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Jesus helps Mel hit No. 1
Controversial film gives Gibson the most weight on Forbes power list; Britney off the chart again.
June 18, 2004: 2:50 PM EDT

Mel Gibson tops Forbes magazine's 'Celebrity 100' list.  
Mel Gibson tops Forbes magazine's 'Celebrity 100' list.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Who says you can't achieve fame and fortune with an independent movie, filmed entirely in Aramaic and Latin?

"The Passion of the Christ" did just that for actor-director Mel Gibson.

Gibson, the director, producer and screenwriter of the "Passion," was named the world's most powerful celebrity by Forbes magazine on Thursday, dethroning "Friends" star Jennifer Aniston who held the No. 1 spot last year.

The magazine said the "Christ" film helped Gibson earn an estimated $210 million over the last 12 months.

Since the film opened amid a firestorm of controversy in February, "Christ" has pulled in $370 million in domestic ticket sales and more than $600 million at the box office worldwide.

But being controversial isn't always going to help you win a top spot on Forbes' annual list.

In the case of Michael Moore, the director of documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" may not score big bucks for his controversial anti-Bush flick.

"Mel Gibson owns the rights to his film, but Michael Moore doesn't," said Peter Kafka, who co-created the Forbes rankings. "Even if his film does well this year, the money won't go to him in the end."

Miramax chiefs Bob and Harvey Weinstein now hold the distribution rights to Moore's latest film after buying the rights from Disney Co. (DIS: Research, Estimates) earlier this month.

Last year's leader Aniston dropped to No. 17 this year after the popular NBC sitcom that paid her a staggering million dollars an episode came to an end last month.

But Aniston and her hunky husband Brad Pitt have now earned the new title of Hollywood's most powerful couple. Pitt took the No. 37 spot on the list because of the success of his epic film "Troy."

Britney Spears, the most powerful celebrity in 2002, failed to make the 2004 list.  
Britney Spears, the most powerful celebrity in 2002, failed to make the 2004 list.

Britney Spears, the most powerful celebrity in 2002, failed to make this year's list. The pop princess was forced to cancel her summer concert tour because of a severe knee injury suffered while shooting a music video earlier this month.

Also off this year's list is a pop diva who enjoys nothing less than a controversy. Madonna, who sings, dances and writes books for children, swept no one when her film "Swept Away" bombed in 2002. That cost her a spot on the 2003 list.

But Forbes' Kafka said Madonna probably will return to the power rankings next year when earnings and media attention from her 'Re-Invention' concert tour, which began earlier this month, are factored in.

The 2004 tour is expected to pull in about $120 million, according to Billboard magazine. Last time "Esther," the Hebrew name the pop diva has recently adopted, appeared on the list was 2002 when she was ranked at No. 4.

Spears was also off the Forbes list in 2003.

Rounding out this year's top five were golf champion Tiger Woods, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, actor Tom Cruise and rock group The Rolling Stones.

Other power-list newcomers included some of the brightest stars from popular TV reality shows.

Paris Hilton of "The Simple Life," Jessica Simpson of "Newlyweds" and Donald Trump of "The Apprentice" all made the list this year.

Forbes says it calculates the rankings by combining earning power with so-called star power, measured by the number of press clips, TV and radio mentions, magazine cover stories and Web hits a celebrity garners.

The July issue of Forbes is scheduled to hit the newsstands Friday.  Top of page

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