Rule Breakers

A year end celebration of the people who successfully rocked and rattled the status quo in Hollywood.

Two thousand and eleven marked the end of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom said nobody would go see a period piece about African-American maids in the Deep South made by an untested studio director -- then along came The Help, DreamWorks' biggest hit this year with $202 million at the global box office. Conventional wisdom said a comedy top-lining six women would appeal to only one of the four moviegoing "quadrants," women over age 25 -- until Bridesmaids earned $288 million worldwide. Conventional wisdom said that Chuck Lorre couldn't resurrect Two and a Half Men after his then-star Charlie Sheen spun into a professional tailspin -- but the CBS comedy returned in September and drew 27.7 million viewers, delivering the series' largest rating ever. 

In each case, these projects took one or more individuals who were willing to break all the rules, from George Clooney, who believed a political movie could work in an era that loathes politics, and earned three Golden Globe nominations for The Ides of March, to the Kardashians, a reality family who continues to defy expectations despite popular criticism. At its worst, Hollywood is known as a fear-based industry. There are no new ideas, some say; good concepts are focus-grouped to death. No one, least of all an executive, wants to stick his neck out for something different. Even DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said earlier this year of Hollywood's current state, "It's a particularly dreary moment."

He's not altogether right. This is a town whose business is about creation -- creating stories and narratives that shape our lives, even as they shape our view of Hollywood. Yes, it's easy to dwell on the year's disappointments, the movies that bombed and the TV shows that were canceled.

But 2011 had plenty over which to rejoice -- not least that the conventional wisdom of 12 months ago is no longer valid today. Men will go see a comedy starring women; franchises do get better; shows can have second acts; and there is indeed an audience for terrific, original projects -- if the right people will fight for them.

ABOUT THE COVERS: For this special year-end double issue of The Hollywood reporter, the editors selected four different cover subjects, each featuring a person or people who dominated discussion and changed the business this year (some, of course, courting controversy along the way). Each cover, distributed at random, represents just a part of the astonishing range of the industry. For TV, Ashton Kutcher and Chuck Lorre; the technology, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; for reality (and all its odd permutations), Kim Kardashian; and for film, the cast and director of Extremely Loud & Incredible Close.