The 100 British celebrities who really matter by Piers Morgan (78 to 56)

There are thousands of 'celebrities' in Britain. By which I mean there are a lot of famous people. Many of whom have absolutely no right to be.

Whole shoals of Z-list wannabes, scrabbling for their 15 minutes of recognition on increasingly degrading reality-TV shows, desperate for fame of any kind.

So it's time to sort the chaff from the wheat, and resolve once and for all who really counts in the world of celebrity in this country.

Zeta Jones
Welsh wonder: Catherine Zeta Jones


I used to be quite chummy with Catherine, when she was a rising star on The Darling Buds Of May, and dating John Leslie (doesn't that seem a long, long time ago now?). She was an amusing, smart, mischievous tinker then - far removed from the sweet, innocent girl she played in the show.

And you could almost sense the ambition from her arched, immaculately shorn eyebrows. So it didn't surprise me in the slightest when she ran off to Hollywood, wed a movie legend and made films. I'm not sure how much she matters any more to be honest. But she can still bring in the numbers at the box office, she's still part of one of the most successful big-screen families ever, and as long as those rather obvious surgical enhancements keep her aesthetically 'hot' then she will still wield her professional power.
Age 40 Born Swansea, Wales

Education Dumbarton House (private); The Arts Educational School
Homes New York; Bermuda; Wales; Majorca


He hasn't done much lately, but there was no way I could leave out the Thin White Duke. For sheer volume of quality songs, and for that unerring ability to reinvent himself for each new generation of music fans to keep himself 'relevant', Bowie will always matter. He's also a great guy, with an impish sense of humour and a generous spirit.
I was once sent to doorstep him by The Sun after he was hit in the eye and nearly blinded by a packet of Marlboro Lights (they're his favourite, so fans bombard him with them when he performs).
Bowie emerged in an eyepatch, laughed at my pitiful frame hiding from torrential rain under the hotel awning and said, 'Right, Mr Morgan - here's the o ffending packet; feel free to give them away as a Sun promotion' - we did - 'and I've got a scoop for you, too. I'm getting married.' He then gave me a 30-minute exclusive interview about his marriage plans, in the street. Class
Age 63 Born London

Education Bromley Technical High School Homes London; New York; Bermuda


So many of the children of fabulously rich rock stars end up becoming pathetic, drug-addled, booze-sodden spongers. But not this one. Stella's developed her own extraordinarily successful career in fashion without having any handouts or help from Dad.
And she's proven to be almost as talented with clothes design as the old man is with songwriting. I met Stella at an awards show recently, and we exchanged some most amusing banter about Heather Mills. She's a sparky little soul, and a great credit to both her parents.

Age 38 Born London
Education Bexhill College; Ravensbourne College (private); Central St Martin's College of Art and Design

Homes London; Pershore, Worcestershire
Stella McCartney
David Bowie by Fergus Greer
True talent: Stella McCartney and David Bowie


My favourite British actor - he's like Hugh Grant, only with genuine charm. His recent Bafta Best Actor win and Oscar nomination show that if you work long enough, hard enough and engagingly enough you will get the rewards. In person Firth is endearingly modest and considerate. He's also one of our best actors, as his sublime performance in A Single Man has proven.

Age 49 Born Grayshott, Hampshire Education Montgomery of Alamein Secondary School
Home London



If the British media is a pack of wolves, then meet the chief... Paxman has been snaring, chewing up, destroying and humiliating politicians and other significant figures for the past two decades. And by doing so in such a clever, well-researched, uncompromising and often brutal manner, he has performed a hugely important public service.
We don't just like Paxo; we NEED Paxo. He's the nearest thing we have to Jon Stewart in America, an acerbic commentator on the day's big issues and events. I invited him to lunch at the Mirror once, and he looked hilariously out of place amid a collection of B-list celebrities, business leaders and cabinet ministers.
I don't think Paxman really does small talk or silly people, and why should he? But what struck me most was the reverence that everyone else showed for him that afternoon. And the sheer terror in the case of the politicians. Paxman, they all realised, matters more than they do.
Age 59 Born Leeds

