Johnson, who told her his five-year-old cable venture needed a staff lawyer.
Her first big BET project was offering legal counsel to the network while it was being sued for backing out of a deal for a failed Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style show that centered on black celebrities. “It was awful,” says Lee, laughing. “Bob decided to cancel the contract after the second episode. They asked,‘What do you think?’ I’d been at a firm for five years, and no one had ever asked me what I thought.”
In the early days of BET, when there were only 80 employees and 10 million subscribers (today there are more than 500 on staff and 98 million subs), the network’s original programming — or lack thereof — was a constant issue. Its mainstay was music videos, but with HBO expanding, BET was desperate to lock in any properties that were available. The advent of The Cosby Show and Oprah Winfrey further forced BET execs to ask: If white networks are providing these programs, then how does BET figure into the equation?
This made BET’s strategy for the 1990s all about cultivating its niche audience. By mid-decade, it was clear that hip-hop culture sold big. “But then it got into gangsta rap, bling, sexism — we kind of went along,” she admits. That meant dealing with characters whose guns-a-blazing dramas started playing out in the media. “We spent more time talking about security at the BET Awards than the show itself,” Lee says.
Since she transitioned to the top spot at BET in 2005, drawing a line between what it will and won’t air has been crucial.
“I realized, ‘OK, I believe in the freedom of speech for the artist, but I don’t have to put it on my network,’ ” she says. “Like, we aren’t going to try for a black version of Jersey Shore. If we did, it would be a black mark on our race. That’s the reality.”
— Lee profile by Stacey wilson
34. Laura Ziskin
She’s behind one of the biggest franchises in history (the $2.5 billion-earning Spider-Man series) and the only woman to have produced the Oscar telecast twice, but it still mystifies Ziskin how she landed in showbiz. “My father and stepmother were psychologists, so I don’t really know where it came from,” says the San Fernando Valley native, who lives with Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Julia). “I guess I just always liked putting on a show.” She also likes leading Hollywood’s charge to increase cancer research awareness through the organization she co-founded with Sherry Lansing, Stand Up to Cancer. Its second telethon Sept. 5, also produced by Ziskin, raised another $80 million. While Ziskin continues to deal with her own cancer, she’s already at work on the new Spider-Man reboot starring newcomer Andrew Garfield. “When I think about how good he’s going to be it keeps me excited,” she says.
35. Marion Edwards
President, International Television, 20th Century Fox
Edwards created 20th’s scripted format business and this year saw the escape drama Prison Break become a primetime hit — in Russia. But the 19-year Fox veteran openly admits no one truly knows what will sell internationally. She still remembers the time a fellow executive told her The Simpsons would do “zero” business outside the U.S. “For every story I tell you about why a show travels, there’ll be a Simpsons,” she shrugs. Most of her own traveling, when not dashing around the world for work, has been within the U.S.: Growing up in Idaho, she earned a theater degree from the University of Denver then came to Hollywood with plans to become a costume designer. Now she’s grateful she made what she calls the “rational decision” to jump into corporate life — first at Universal and MGM, then Fox. A mother of two, she says it’s been an adventurous ride for a girl from New Jersey. “For years I proudly said I was from there,” she says. “Now with Jersey Shore, I’m not so sure.”
36. Janice Marinelli
President, Disney-ABC Domestic Television
“I love watching football,” admits Marinelli, who has overseen domestic distribution of content from the Disney-ABC Media Networks and Walt Disney Studios content since 1999. “I will always watch a football game over my other shows. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose anymore!” That’s because Marinelli’s department has made the network’s programming available wherever the viewer wants it: pay television, basic cable, broadcast television, VOD, subscription VOD, electronic sell-through, mobile and broadband. This year she also added Canadian distribution to her “domestic” domain. A promotion in November means Marinelli will lead the new North American In-Home Sales organization, overseeing the entire sales group from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment — which is great for the former Buena Vista account executive, and mother of an 18-, 16- and 13-year-old, who still gets a rush out of signing a big deal. She says no matter how many years go by, the thrill never wanes. “There’s just no greater feeling,” she says.
37. Hilary E. McLoughlin
President, Telepictures Prods.
