ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
Paramount Studios and actor Tom Cruise have severed their long-standing business relationship. The head of Paramount's parent company blamed the split on Cruise's recent public behavior. But some in Hollywood say it had more to do with the actor's recent box-office numbers, as NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.
INA JAFFE: Three hundred ninety-three million dollars is not enough? That seems almost impossible.
(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC FROM MISSION IMPOSSIBLE)
JAFFE: Three hundred ninety-three million is about what Tom Cruise's latest Mission Impossible 3 has taken in worldwide at the box office. But Sumner Redstone, the 84-year-old chairman of Viacom, told the Wall Street Journal that Cruises, quote, recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
JAFFE: That recent conduct Redstone refers to has been headline-grabbing stunts like displaying his love for Katie Holmes by jumping up and down on the buttery leather divan of television queen Oprah Winfrey...
OPRAH WINFREY: Something's happened to you. Something happened to you.
TOM CRUISE: I'm in love.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
JAFFE: Then there was Cruise's public criticism of actress Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants for post-partum depression. The Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is arguably the most prominent member, does not believe in taking psychiatric medication, or in psychiatry for that matter - as Cruise explained to Matt Lauer on the Today Show.
CRUISE: Psychiatry is a pseudo-science.
MATT LAUER: But aren't there examples where it works?
CRUISE: Matt, Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That's what I've done.
JAFFE: Viacom Chairman Redstone told the Wall Street Journal that even though Mission Impossible made money, Cruise's behavior may have cost the studio as much as $150 million at the box office.
NIKKI FINK: This is not the way things are usually done.
JAFFE: Nikki Fink writes the Deadline Hollywood column for the LA Weekly and the blog Deadline Hollywood Daily.
FINK: When a business deal goes bad, fine. Everybody issues a nice, bland but dignified press release saying how much the 14 years have meant to them, blah, blah, blah, end of story. Everybody parts, if not friends, with no animus.
JAFFE: This was not strictly a matter of behavior, however, but of the bottom line. Cruise's production company with is partner Paula Wagner, reportedly received about $10 million a year from Paramount to cover project development and overhead. Claude Brodesser-Akner, the entertainment-industry columnist for Web site TMZ and host of The Business on Public Radio Station KCRW, says that deal wasn't just rich, it was greedy.
CLAUDE BRODESSER: It's five times what you would pay the next star vanity deal, if you will, which is Brad Pitt who, you know, costs about $2 million a year as opposed to 10.
JAFFE: Reportedly, Paramount offered Cruise and Wagner much less money to re- sign. Neither Cruise nor Wagner nor Paramount returned calls seeking comment, but Paula Wagner told the L.A. Times the studio's move was graceless. Using more traditional Hollywood-speak, Wagner said she and Cruise had decided to go in a different direction and had secured $100 million in independent financing. As for Sumner Redstone's shot at Tom Cruise's behavior, Brodesser-Akner says that does have financial consequences for the studio.
BRODESSER: Behavior plus time equals reputation. Tom Cruise was developing a reputation as someone who could attract and repel as many people in sort of equal numbers.
JAFFE: But Nikki Fink thinks Sumner Redstone's comments about Cruise takes off in a new and disturbing direction.
FINK: Are we going to now disavow people because of their religious beliefs, their political beliefs? Are we going to disavow people because they've gone through a bad patch in their history? I mean lots of studio executives go through rehab in this town.
JAFFE: Ah, rehab. If only it were that simple. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.