Education Malvern College (private); Cambridge University Home Henley-on-Thames
Colin Firth
Jeremy Paxman
Actor Colin Firth (left) and presenter Jeremy Paxman


Of all the myriad reinventions in TV history, few have been more unexpected or impressive than that of Mr Kemp, who went from soap icon to serious frontline war reporter. I've known Ross very well for years, and he always seemed to me to struggle a bit with just being a TV 'actor', as if he was yearning to do something more worthy with his talent.
And boy did he find something worthy. Watching him dodging bullets in Afghanistan was a quite extraordinary spectacle. His astonishing courage and determination to go through exactly what our troops go through has had a huge impact in making the public more aware of the reality of war, and the incredible sacrifice that so many young men and women make on our behalf.
I was with him the night he won a Bafta for his series Ross Kemp On Gangs, and he shed many a tear at the honour. But it was a complete joke that he didn't win another one for his Afghanistan series. That was some of the best, most important television for a very long time. And turned Ross from just another soap star into someone far more significant.
Age 45 Born Barking, Essex
Education Shenfield High School; South East Essex Technical College; Webber Douglas Academy Home London


In this modern age, we're used to celebrities spewing their guts out about every gruesome aspect of their private lives, while reserving the right to invade their own privacy relentlessly on websites like Twitter all day long. But there are still some who genuinely do value their personal lives enough not to flog their weddings, christenings and funerals.
Ross Kemp
 Rowan Atkinson
Significant stars: Ross Kemp (left) and Rowan Atkinson
And the arch-exponent of this is Mr Atkinson. He's a massive, stinking-rich, global star thanks to Mr Bean, but I doubt you know anything about his private world at all, because he never, ever talks about it. I knew him pretty well before he became really famous, and he was a very charming, amusing, di ffident man who found the whole fame game faintly ridiculous.
I once had to ask him if it was true he was having a sizzling a air with the actress Emma Thompson. Rowan froze in horror, paused for at least ten seconds, then replied, 'Piers, I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever had a "sizzling" a air with anyone.' And then he walked off , chuckling. A masterful way to handle a potentially sticky (and untrue, as it transpired) domestic crisis.
Christine Bleakley
TV talent: Christine Bleakley


Some of the names on this list are relative newcomers to the showbiz scene, but have all the equipment required to be major stars, and Ms Bleakley is one of those. Intelligent, sexy and with an impish sense of humour, she has made a big impact on early-evening TV, in her co-starring role opposite the sardonic Adrian Chiles in BBC1's The One Show. And with her new-found 'WAG' status (she hates me saying that!) as Frank Lampard's girlfriend, she has propelled herself by very grudging default into tabloid darling territory. She couldn't be less WAG-like, though.
An intelligent woman, as comfortable interviewing a politician as a pop star. I predict big things for Ms Bleakley this year.
Age 29 Born Newry, N Ireland
Education Bloomfield Collegiate School (private)
Home London


The thinking man's Vinnie Jones - a big, bald, bad villainous actor with real screen presence. Statham has made the most of his chances to carve out a very lucrative niche for himself in Hollywood. This year he stars in Sly Stallone's new blockbuster The Expendables, alongside the great man himself, as well as other action legends including Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The final validation that he's now part of the official Big Boys' Club. I've never met Statham, so have no idea what he's like in person. But in movie terms, he's moved from 'lukewarm' to 'warm' in the last year, and the temperature can only get hotter.
Age 37 Born London
Education Great Yarmouth Grammar School

Homes London; Los Angeles


You only have to play Spoof with Marco to understand the man. Within months of taking up the game, he'd become world champion. Which didn't surprise me in the slightest, because he plays it with the same intensity, preparation, flair, arrogance, ferocity and speed that he brought to his cooking.
To say Marco is the greatest British chef of his generation is to understate things. I believe he's the greatest chef this country has ever produced. And I base that view on the fact that the two best meals of my life were cooked by him, and since I've eaten from the tables of most of the other candidates for the title who are still alive, I reckon I'm in quite a good position to judge.
His position on this list would be a lot higher if he went back into the kitchen again, something I wish he would do. But Marco will never, ever accept being less than the best. And I think he has too many diversions now with his TV work, and hunting, shooting and fishing, to commit to the hours he used to do. If this list were about the most powerful life forces I've ever met, though, he'd be right near the top. An extraordinary character.
Age 48 Born Leeds
Education Allerton High School Home London
Jason Statham
Marco Pierre White.
Tough guys: Actor Jason Statham and TV chef Marco Pierre White


