By Dorothy Pomerantz
Political history can be dry. It's hard to get people deeply involved in the minutiae of high office, no matter how high the societal stakes involved. So it's a testament to director Steven Spielberg's skill that his latest movie, "Lincoln," not only earned 12 Oscar nominations (and two wins) but a healthy $275 million at the box office. A full third of that money came from overseas, where it's even harder to sell an American period political drama.
Spielberg's amazing storytelling abilities have helped make him the most influential celebrity in America. In the latest edition of our annual Forbes/E-Score list, which is based on polling conducted by E-Poll Market Research, Spielberg scores a 47 for influence, which means that 47% of the U.S. population believes he is influential. That puts the director ahead of last year's top-ranked celeb, Oprah Winfrey.
"A celebrity's 'Influential' score represents how that person is perceived as influencing the public, their peers, or both," says Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research. "If anyone doubts that Steven Spielberg has greatly influenced the public, think about how many will think for a second before going into the water this summer."
For its E-Score Celebrity service, E-Poll Research ranks more than 6,600 bold-faced names based on 46 attributes.
Winfrey appears to have slipped in the public's eye. Her score last year was 49; this year 45% of Americans polled rated the talk-show star as influential. That could be because Winfrey is doing more behind the scenes to make her cable network OWN a success. Her work is starting to pay off: The network is finally cash positive thanks not only to Winfrey's must-see interviews with people like Lance Armstrong, but a string of new scripted comedies from Tyler Perry. Shows like "The Haves and Have Nots" are helping the network thrive without Winfrey having to do all of the heavy lifting herself.
In third place on the Forbes/E-Score list is George Lucas. The director is mostly retired now; since selling LucasFilm to Disney he has settled down with his new wife, Mellody Hobson, and their baby daughter. But with "Star Wars" about to get a new life, all the media and fanboy attention going to the world he created is keeping Lucas in the spotlight. The next iteration of the film is slated to hit theaters in 2015.
Another director, Ron Howard, ranks fourth on our list with a 41 influential rating. Unfortunately for Howard that influence didn't translate into people going to the theater to see his latest movie, "Rush." The racing film earned plenty of critical acclaim but only $90 million at the global box office.
Rounding out the top five is yet another director, Martin Scorsese. The 71-year-old
auteur is getting tons of Oscar attention this year for "The Wolf of Wall Street," his
three-hour opus about financial huckster Jordan Belfort. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio just won a Golden
Globe for his performance in the movie. The film has grossed $100 million so far
at the global box office. It will need to earn a lot more than that to turn a
profit though. Studios only take home about half of ticket receipts and the film
cost an estimated $100 million to produce.