Tom Cruise wasn’t blown out of the Paramount water last summer by Viacom chief Sumner Redtone…well, he was, but the decision to evict apparently originated with kvetching from Sumner’s wife, Paula. That’s one of the semi-intriguing reveals in Bryan Burroughs‘ Redstone profile in the December issue of Vanity Fair:
“Paula, like women everywhere, had come to hate him,” Redstone declares. “The truth of the matter is, I did listen to her, but I make business decisions myself.”
“And in terms of business, Redstone claims he felt Cruise was actually costing Paramount money. Cruise’s production company, which the actor operates along with producing partner Paula Wagner, was paid $10 million a year to create movies for Paramount, and until this year had a sterling track record, led by the first two Mission: Impossible movies, which grossed around $500 million each worldwide. (Overall, Cruise’s films with Paramount have grossed $3 billion worldwide at the box office.)
“It’s the performance of Mission: Impossible III, however, that Redstone seized upon as he and his wife soured on Cruise’s public utterances. The movie did excellent business, earning just under $400 million worldwide, but Redstone felt the actor’s extracurricular behavior prevented it from making more. A Cruise spokesperson declined all comment.
“When did I decide [to fire him]?” Redstone asks. “I don’t know. When he was on the Today show? When he was jumping on a couch at Oprah? He changed his handler, you know, to his sister — not a good idea. His behavior was entirely unacceptable to [my wife,] Paula, and to the rest of the world. He didn’t just turn one [woman] off. He turned off all women, and a lot of men… He was embarrassing the studio. And he was costing us a lot of money. We felt he cost us $100, $150 million on Mission: Impossible III. It was the best picture of the three, and it did the worst.”
“The deal with Cruise/Wagner Productions was scheduled to lapse at the end of August. Redstone indicates he decided to cut ties to the company sometime last spring, waiting until the July time frame to notify Tom Freston and Paramount’s C.E.O., Brad Grey. ‘I made my decision without their support; I didn’t tell anyone for months,’ Redstone says. ‘But [eventually] I made my position clear to Tom and Brad, that he should be off the lot. They had some concerns.’
“In fact, Freston and Grey realized that ‘firing’ an actor with Cruise’s visibility and track record, a highly unusual if not unprecedented move, would trigger a severe backlash in Hollywood’s creative community. Still, it was Redstone’s company, and they were his employees.
“‘This wasn’t just Sumner — he had a right to feel the way he did,’ says a person involved in Paramount’s deliberations. ‘I mean, women didn’t go see the movie, because of Tom Cruise’s behavior. It showed up in the research.’ Freston and Grey, this person says, had put a lowball bid on the table to renew the contract — $2.5 million, by all accounts — and everyone involved realized that both sides would probably allow the deal to quietly lapse.
“‘The negotiations had started when Sumner weighed in,’ this person says. ‘Brad had to get rid of the offer, which is a hard thing to do. They were working toward that. They understood where Sumner was coming from. They really did. They were trying to pull [the offer] back, and when they were trying to do that, Sumner went public. That’s when everything hit the fan.’”