Could Noel have been thinking about his brother when he wrote Don't Look Back In Anger? Because all our Liam's done throughout his career is look front, back and sideways in blind fury. But he's also been the most charismatic lead singer of a rock band since Mick Jagger, and Oasis were a seriously popular group until their recent split and subsequent demise.
Born rocker: Liam Gallagher
I spent a hilarious hour with Liam at a wedding last year, during which he ranted about Noel, waxed lyrical about the fish counter at Waitrose, pulled hideously ugly faces as we posed for photos and generally played up to every wonderful stereotype of lead singers over the years.
But all the fights, rows, headlines and controversy shouldn't cloud the brilliant music. And though Noel will hate me for saying this, the reality is that Oasis could have survived without him, but they could never have survived without Liam.
He's the one who brought the sex appeal, and without that, no rock band can last a year. Now Oasis are no more, but Liam will sell millions of records for a long time to come. And he will most definitely still matter.
Age 37 Born Burnage, Manchester
Education Barlow RC High School
Homes London; Poole; Henley-on-Thames


How can a mere WAG make it onto this list, I hear you cry? Well, there are WAGs, and there are WAGs, and Coleen is the best WAG since Victoria Beckham. I don't think I've ever seen her without a big grin on her face, she stood by her man when he was caught in flagrante with an elderly hooker, and she has never been known to complain once about the press, however acidic it has been towards her (and we're talking sulphuric in some cases).
Coleen just seems a lovely, cheerful, loyal and uncomplicated young lady who unequivocally supports her brilliantly talented husband, spends a lot of his money on hilariously extravagant shopping sprees with her Liverpool mates and has built an entire new career purely on the back of her WAG status.
She writes a £40,000-a-month column for OK! magazine, has presented TV shows, was paid £500,000 to front LG's Chocolate mobile phone campaign, £1.5 million by Nike to promote women's sportswear, 32 million to 'write' books by HarperCollins and £3 million to be the face of George at Asda.
Coleen McLoughlin
Princess of the WAGS: Coleen Rooney
The final seal of approval came when she was chosen to appear in Vogue magazine, with editor Alexandra Shulman calling her 'beautiful and with a brilliant sense of style'. If Wayne scores the winner in the World Cup final, then Coleen will become the greatest WAG of all time - and that's power!
Age 23 Born Liverpool
Education St John Bosco RC Secondary School
Homes Prestbury, Cheshire; Port Charlotte, Florida; Barbados


My relationship with Sir Alex never really recovered from the time he got caught speeding on the motorway and claimed, successfully, in court, that he'd been su ffering from acute diarrhoea. I (perhaps, I concede, a little childishly) sent him a box of Imodium, with a note saying that we Arsenal fans had always known he was full of excrement, and now we had the evidence.
He was not amused. At all. In fact, I could almost hear the infamous hairdryer exploding in the background as his PA rang me to say she was putting my package 'in the bin where it belongs'.
But aside from the fact that he manages the team I loathe most in world sport, I have to grudgingly admit he does a fantastic job.
The best that British football has ever seen, and quite possibly the best the world has ever seen, for that matter. A man of indefatigable rage, passion, dedication and enthusiasm. It kills me to put him on this list, but there was no choice. He'd have killed me if I hadn't
Age 68 Born Govan, Scotland Education Govan High School
Home Wilmslow, Cheshire


