The Spy Who grossed pounds 150m tops popularity poll

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The Independent Online
HIS DRESS sense may be synonymous with bad taste, his teeth undeniably gawky, but Mike Myers has acquired that most elusive of qualities: box office megastardom. The star of the summer's surprise box office hit is now the hottest property in showbusiness, shows a survey of entertainment lovers and the industry's movers and shakers.

Myers, whose film Austin Powers: the Spy who Shagged Me has grossed pounds 150m, surpasses even superstars Madonna and Will Smith for box-office credibility, says the entertainment magazine Heat. The findings, which cap an extraordinary rise for the Canadian comedian, are revealed after a poll of 6,000 of the magazine's readers and 44 British entertainment luminaries.

He also beat Nicole Kidman, whose latest film Eyes Wide Shut premiered in Britain this weekend, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves, none of whom even make the top 10. Industry observers are taken aback by the second Austin Powers film, which knocked the Star Wars blockbuster off the top of box office charts on both sides of the Atlantic .

The film, in which Myers plays both the eponymous, geekily dressed hero and his arch-nemesis, Dr Evil, pokes fun at James Bond and other 1960s favourites such as the Carry on series of films and The Avengers. Some critics branded the seemingly non-stop sight gags and toilet humour as puerile, but fans have had no such doubts.

Neil Stevenson, deputy editor of Heat, said part of Myers' appeal among film enthusiasts was that he was seen as the creative force behind The Spy Who ... and its predecessor, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

He said: "People are impressed about Myers having total creative control over his films. Austin Powers is seen as an alternative product, in which Myers has allowed his imagination to run riot, rather than simply being controlled by a Hollywood studio. I don't think it is any surprise that others at the top of the survey, like Kidman and Madonna, are also seen as being in control."

The film's success - it has taken more than pounds 21m in Britain, and pounds 130m in the US - has propelled Myers into the "superstar" pay bracket. He will be paid pounds 13m to appear in his next movie, Sprockets, as an avante-garde German chat show host called Dieter.

The poll, which reflects a star's popularity, has a strongly British flavour. Ewan McGregor, star of Star Wars: the Phantom Menace, is ranked fourth, followed by the relatively unknown Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G, the spoof hip-hop character from Channel Four's The 11 O'clock Show, and pop star Robbie Williams.