In Hollywood, A-list celebs are the key to persuading film financiers to pony up big bucks. And Ryan Phillippe — so popular from teen fare like Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer — knows he's on that list. The 27-year-old matinee idol says it's great "once you realize as an actor that you have that power to help get movies made."

He cites Oscar-winner Gosford Park as an example: "I have nothing to do with the final product being as amazing as it was," he says humbly, "but I did help them get their money for that movie. Now, as insane as that sounds when you've got Maggie Smith and all these people [in the cast], the young American star would actually end up bringing more money to the table than all of those people combined.

"That's the business side of the way this thing works," Phillippe asserts. "If I have that power to whatever degree — and there are people that have it much greater than I — why would I not use it to help get cool movies made?" Laughing, he adds: "If I can help Robert Altman get a movie made, what else would I want to do?!

"That's what's fulfilling," the actor says, "because now I'm proud of my career and the films I'm making. Before, I wasn't. I was taking the job and getting the money. And now, that's not where my focus is. I'm producing two movies this year, I've [acted in] 16 and I've learned from some great people."

Next up, Phillippe plays Kieran Culkin's haughty brother in Igby Goes Down (opening Sept. 13). This year, he'll also produce White Boy Shuffle and a modern remake of The Picture of Dorian Gray co-starring Benicio del Toro. And among next year's projects is his role as Picasso. Color him busy.