The grand dame of British acting, Judi is one of the greats, whether she's treading the boards in the West End or starring alongside James Bond. I've only met her once, backstage at the Baftas, and she couldn't have been nicer or more down-to-earth. I just wish she'd keep away from me on red carpets, because every time I think I've really made it, and start gabbling away to all the cameras, there always seems to be a sudden collective gasp of 'It's Judi!!' and they disappear faster than Tiger Woods when his wife whacked him with a golf club.
Age 75 Born Heworth, North Yorskhire
Education The Mount School (private); Central School Of Speech and Drama Home London
Dame Judi Dench
Alex Ferguson
Classy Britons: Judi Dench and Alex Ferguson


I sat next to Nigella and her husband Charles Saatchi in a restaurant last Christmas, and became hypnotised by watching her eat a chocolate pudding. She has a way of devouring food that would suggest she might have made a world-class adult entertainment star if she'd ever veered down that path.
We had a great laugh that night - she was warm and charming to my brothers and sister who were with me, extremely cheeky towards me and clearly devoted to her man. It's easy to deduce that Nigella's had an easy life, but she hasn't.
It's been incredibly tough: she lost her mother and sister to cancer, and then her first husband John, a great guy and brilliant journalist, to the same disease. But she's never asked for pity, or moaned about her lot in life, and has instead focused her energy on being a terrific mum, wife, writer and TV presenter.
Her books sell by the bucketload, but it's her impact on the sales of items she recommends that's a true sign of her power. Shops sold 30 per cent more Riesling after she put it in a recipe, and the same went for advocaat after a separate endorsement. Like Delia, when Nigella says 'eat this', we do. And that's why she matters.
Age 50 Born London Education Godolphin & Latymer (private); Oxford University
Home London
 Nigella Lawson
Powerful: TV chef Nigella Lawson


When I was in China recently, filming an ITV documentary on Shanghai, there were very few British stars on the billboards. But one face I saw a lot was young Ms Watson, beaming down from massive Burberry hoardings.
Emma Watson, actress
Lighting up the screen: Emma Watson
Further investigation revealed that she is our single most popular female export out there, thanks to the huge popularity of Harry Potter. And trust me, if you're big in China right now, then you're about as big as it's possible to be.
And that's power. She's also growing very rich, very fast, with an estimated fortune of more than £10 million.
And she was recently placed sixth on the Forbes list of 'Hollywood's Most Valuable Young Stars'. She's also single, which makes her comfortably the most eligible young lady on my list. Form an orderly queue please, gentlemen.
Age 19 Born Paris
Education The Dragon School (private); Headington School (private); Brown University Homes London; Meribel, France


The maths here is simple. He's Harry Potter, and those films have collectively grossed more than most in history. Nobody is indispensable, but Radcliff e has made the lead role so uniquely his that it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing it. Which is pretty irrelevant anyway, really, because there won't be any more films after he finishes work on the forthcoming two-part finale. What's going to be of much more importance to Radcliff e is what he does next. Is he going to be typecast as geeky Harry for the rest of his career, unable to be taken seriously as anything or anyone else? Or will he manage to shake o ff his gown and reinvent himself in a completely diff erent way? Watching his development as an actor will be fascinating, and his future place on this list will be determined by what decisions he takes.
Age 20 Born London
Education Sussex House School (private); City of London (private)
Homes London; New York


What more need be said than that he is the most successful composer in the world? He's created 13 smash-hit musicals, film scores and a Requiem Mass, won seven Tonys, three Grammys, an Oscar, seven Oliviers and a Golden Globe, and secured himself a knighthood and a peerage.
And all this has brought him a personal fortune heading towards £1 billion. Lloyd Webber's private life has been nearly as eventful: three wives, five children and a recent prostate cancer battle.
I've enjoyed some spectacularly good nights with the great man, during which he's played piano, told hysterically funny stories about many of the stars he's worked with, allowed me to drink gallons of his extraordinarily good French wines and usually ended up virtually carrying me to the door in the early hours.
Life's never boring with Lord Lloyd Webber, and with Love Never Dies, the long-awaited Phantom Of The Opera sequel,about to open, he's facing the biggest professional challenge of his life - how to top the greatest musical ever. My money says he'll do it. The man's a genius.
Age 61 Born London
Education Westminster; Oxford University; Royal College of Music
Homes London; Sydmonton, Hampshire; Majorca; Kiltinan Castle, Ireland
Andrew Lloyd-Webber
David Walliams
Successful: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Walliams (right)


