Suddenly, our stars seem to have got the `It' factor

The Brits With That Certain Something
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The Independent Online
NO ONE is quite sure what it actually is. Or rather, what "It" actually is. But whatever "It" is, the British have it in spades, according to an influential American magazine, Entertainment Weekly.

Numerous British personalities from show business and the arts feature in a list published by the magazine yesterday of the top 100 people in possession of the "It" factor.

Film stars Heather Graham and Catherine Zeta Jones are among those deemed to be at the cutting edge of creative talent. So are musicians Robbie Williams and Fatboy Slim, and writer Alex Garland, author of the bestselling novel, The Beach.

But the17 British names on the list are not all glamour and glitz. They include, for instance, J K Rowling, an author whose fictional creation, a boy wizard called Harry Potter, has proved enormously popular with schoolchildren.

Even Entertainment Weekly admits that it is at a loss to define "It" with any precision. "It actually has all sorts of subtle shades of interpretation," says the magazine, lamely adding: "It can mean innovative, irreverent or knuckle-blindingly gorgeous."

It was the latter quality, presumably, that ensured inclusion for Zeta Jones, although many believe that she forfeited all claim to street credibility after being photographed canoodling with superannuated fellow actor Michael Douglas this week.

Actors and actresses dominate the British contingent in the list. Heather Graham, who plays Felicity Shagwell, Austin Powers' side-kick in the new Mike Myers film, is joined by Christian Bale, former child star of Steven Spielberg's film Empire Of The Sun, and Gina McKee, who starred in the blockbuster Notting Hill.

Ioan Gruffudd is acclaimed by the magazine for his "smouldering" performances in Hornblower and Great Expectations, while Jude Law, apparently, "exudes Brit polish and panache".

The freshness of youth appears to be one criterion for inclusion. Bale, Zeta Jones, Gruffudd, Law and Garland are all in their twenties. So is writer-director Jez Butterworth, who wrote the script for Birthday Girl, an new comedy starring Nicole Kidman.

One exception is the actor Rupert Everett, hardly a rising star at the age of 40. But Entertainment Weekly salutes him for "perfecting the art of scene-stealing" in My Best Friend's Wedding and looks forward to seeing him in The Next Best Thing, which is due out next year.

British celebrities in the musical section of the list include Fatboy Slim, the Brighton-based DJ responsible for "techno-boogie" hits such as "Praise You" and "The Rockafeller Skank", Robbie Williams, whose first US album, The Ego Has Landed, is winning acclaim in America, and techno group Underworld.

On the literary front, Garland and Rowling are joined by comic-book author Alan Moore, who deconstructed the superhero in Watchmen, published in 1986, and went on to draw tales of famous fictional Victorians in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Britons have an added distinction; not one features in a list of celebrities who once had "It", but are now judged to have lost "It". Among those are John Travolta, out of favour for starring in "too many movies", Sharon Stone, who has "lost her flash", and Jerry Springer, whose chat show is said, to have "been tamed".

RUPERT EVERETT

Dandy 40-year-old actor and gay icon lauded for his art of scene stealing. Films include The Madness of King George and My Best Friend's Wedding. Writing a script starring a gay James Bond.

FATBOY SLIM

Former member of the Eighties pop combo, The Housemartins, who now plys his trade as

retro-plundering techno-boogie DJ. Engaged to the Radio One presenter Zoe Ball.

CATHERINE ZETA JONES

Welsh actress who effortlessly graduated from small-screen temptress in Darling Buds of May to big-screen siren in The Mask of Zorro and the current US blockbuster Entrapment.

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

Former Take That band member who emerged from "drink'n'drugs hell" to take rock-pop world by storm with a cheeky stage show and critically acclaimed second album, I've Been Expecting You.

ALEX GARLAND

Cult novelist whose debut The Beach became a backpacker's bible. The book was turned into a Leonardo Di Caprio film shot by the Trainspotting duo, Andrew McDonald and Danny Boyle.

JUDE LAW

Hip 26-year-old Britpack actor married to fellow Britpack actress Sadie Frost. Touted in Hollywood as the new Cary Grant because he "exudes Brit polish and panache".

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