And just how are they chosen? Last year's rundown caused a stir, not merely among the happy band who gained a coveted place, but among those who hadn't. 'I won't mention any names. . . ' Thomas says. 'We did receive calls from certain sources demanding to know why so-and-so was included while they weren't. Distributors complained too. We explained that only those who contributed money at script stage and took an active role in development came within the criteria.'
Thomas says the criteria are simple and strict: 'Does the presence of this person, be it Jeremy Thomas, Steve Woolley, Sean Connery or Emma Thompson, guarantee the green light for a movie?' Emma Thompson can guarantee a go-project? 'After the Oscar it was felt she came in under the wire.'
Doubtless Thomas still expects mandatory bitching when the next issue hits news-stands, despite two solid months of research, double-checking and circumspect enquiry.
'Last year people rang rubbing their hands with glee because so-and-so hadn't made the 50,' Thomas recalls. 'The nicest feedback we got was from Sheila Whittaker, the London Film Festival organiser, who called to say thank you.'
Still, does a Top 50 serve any useful purpose in such an unstable business? Who last year would have expected the producers Steve Woolley and Nik Powell to survive the wreckage of Palace Pictures, let alone deliver The Crying Game?
'Well, the British aren't like the Americans,' Thomas muses. 'Sometimes it's hard for them to realise how important they are until someone else tells them.'
Mickey takes: speaking of The Crying Game, Disney has shrewdly acquired Miramax, the film's New York distributor, for a reported dollars 60m. Disney has been quietly courting the more 'respectable' low-budget independent film-makers - they signed Merchant / Ivory to a contract once Howards End showed box office longevity - hoping to fill a product niche: low-budget, risk-taking, ideas- orientated adult celluloid. Like Merchant-Ivory, Miramax co-presidents Bob and Harvey Weinstein have been promised autonomy, though the company now becomes a division of Buena Vista Pictures. Insiders are waiting to see just how complete this autonomy will be inside Uncle Walt's regimented ranks.
Casting against type: Sinead O'Connor has signed to play a ghostly apparition in the Irish feature Where No Birds Sing.
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