Every time I see David Walliams, we insult each other. And yet I like the guy. He's smart, eff ortlessly amusing, dresses like some sort of latter-day Oscar Wilde, and always seems to have a beautiful new girl on his arm. But the conventional 'comedian' tag doesn't begin to do him justice. When Walliams swam across the Channel, I felt a sudden surge of admiration towards him.
As with Eddie Izzard and his extraordinary multi-marathon running, it marked him out as someone with special, unexpected depths of courage and determination. I watched him lapping away for hour after hour, and thought it was quite one of the most remarkable things I've seen for a long time.
There was no real reason to do it, and most people assumed he'd fail, or do it so slowly that he'd still be doggy-paddling away now. But he powered between England and France like a robotic bulldog, and raised a fortune for charity. It was as impressive as it was inspiring, and I salute him for it. One of the better funnymen out there right now, as a comedian, character and adventurer, he's on a celebrity plinth of two - him and Izzard.
Age 38 Born Banstead, Surrey Education Reigate Grammar; Bristol University Homes London; Hove

59 JLS

I don't know much about these guys. But I do know that if you're the current No 1 male pop band in the country, then you most  definitely 'matter'. The thousands of screaming girls who turn up to their every public appearance are testimony to their outrageous popularity right now. It may not last, as pop can be a notoriously fickle mistress, but for the purposes of this list, there was no way I could leave them out.
Aston Merrygold: Age 22 Born Peterborough Education Jack Hunt School Home London

Oritse Williams: Age 22 Born London Education Cardinal Vaughn Memorial School Home London Marvin Humes: Age 25 Born London Education D&B Performing Arts Home London
JB: Age 22 Born London Education Whitgift School (private); University of London Home London
Boy band factor: Reality show runner ups JLS


The 'Guvnor' of British acting, Caine has been the most prolific, and coolest, home-grown big-screen performer in my lifetime. He's an effortlessly good movie star, someone who you can tell just knows every trick in the book, and who can drift from comedy to drama without missing a beat. He's also a great guy, with the happiest marriage in showbusiness.
I sat in the row behind him and Shakira on a long flight back from LA once, and they spent the whole time laughing and joking together. It was really touching to see a couple so uncorrupted by the whole fame game.
Caine matters because he's like a template for all modern young actors showing how to behave. He doesn't whine about the press, he works hard, turns up on time, always finds time for friends and family, and commands the respect of everyone in the industry. I sat with him at the Pride of Britain Awards once, and he was hilarious company, making the whole star-studded table heave with laughter. That showed me that he's a man comfortable in his own professional and personal skin.
Age 76 Born London Education Wilson's Grammar School Homes London; Surrey; Florida


He was o fficially Britain's funniest man until Michael McIntyre exploded onto the scene. Kay's special brand of caustic, yet warm, observational northern humour has made him a favourite comedian of all ages. He's not my cup of tea particularly.
I watched him perform at Ian Botham's leukaemia dinner last year, when to be fair he'd just flown in from LA and was clearly jet-lagged, and he barely made me laugh once. But you can't argue with the popularity of a man whose autobiography was one of the biggest-selling in British celebrity history.
Age 36 Born Bolton  Education Mount St Joseph's High School Home Bolton


Our best male actor, without question - a fantastically versatile, inventive, dynamic tour de force who lights up the screen in whatever film he appears in. Yet curiously, Day-Lewis has never made the transition into mainstream superstardom like a Tom Cruise or Jack Nicholson. We know little about his private life, and he doesn't do the chat-show circuit. So in terms of his significance as a celebrity, this relatively lowly place is the highest I can grant him. Not that he'll care, because I suspect the only thing Day-Lewis really craves is professional recognition of his ability as an actor. And in that regard, he's our No 1.
Age 52 Born London Education Sevenoaks (private); Bedales (private); Bristol Old Vic Theatre School