Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Breaking Culture News

Paramount Dump Tom Cruise


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Paramount Pictures and actor Tom Cruise called an end to their 14-year production deal on Wednesday as the chairman of the studio's parent company took a parting shot at the movie star's off-screen behavior.

"As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Viacom Inc. Chairman Sumner Redstone told the Wall Street Journal in an interview posted online. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."

Paula Wagner, the actor's longtime partner in his movie company, Cruise/Wagner Productions, struck back at Redstone, calling his comments about the three-time Oscar nominee "offensive" and "undignified."

"Whatever remarks Mr. Redstone would make about Tom Cruise personally or as an actor have no bearing on what this business issue is," she told Reuters. "There must be another agenda that the studio has in mind to take one of their greatest assets and malign him this way."

Five films starring Cruise and co-produced by his company, including the "Mission: Impossible" series, have generated theatrical revenues totaling over $2 billion worldwide during the past decade. And Wagner said his films accounted for about 15 percent of the studio's overall box office gross over that period.

Moreover, Wagner insisted that she and Cruise chose to leave the Paramount lot and establish a new venture financed through a private, revolving equity fund of $100 million.

"We in fact made a decision not to continue our relationship with Paramount Pictures," she said.

Viacom and Paramount executives declined further comment on the situation.

The war of words between Redstone and Wagner marked a bitter end to one of the most lucrative production alliances between a major Hollywood studio and an A-list star.


And it followed other signs that Cruise's stature had been damaged by a string of publicity faux pas ranging from his manic, couch-hopping profession of love for actress Katie Holmes last year on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to his strident denunciations of psychiatry.

Although Cruise recently topped Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's 100 most powerful celebrities, his latest film, "Mission: Impossible III," opened in May to lower-than-expected ticket sales.

Days later a USA Today/Gallup poll found that Cruise's star power had dimmed considerably in the eyes of the public, with more than half of those surveyed registering an "unfavorable" opinion of the actor.

Many cited his off-screen behavior during the past year, including his intense public discussions of his faith in Scientology and his blunt criticism of actress Brooke Shields for taking medication to treat postpartum depression.

Cruise also became the butt of jokes, and a frequent target of tabloid gossip, for his high-profile romance with the much younger Holmes, who recently gave birth to Cruise's first biological child, a daughter named Suri.

Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount Chairman Brad Grey was in talks with Cruise/Wagner seeking to slash the amount of money the studio pays for the production company -- from over $10 million to $2 million a year.

Wagner disputed those figures, and said the collapse in talks with Paramount did not stem from a disagreement over money but from an opportunity to go "in a new direction."

The departure of Cruise/Wagner from Paramount comes as all the studios are taking new measures to curb expenses in the face of escalating production and marketing costs and slumping growth in DVD revenues.

Cruise's latest film, "Mission: Impossible III," went on to amass $393 million in ticket sales around the world, a tidy sum but far less than his 2005 release from Paramount, "War of the Worlds," which topped $590 million globally.

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