Tom Cruise and Paramount sever their ties

Tom Cruise will not be making any more films at Paramount after Sumner Redstone (the octogenarian overlord at parent company Viacom) publicly announced the split on Tuesday, saying to the Wall Street Journal that:

“His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount”

Could he possibly be referring to the couch jumping antics on Oprah and the bizarre Today show interview last year where Cruise talked about Scientology, antidepressants and Brooke Shields instead of the Paramount film he was promoting at the time? Lo and behold, the LA Times reports:

For more than a year, Cruise’s public outbursts have made headlines and sparked speculation that one of Hollywood’s most bankable figures might be tarnishing his image.

In a series of unrelated incidents, Cruise publicly denounced Brooke Shields last year for taking antidepressants, jumped up and down on a couch during “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and proclaimed his love for fiancee Katie Holmes, and jabbed an accusing finger at Matt Lauer on the “Today” show as he lectured his host on the evils of Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorder.

At the same time, Cruise’s increasingly vocal advocacy of Scientology has drawn attention to his faith — at times colliding with his career. “His religion has become very important in his life, to the point that it may overshadow his career,” said a person close to the situation.

Another perspective comes from Red Herring which discusses how different websites are racing to cash in on the story:

The stakes in the race to get the dope on Mr. Cruise’s departure will be high. On the one side are sites with a distinct Web 2.0 sensibility that rely on tipsters and contributors to move quickly; on the other, tabloid publishers with hardened cadres of celebrity reporters.

Momentum is on the side of the newcomers. PopSugar has reportedly received $2.5 million in venture funding. Celebrity web sites like TMZ, partly owned by media conglomerate Time Warner, are breaking news ahead of the tabloids. Some of these web sites are also bringing tricks like community editing and an endless array of interactive forums from blogs and geeky web sites like Slashdot and Digg to a mainstream audience.

The new economics of content also mean web sites will hash out Mr. Cruise’s situation endlessly. Viacom chief Sumner Redstone’s finger-wagging statement that Mr. Cruise’s “recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount” was splashed all over the blogosphere, with many a blogger crowing about how they had predicted that erratic behavior would get the star fired eventually.

But couch jumping and new media meltdown aside, I think people are getting ahead of themselves here. Yes, Cruise was expensive. His antics last year were ill-advised (to say the least) but his films have made Viacom a lot of money over the years (over $2.5 billion) and to dump him in this way seems a tad disrespectful. Perhaps Redstone wants to send out a sign that deals with stars like Cruise are not worth it in an age were questionable behaviour can be so widely disseminated and ridiculed on blogs, TV shows and all kinds of new media. Perhaps we are entering an era where big deals with stars like Cruise are pushed aside in favour of investment in more profitable low cost franchises like the Saw films.

> Nikki Finke at The Huffington Post urges Cruise to sue Sumner Redstone
> Anne Thompson at The Hollywood Reporter with the details of the Cruise Paramount split

And here, just to lighten the mood, is a very funny re-edit of the Oprah interview with Cruise intercut with her lambasting author James Frey (the guy who wrote a memoir that turned out to be fiction even though he didn’t initially admit that). Anyway the editing is spot on: