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The news that Tom Cruise has signed a deal to finance future movies with the owner of the Washington Redskins football team, Daniel Snyder, and his investment partners restores hope that we’ll live to see “Mission Impossible 13.” But what does it mean for the cause of religion in Hollywood? The key may be the Cruise-Gibson connection.

Since Tom’s “firing” by Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, the press has paired Tom and Mel: two megastars whose faith–Scientology and Tridentine Catholicism, respectively–has ruined their careers. After Redstone told the Wall St. Journal last week that Cruise had committed “creative suicide” by behaving erratically over the past few months, word crept out that the real issue was Cruise’s Scientology-based criticism of Brooke Shields’s post-partum pill-popping on the “Today” show. Others said Cruise had done himself in when he riled the all-powerful Steven Spielberg. “It was well-known that Spielberg was not happy about the fact that Cruise used his junkets from ‘War of the Worlds’ to promote his religious beliefs,” a source told AFP News.

Bolstering the Cruise-Gibson tie was director Rob Reiner’s comment last week that Mel’s apology for an anti-Semitic tirade wasn’t enough; he had to apologize for anti-Semitism in his “The Passion.”

Cruise’s new deal with Snyder shows that there is Tom-Mel synergy going on, but it has more to do with moola than martyrdom. Like Mel, Cruise has signed with investors who look only at the bottom line, not at behavior or beliefs that might embarrass them at Hollywood happenings. Far from dousing Tom or Mel’s faith-based fire, these outsiders may give the stars more room to express their religion in their films.

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