The New York-bred McLoughlin knows how to handle stars. She received an early education ogling Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Calvin Klein on her jaunts to Studio 54 as a slightly underage teen — outings financed by her after-school job at a dry cleaner. McLoughlin also held a job as a researcher at consulting firm Seltel and temped for Warner Bros. research head Bruce K. Rosenblum before getting her post in development at Telepictures in 1989. McLoughlin has never been one to sit back and wait for good ideas to come to her: she creates them. Today, with eight shows on the air, including Lopez Tonight and Extra, someone else does the dry cleaning while she takes care of bigger business — like overseeing Telepictures-owned TMZ; collaborating with CNN to re-sign Anderson Cooper next fall; and helping Ellen DeGeneres disengage from American Idol to focus on hosting her own show. “Ellen is … heir apparent to Oprah,” McLoughlin says. “With Anderson, [they are] our one-two punch.”
The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Geraldine Ferraro lived in Queens when I was growing up. Her story made me believe that women could rule the world and that there don’t have to be gender obstacles to what you want to do.”
38. Elisabeth Murdoch
Chair/CEO, Shine Ltd.
The hard-nosed tactics Elisabeth Murdoch gleaned from her father Rupert were on display during a January NATPE keynote speech, when she slapped budget-strapped executives for acting “more like a victim support group than … dynamic industry leaders.” No one has been more dynamic than Murdoch: In five years, Shine has grown from a small outfit to a 25-company portfolio — including newly launched Shine Australia and Shine France — with projected 2010 revenue of nearly $646 million. Such success comes from shows like Master Chef (with local versions available in 20 countries) and One Born Every Minute, picked up by Lifetime after a rousing U.K. success. Next year she’ll be behind Paula Abdul’s comeback with Live to Dance. Clearly, Murdoch knows how to get what she wants, whether it’s the purchase of American Idol (she’s the one who recommended it to Rupert), the importation of the Law & Order franchise to the U.K. or a former priory, now her country home in England’s Oxfordshire.
39. Linda Bell Blue
Executive Producer, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider
The Newshound: It’s 6 a.m., and the conference room inside Entertainment Tonight’s offices on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City already is buzzing.
This rainy morning’s hot topic is a wedding — not the Indian nuptials of Katy Perry and Russell Brand, which will become the day’s big celebrity happening, but rather that of ET staffers Ben Wallace and Whitney Nevill, who have just returned from their Hawaiian honeymoon.
“I cried as soon as you hit the aisle,” exclaims Linda Bell Blue, sounding like a proud mother, bleached blond hair dominating her head like her ebullient personality dominates the conversation.
Bell Blue is the shrewd producer who has been running television’s most successful newsmagazine for 16 years, getting up at 4 a.m. five days a week. And it has paid off: ET has been the No. 1 magazine show in syndication the past 743 weeks.
Heidi Clements, ET’s senior broadcast producer, marvels at her boss’ ability to steer the ship with unwavering conviction. “She has a golden gut,” Clements says. “She knows within seconds of looking at a video whether or not the story is going to work with our audience.”
Bell Blue’s focus is apparent at the morning meeting: Within minutes, she steers the conversation toward those more notable nuptials, which join ET’s existing story ideas stuck to the wall on bright blue Post-it notes.
“We’re in good shape for sweeps,” she says. “You have to win. Not winning is not acceptable.”
The Springfield, Mo., native got her need to win from her father, R.A. Bell, who ran an oil business and enjoyed watching Walter Cronkite deliver the CBS Evening News with his media-savvy daughter. Bell Blue became a TV reporter while studying journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia; covering local news in Detroit and Miami, her hunger for breaking news was born.
“There’s nothing better than a breaking news story,” she says. “It’s just in your blood.”
She still remembers the names of victims whose murders she covered (82-year-old Elinor Haggart from Miami, for one), though those memories pale when compared to the exclusive interview she landed with Charles Manson as a reporter at KCBS in Los Angeles in her 20s. Her office wall is plastered with images of career milestones. “We’ve been in Cairo covering a movie near the Sphinx,” she points out. “That’s Greece, covering Mamma Mia! That’s Rome with [ET host] Mark Steines in front of the Vatican, covering Angels & Demons. See the castle in the back? That’s Tom Cruise’s wedding in Bracciano, Italy.”
And yet, driven as she is professionally, Bell Blue is quite the opposite domestically.
