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<i>8 Mile</i> Tops US Most Popular Movie List - 2002-11-16

Rap music star Eminem rocks Hollywood with his blockbuster film debut. It's the sole new entry among the top five at North American box offices. Alan Silverman has the list, starting with an outrageous collection of comedy stunts at number five.

Comedian Johnny Knoxville leads a cast of demented daredevils who shock themselves and audiences in the big screen adaptation of the television show that was a hit on the MTV cable network. Jackass The Movie slips to fifth place.

A TV show also provides the inspiration (if that's the word) for the action-comedy I-Spy very loosely based on the popular espionage adventure series from the 1960's. The film co-stars Eddie Murphy as a loudmouth professional boxer who is teamed with Owen Wilson as a professional spy.

I-Spy spirals down the chart to fourth place.

The Ring is adapted from a Japanese horror hit that has become a pop culture phenomenon. The Hollywood version stars Naomi Watts as a journalist drawn into the mystery about a deadly videotape.

"It was the character that drew me to this project," says Watts. "It's a genre film and you get all those moments that you get in a genre film, but you get a little bit more. I think it's more pychological and the character has her own personal journey to go through and I particularly liked it for that reason."

Unlike most horror films that open big and fade fast, The Ring is still doing solid business at number three.

In second place: the family-friendly holiday comedy sequel The Santa Clause 2. Tim Allen, comic star of the TV show Home Improvement again plays the ordinary guy who became the jolly old gift-giving elf in the original film eight years ago.

"It isn't my preference to do family films," says Allen. "I just do them very well, but I didn't start out doing this. I started out in dark clubs throughout the country talking to adults. Kids couldn't come to my shows. Now, because they translated that act (how ironic) at Disney (even more ironic) to a family show (really ironic)...I just know what it takes to make a family film."

The Santa Clause 2 is at number two, bumped from the top by the stunning debut of 8 Mile starring Marshall Mathers, better known by his rap music stage name Eminem.

8 Mile takes its name from the avenue that marks the boundary between predominantly black and white neighborhoods of urban Detroit, where, like the film's character, Mathers grew up: a white kid who makes it in the black world of hip hop music.

"Jimmy, the character I play in the movie, is basically being pulled in a lot of different directions by his friends. He's going through his own struggles in his personal life and at home and whatever with his family and his own personal struggles," explains Eminem. "But he wants to be a rapper. He wants to make something with this and it's basically about him coming out of his shell."

Respected Hollywood filmmaker Curtis Hanson is the director.

"One of my hopes in making this movie was... on the one hand to make a movie that would be enjoyable to the knowledgeable hip hop fans and, of course, the Eminem fans," says Hanson. "But at the same time [I wanted to] make a movie that non hip hop fans would come and see and maybe when the movie was over they would have a little better understanding of where it came from and why it speaks to as many people as it does."

Many parents joined their teenaged children at theaters nationwide to give 8 Mile a bigger opening than most analysts expected. It debuts as the new most popular movie at North American theaters.