Idol Chatter

Has all of the couch jumping and Suri speculation finally caught up with Tom Cruise? In a surprise announcement yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Viacom exec Sumner Redstone claimed that Paramount–Viacom’s movie arm–is terminating its 14-year business relationship with Cruise’s film development company.

Seems Redstone believes mega pics like “Mission Impossible III” would have done much better at the box office if Cruise hadn’t scolded Matt Lauer for being glib about Scientology or chastised Brooke Shields for taking pills for her post-partum depression. “As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal,” Redstone has been widely quoted as saying. “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

Hollywood–not to mention the media–is all-too eager to lap up this party line. But as in all juicy Hollywood break-ups, there are two sides to the story. Cruise’s partner, Paula Wagner claims that negotiations to renew a development deal between Cruise and Paramount had stalled in recent weeks anyway, so Cruise has decided to solicit funding to head up his own independent film production company. Wagner claims Cruise has made more money for Paramount than any other movie star, and that Redstone’s comments are unprofessional and unnecessary.

We’ve all had fun watching Cruise spin out-of-control for a long time now, but I am not convinced that Paramount’s unceremonious dumping of Cruise is motivated by religion as much as it is by greed. With Cruise commanding an exorbitant salary of $20 million and other incentives per film, plus a reported $10 million a year overhead, Cruise’s Scientology craziness gave Paramount the easy “out” they needed to cut costs. The move comes on the heels of a New York Times report that major movie studios are increasingly concerned about slumping box office and “have waged war on actor salaries.”

On the other hand, Cruise might want to give Mel Gibson a call. I am sure there would be a lot for them to talk about as they are standing in the unemployment line.

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