MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Actor Tom Cruise is in the news today. His manic bouncing up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch has now bounced him out the door of Paramount Pictures. Viacom CEO and Paramount owner Sumner Redstone says Tom Cruise's odd behavior is costing the studio money, and so Paramount will sever its 14-year contract with Cruise.
Wall Street Journal reporter Merissa Marr is with us now. And, Marisa, this is shocking. This is the world's biggest movie star. What did Mr. Redstone tell you about this?
Ms. MERISSA MARR (Reporter, Wall Street Journal): Mr. Redstone says that he and his studio had decided that they didn't want to renew Mr. Cruise's contract because his conduct in the past year or so had impacted his last movie, Mission Impossible 3. And while they started a negotiation to renew his production deal on the Paramount lot, they decided not to renew it ultimately.
BRAND: And this has to do with his public proclamations about Scientology, about his - as we said earlier - his bouncing up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch when he was engaged with actress Katie Holmes, that kind of behavior?
Ms. MARR: Yes. I think Mr. Redstone and the studio felt that Mr. Cruise's personal life was overtaking the focus on his movies, and that was especially the case with Mission Impossible 3. In the case of Mission Impossible 3, they tried to pull the focus back on the movie by showing Tom Cruise doing stunts around the world at various screenings, but it may still have impacted the performance of Mission Impossible 3 at the box office.
BRAND: So could there be another reason for this?
Ms. MARR: Well, Mr. Cruise's deal was also very expensive. Paramount was committed to pay up to $10 million to finance his production company, and that's the kind of deal that Hollywood doesn't want to do anymore. Paramount has signaled that it didn't want to do that deal and that the deal needed to be slashed back. But ultimately they decided they didn't even want to do a slash-back deal.
BRAND: And what has been the reaction from Tom Cruise and his production company
Ms. MARR: I think they were quite shocked by the way the news was delivered. Paramount hadn't informed them that they didn't want to renew the deal. But by the same token, Cruise/Wagner Productions hadn't informed Paramount that they were working on an alternative deal. There'd been some silence in the negotiations for the past few weeks, and I think this probably came as a surprise to Cruise/Wagner Productions.
BRAND: Is this signaling the end of Cruise's very long movie career?
Ms. MARR: Certainly not. His production company says they're going to self-finance their movies and then find a studio to distribute their movies on a case-by-case basis. So, in fact, he could be in line to making more money off his movies. And Mr. Redstone accepts that he may well go on to another studio or he may well go on to make movies that are enormously profitable. He's a very good actor, but he just doesn't want him on the Paramount lot.
BRAND: Merissa, this is unheard of for the head of a studio to be this outspoken about a major movie star. What's the possible fallout for Paramount for this? Will other stars be reluctant to sign on?
Ms. MARR: I think Mr. Redstone's comments are a sign of the times in terms of studios really cutting back on expensive deals and not having much patience for behavior that they find unpalatable from actors that may have deals on their lot. In terms of Paramount, it's unclear what will happen in terms - especially in terms of Tom Cruise's agency, CAA, and how willing they will be to work to work with Paramount in the future. But I think, overall, a lot of people in Hollywood felt quite strongly about this issue on Tom Cruise, and if just silently, they'll be applauding what Mr. Redstone did.
BRAND: Wall Street Journal reporter Merissa Marr. Thank you very much.
Ms. MARR: Thank you.
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