Every morning, she and her husband of 25 years — Steve Blue, executive vp production management at Comcast — get up at 4 a.m. He takes their only “child,” 2-year-old boxer Duke, for a walk through their West Hollywood neighborhood. They rarely vacation; the last time they went to Europe, she says: “[We] went for four days. We were asleep the whole time.”
Before breakfast, Bell Blue is wide awake and already on her first conference call during a commute to ET’s offices. Then she runs the first of two producers’ meetings, as she is doing today. (She won’t see her husband again until 7 p.m., when they watch her shows together in bed.)
Around 3 p.m., less than an hour before ET airs on the East Coast, Bell Blue is dressed for bikram yoga, where, in a 105-degree room, she will exercise in silence for 90 minutes — a crucial respite in a life that seems endlessly in motion. “It’s a basic law of nature: To create energy, you have to use energy,” she says of her need for the near-daily session.
After her workout, she visits her mother, who watches Duke every afternoon, then heads home.
But that is still hours away. Right now, she has a show to produce.
“The old saying is, don’t lead with the lead story — put it at the end,” she says, admitting she’s done her best to manipulate the Nielsen meters. “The first block is long, the second block is short because it’s in between, and the third block is long because if viewers click out at four minutes and 58 seconds, you don’t get the credit.”
She smiles, thrilled at the challenge before her. “You have to love this job to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning for 16 years,” Bell Blue says. “It’s a 24-hour loop of instant gratification.”
— Bell Blue profile by Carita Rizzo
40. Cecile Frot-Cutaz
CEO, FremantleMedia North America
Frot-Coutaz is one of a handful of people tasked with reinvigorating Fox’s American Idol, the reality juggernaut that this year saw ratings slip and iconic judge Simon Cowell depart to launch a U.S. version of The X Factor. “In some ways, we’re starting almost with a blank sheet of paper,” says the former corporate strategist at Pearson Television, who earned her MBA from the prestigious INSEAD business school in Paris. Idol is one sliver of the 400-hour programming pie Frot-Coutaz oversees at Fremantle. She has helped broker a deal to bring X Factor to Fox next fall and guided NBC’s summer hit America’s Got Talent to record ratings.
41. Shari Redstone
Vice Chair, CBS/Viacom
With the public conflict between paterfamilias Sumner and daughter Shari, it might come as no surprise to learn that both were lawyers, though Shari started as the criminal kind (criminal defense, that is). Now she might need to think more like a prosecutor as she works to punch up National Amusements, which sold 35 theaters in the U.S. to pay down its debt of $1.46 billion and refinance the company — no small feat in this economy. One way she handled it was in Russia, where she, together with Charles Ryan of UFG Private Equity, acquired from National Amusements Rising Star Media — a six-theater, 74-screen circuit in Moscow and St. Petersburg that is thriving under the helm of CEO Paul Heth. Redstone is the third generation of her family to run the Norwood, Mass.-based National Amusements, which still operates more than 1,000 screens in the U.S., Britain and Latin America. She also started a private-equity firm this year, Legacy Ventures, to provide capital and advice to media and technology start-up companies.
42. Lynn Calpeter
Executive VP/CFO, NBC Universal
Since General Electric signed a deal in December 2009 to sell 51 percent of NBC Universal to Comcast, Calpeter’s workload has increased exponentially. “I feel like I’m kind of doing two, maybe three jobs,” she says, from day-to-day operations and the complex details of the transition to raising $9.1 billion for NBC Uni’s IPO. That has left her little time for friends or recreation, save for a two-week summer vacation on the Jersey Shore, but she’s not complaining. “It’s exhausting but incredibly exhilarating,” the Cornell graduate says. It’s certainly not the life she envisioned as a girl growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., where she was a multisport athlete with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. “I’m triaging businesses instead of Labrador retrievers,” she says with a laugh.
43. Amy Baer
President and CEO, CBS films
Having started as an assistant to the late CAA agent Jay Moloney, Baer spent close to 10 years at Columbia before joining Leslie Moonves’ CBS Films in 2007. She is the first to admit that the $12 million take of CBS Films’ initial feature release, Extraordinary Measures, was a disappointment, and November’s Faster, starring Dwayne Johnson, took in only $12 million during its first week. But she points to summer’s The Back-up Plan, as a bright spot in the studio’s inaugural year as well its acquisition of The Mechanic and the homegrown production Beastly. The recently announced Paul Haggis project Cell 211 and The Keep will take the studio into 2012.
