Will Smith at the premiere of "Seven Pounds" in Los Angeles on Tuesday, December 15, 2008.
Dec. 15: Actor Tom Cruise attends the world premiere of 'Valkyrie' at the Time Warner Center.
Just-released tax returns for movie star Will Smith’s charitable foundation show he and wife, Jada, gave $1.3 million in donations last year to a variety of religious, civic and arts groups.
Smith’s biggest single contribution was, as usual, Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia. He gave the born-again Christian based organization run by Reverend James Robinson a whopping $250,000. That’s a hefty raise from the $140,000 he gave them the previous year. Another $200,000 went to a Christian ministry outside Los Angeles called Living Waters.
He also gave a combined $122,500 to the Church of Scientology, broken into these donations: $67,500 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxication Fund, $50,000 to the group’s Celebrity Center in Hollywood and $5,000 to ABLE, another Scientology offshoot. Smith and his wife have also supported a private school called New Village Academy they opened this fall in suburban Los Angeles that uses Scientology learning concepts.
The star ofmovies like “Hancock,” “I Am Legend,” and the upcoming “Seven Pounds” also donated thousands of dollars to a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and to the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel. And though Smith is not featured in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” he also sent $25,000 to the Progeria Research Foundation. Progeria is a disease that causes rapid aging.
The newest federal tax filing for the Will Smith Foundation covers 2007, and there is no donation to New Village Academy. So far there is no listing with guidestar.org, the website that tracks charities and not-for-profit institutions, for New Village. That seems odd since it was announced more than a year ago that Smith had given them a $1 million endowment.
It’s the Smiths’ intense and sudden friendship with Tom Cruise over the last couple of years that sparked speculation the superstar couple had joined Scientology. But Smith told me earlier this year he was definitely not a Scientologist. He told "Access Hollywood" some time before that: "I was introduced [to] it by Tom and I’m a student of world religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, I went to a Catholic school, but the ideas of the Bible are 98 percent the same ideas of Scientology, 98 percent the same ideas of Hinduism and Buddhism."
I sort of have to thank Patrick Goldstein, who writes a popular blog for the Los Angeles Times about movies and the film industry. He devoted his whole entry yesterday to this column getting banned from advance screenings of Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie."
There were also mentions of it in a variety of movie blogs like Dan Cox’s on mediabistro.com and Jeff Wells at hollywoodelsewhere.com
Is it a tempest in a teapot? Sure. But by preventing me from seeing "Valkyrie" at a regular screening, the flacks involved didn’t leave me much choice. I had to use Emanuel Levy’s review of "Valkyrie" in place of one I’d have written. Levy called Cruise "feeble" and predicted his move into secondary roles. The ironic thing is, I would never have used such a word nor made such an assumption. That’s where Cruise’s publicists went wrong. They bungled what could have been a simple process into a calamity.
One of my sources, who has seen "Valkyrie," tells me: "Tom is very wooden. On the face of it, this is a fascinating story. But Cruise is an external actor. It needed someone with real acting chops. The title sounds as if it should have been a musical. The problem is that it's not as awful as it should be, which in a way makes it worse. It's a bore!"
Or, to quote another advance screener: "This movie won’t make two cents."
And then what happens? "Valkyrie" cost $100 million to make, and another $50 - $60 mil to market. United Artists had a $500 million promise of credit from Merrill Lynch. That entity no longer exists. If "Valkyrie" really does tank, UA will likely cease to exist either as MGM struggles to right its leaking ship. Cruise has no movie ready for 2009, so it will be a year or more before he’s on screen again in anything to erase this memory.
In the end, the publicists capitulated to a lame duck leader with no future leverage but a lot of paranoia. Sound familiar?
From the New York Times, yesterday: "The last 15 years have been boom years for theater — I always expected the pendulum to swing, and I simply see this as a correction," said Nancy Coyne, chairwoman of the theater advertising agency Serino Coyne. "The good news is that so many straight plays are now coming in the spring, and I think New Yorkers will come out for them once the tourists go away. We’re horrible snobs. We hate tourists from Cleveland."
Actually, Cleveland: we love you. Keep coming and buying tickets to all our shows. As Donald Trump might say: Nancy, you’re fired!
It seems like the great actor and good guy Peter Falk may be in some trouble. He’s 81, and his daughter says he has Alzheimer’s. There will be a court hearing next month. Let’s say this: it’s so unfair to freeze someone in time this way. Peter Falk was nominated twice, back to back in 1961 and 1962, for Academy Awards. He’s won five Emmy Awards out of 12 nominations. The movies he’s made with late pal John Cassavetes are classics, as well as the original "In-Laws" with Alan Arkin.
In the winter of 1990, Falk and I were each coming out of Madison Square Garden after a Knicks game. We flagged the same cab and wound up sharing it. He was just great, reminiscing about real Little Italy. I left on Mott Street, where he disappeared into one of his old joints. I hope he’s okay now, and if he’s not, that he gets lavish care and attention from his family.
By the way, the same daughter, Catherine, sued Peter back in 1992 and won an out of court settlement. She was 21 then and wanted her college tuition paid at Syracuse University. Falk wanted her to return to Los Angeles and participate in family counseling. Catherine is now 37 and a private investigator, according to reports. No word on Falk’s second wife, actress Shera Danese, who married Falk in 1977…