Joel Silver

The guiding hand behind such Hollywood hits as "Commando" (1985), "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and "Die Hard" (1988), Joel Silver helped redefine the American action film near the turn of the century, while shifting the label of auteur away from the film director to the producer. Having paid his dues as an assistant to producer Lawrence Gordon following his graduation from film school, Silver swiftly worked his way up the industry ladder, earning a producer's credit with Walter Hill's "48 Hrs." (1982). With the formation of his own company, Silver stamped a fresh template for the Hollywood action film, dialing up the violence quotient from previous decades while leavening the mixture with ample doses of humor. Silver also altered the genre recipe by making movie stars out of nontraditional performers from the worlds of professional sports and stand-up comedy. His outsized ego branded him persona non grata at several major studios, but Silver's track record for success was inarguable - especially after the box office juggernaut that was "The Matrix" (1999) and its sequels, which pushed his profit margin into the multi-billions. Often demonized by critics for emphasizing style - and explosions - over substance, Silver nonetheless came to represent the state of the art of big box office Hollywood filmmaking, earning by sheer force of will and a savvy sense of the next big thing the mantle of mega-producer.