44. Belinda Menendez
President, NBC Uni International TV Distribution
Majoring in theology and medieval history at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews might not seem like the best breeding ground for an exec, but it seems to have worked for Menendez. “I studied Greek and Aramaic so I could read original documents,” she says. “I wanted to learn how time had lent certain passages nuances.” Now she can study contracts in a host of other languages she speaks — try English, French, Spanish and working knowledge of German. Today, the London-born Menendez runs 13 offices worldwide and sells drama series like The Event to more than 200 countries. She also has passed on her language skills to the two children — ages 21 and 20 — she raised as a single parent and who are both multilingual. “I’m still in shock to be where I am now,” she says.
45. MT Carney
President Marketing, Walt Disney Studios
Until Disney opened its Thanksgiving release Tangled, 2010 was looking gloomy for the studio’s recently hired marketing president. Brought in by newly named studio chief Rich Ross as part of a corporate reshuffle, Carney was saddled with such duds as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It got even worse when former Sony marketer Valerie Van Galder was hired to consult on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. To some, that was hardly a ringing endorsement for the charming, Scotland-born brand strategist. But when Tangled opened to twice the expected business, and Carney’s clever marketing campaign got a good part of the credit, everything changed. True, the rumors of her demise haven’t subsided, but a big success under her belt means no one should bet against her just yet.
46. Tracey Jacobs
Board member/Partner/Co-Head of talent, UTA
With a client list that includes megawatt stars such as Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harrison Ford, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike White and red-hot international actress Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Jacobs has proved herself a master manager of Hollywood power players. Having Depp in another $1 billion grosser in the past year, Tim Burton’s 3D reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, only reinforced her knack for spotting talent: She happened upon the star on Fox’s 21 Jump Street while flipping channels two decades ago. Jacobs says reaching a recent midlife milestone birthday of 50 has given her perspective on the ups and downs of the agency business that she wishes she had earlier in her career. “I really am of that belief — and this may sound corny — that when something doesn’t work, that means something else will that’s better,” she says.
47. Megan Colligan
Co-President of Domestic Marketing, Paramount Pictures
“Last year was a real transition,” says Colligan, who shares her position with Josh Greenstein and has enjoyed an impressive run since her 2008 promotion. “This year, it’s a very well-oiled machine.” The proof: Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island earned $128 million domestically, Iron Man 2 earned close to the original with $312 million, and How to Train Your Dragon took in more than $200 million. Sequels Jackass 3D and Paranormal Activity 2 also performed solidly. Fresh from maternity leave after giving birth to her third child in February, Colligan is very proud of the impact of the documentary Waiting for Superman. “It was hitting right at the right time when people were primed to have a conversation [about our education system],” she says. Up next: the Coen brothers’ True Grit, which bows Dec. 22, and shepherding Thor and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol next year.
48. Judge Judy Sheindlin
Ruling Daytime: “It’s your fault,” says Judy Sheindlin, in a seething whisper that could wilt a truck driver.
She shifts in her plush armchair, in a wood-paneled study adorned with images of judges at the heart of her Manhattan pied-a-terre, and thrusts her head forward, as if peering at some imaginary nincompoop.
The subject is personal responsibility; in this case, Sheindlin — better known as Judge Judy — is condemning people who blame lack of access to hospitals for not getting flu shots. She repeatedly makes sport of knuckleheads like these. With an eye roll, she mimics a drug dealer, saying, “My grandmother died, and that’s why I sell heroin.”
Anyone expecting the brusque, down-to-earth Sheindlin to be markedly different from her television persona is in for a surprise. From up close, one can see kindness in her brown eyes, but she is as uncompromising and scathing when discussing such dolts as she is on camera. The more apparent contrast is her lifestyle when the robe comes off.
With a $45 million-a-year CBS contract, she and her husband, Jerry — a former judge — have luxurious homes in Greenwich, Conn., and Naples, Fla., where they winter, as well as the New York apartment. Their life is made up of travel, boats (their yacht is dubbed Her Honor), private jets, artwork — and a very real relationship. “I’ve known her 30 years,” Jerry Sheindlin says, “and I’m still trying to understand her.”
Born Judith Blum, Sheindlin says her father thought she’d be a politician one day, but instead she went to law school and became in-house counsel for a beauty products company. The work was dull, so she found a job in the family court system. Then-New York Mayor Ed Koch appointed her to the bench in 1982. Jerry received his appointment, too, but money remained an issue until the 1990s, when they were well into their 50s. Judy bought lottery tickets every Wednesday. “I would tell Jerry, ‘It’s the greatest fantasy you can have for 10 bucks,’ ” she recalls.
In 1993, a Los Angeles Times article featured Sheindlin’s unsparing decisions and colorful locution in the courtroom. A 60 Minutes profile followed, and television producers were not far behind. In 1996, Judge Judy debuted, turning the unknown judge into a celebrity and multimillionaire.
Today, wearing an utterly unpretentious 20-year-old denim shirt, Sheindlin says the difference between TV Judy and the Real Judy is that on air she doesn’t filter herself. “People are fed up with excuses for bad behavior,” she says. “I say what they want to say. I beat up the bad guy.”
Nine million people watch Sheindlin every day, a number that surpassed that of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009. The contract she signed two years ago runs through 2013 and represents an annual $20 million raise from her previous deal. (She’s coy about further extensions.) The actual workload Sheindlin has to earn this money — which, according to Forbes, makes her the 72nd-richest celebrity in Hollywood — is relatively light.
Judge Judy is shot on a set at the Sunset Bronson Studios in Los Angeles and taped over two- or three-day periods about every other week. Before the taping, Sheindlin is sent a docket of three dozen cases that she reviews. She flies in for the taping and flies out immediately afterward. The show is “run just like a courtroom,” says executive producer Randy Douthit, who reports that Sheindlin has a caring, maternal presence on set.
The nuances of maintaining several homes and being a TV star and matriarch of a sprawling family may be many, but Sheindlin’s life is surprisingly conventional. It includes two meals a day when she’s in Greenwich: breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien reading The New York Post and dinner — usually some form of chicken — at one of three favorite restaurants.
The Sheindlins have no agent, manager or lawyer. “We’ve been taking care of ourselves a long time before this,” she says.
“See the way she cringes?” Jerry says happily as he lunges in for a kiss. “I give her warmth.”
— Sheindlin profile by Tom Roston
49. Pamela Levine
Co-President of Domestic Theatrical Marketing, 20th Century Fox
The New York-based executive — whose duties cover advertising, media, digital marketing, publicity and promotions — has had some recent challenges, most notably Knight and Day, which grossed a scant $76.4 million domestically (but performed strongly abroad). Levine, however, is still high on Avatar and is looking ahead to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and next year’s X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Apes. But she hasn’t forgotten her early dreams of practicing psychology: “I still use it very much in my day-to-day life.”
50. Diane Nelson
President, DC Entertainment
In September 2009, Warner Bros. picked the Rhode Island native to head its refigured DC Entertainment division, putting her in charge of a league of comic book superheroes, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Since then, she has helped steer Green Lantern into production while making key new appointments — naming Jim Lee and Dan DiDio co-publishers of DC Comic and Geoff Johns chief creative officer of DC Entertainment — and moving multimedia and digital content production from New York to Burbank. Nelson, who at one time planned to be a photojournalist and even enrolled at the S.I. Newhouse Communications School at Syracuse University, had a practical side that took over: She switched to English and advertising with the idea of becoming a copywriter, but moved to Los Angeles when husband Peter decided to take a stab at screenwriting. After starting at Walt Disney Records, she segued to Warners in 1996 as vp domestic marketing. In her new position, she retains oversight of Warner Premiere, focusing on direct-to-DVD production, and the Harry Potter franchise, which she has been handling with author J.K. Rowling since 2000.
Selection Criteria: For The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue, editors based their selection of candidates and ranking on the following: 1. Revenue generated for their companies; 2. valuation of assets; 3. number of employees overseen; 4. impact and influence within the film and television industries; 5. ability to get projects greenlighted or proximity to greenlight power; and 6. reputation (general standing within the entertainment community, in addition to achievements).