Cruise Baby's Birth a Promo Tool | 'United 93': Actors Lived Tragedy | Elton's Dilemma

Cruise: Baby's Birth No. 1 Promo Tool

The Tom Cruise publicity machine is up and running, but watch carefully to see who’s in and who’s out as we count down to the May 5 opening of "Mission Impossible 3."

Definitely in: Paramount TV’s syndicated shows, "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider." Also in: ABC News’ "Primetime Live."

Mostly out: "Access Hollywood" and "Extra," produced respectively by Warner TV and NBC.

Also out: Rolling Stone magazine, which used to cover stories regularly on Cruise. The Web site doesn’t even have a mention in their news section about the birth of baby Suri. And there’s also no sign of "Mission: Impossible 3."

The reason? The 13,000-word piece critical of Scientology that finally ended the 25-year friendship between Cruise and publisher Jann Wenner. The question that remains unanswered: why did Wenner go ahead and do it? More power to him, though.

But back to the Cruise PR: One week ago tonight, Katie Holmes gave birth to "The Baby." It was seven days ago. Now, concentrate. The date was April 17. On Wednesday, April 19, Tom Cruise issued a statement saying he was canceling all promotion for "Mission: Impossible 3."

So it was with some surprise that we caught the episode of ABC’s "Primetime Live" that aired on Friday, April 21. There was Tom Cruise telling ABC’s Deborah Roberts in an ABC studio all about the birth. The occasion? A promo for “Mission: Impossible 3” with the whole cast assembled, each of them praising Cruise as a father.

So much for not using the baby as a promotional tool.

On the Web site for “Entertainment Tonight,” a story dated today, April 24, reads: “New dad TOM CRUISE begins his globe-trotting 'Mission: Impossible III' tour today in Rome, Italy, and ET is there to catch all the action!”

Sometime Friday, Cruise had managed to leave his girlfriend’s side and negate the press release from Wednesday. Not only did he give ABC an interview about baby Suri’s birth, he was also all over “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” two syndicated shows produced by Paramount Television.

He also gave plenty of other interviews at a press junket at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Coincidentally, “Mission: Impossible 3” is a Paramount film.

Starting today and running right through the film’s May 5 opening, both shows will run daily “interviews” and news “exclusives” about Cruise and the movie. None of them will mention Scientology or any of the controversies surrounding the Katie Holmes romance, the baby or the fact Cruise has changed Holmes’ name to “Kate.”

Neither show will ask why Holmes’ parents were on vacation in Florida when the baby was born, as opposed to their daughter’s bedside. Much like ABC, which has a deal to promote the movie, the shows will not ask Cruise during their “exclusive” interviews if Holmes’ parents are upset that their daughter, who shared their Catholic values exactly one year ago, is not baptizing her baby.

Or if the parents, who are devout Catholics, approve of a baby born out of wedlock. Or why a wedding could not be accomplished sometime before the baby was born. We’re just not going to get those answers from the Paramount shows or from ABC News. Not going to happen.

But these are certainly the questions we’d all like to know the answers to. Instead, the Web site for “ET” features a clip of Cruise, sitting for his interview with them last Thursday, thanking the show for their treatment of the story of the birth of the baby.

You kind of have to feel bad for "Access Hollywood," chief competitor of “ET.” They’re left to clip together quotes from Cruise’s ABC interviews if they want to follow the “story” of the year.

'United 93' Film: Actors Lived Tragedy 'Over and Over'

If you’ve heard of any of the actors in the controversial new film "United 93," you’re either a casting director or an aficionado of minutiae.

These are not the kind of actors who get $20 million per film. In fact, they were all paid the same thing — “scale” plus 10 percent. That comes to about $60,000 per actor at the most. The budget for the movie was $15 million.

According to sources, families of the "United 93" victims insisted that no famous people be used to play their relatives, and that the actors had to resemble the people who died.

Not only that: a proviso of the film’s production stipulated that no one actor be cited as the “star” or main character of the film. For example, Todd Beamer, whose exhortation “Let’s roll” has become famous, is played by up-and-comer David Alan Basche. But Basche can’t be promoted by Universal Pictures as the movie’s star.

The rest of the talented cast is recognizable only to movie professionals or those with excellent memories.

Rebecca Shull’s best known credit is the TV sitcom “Wings.” Peter Herman is married to "Law and Order: SVU" star Mariska Hargitay and occasionally appears on that series.

Richard Bekins was a teen soap star on “Another World.” John Rothman is a popular New York actor whose brother Tom runs 20th Century Fox. Chip Zien is a comic actor with credits in soaps, commercials and Broadway — such as “March of the Falsettos” and “Into the Woods.”

Gregg Henry had a big role in Brian DePalma’s “Body Double.” Tom O'Rourke was a doctor for seven years on “Guiding Light.”

And that’s it. Not much money, no fame, and, I am told, each time director Peter Greengrass shot scenes, it was all the way through.

“He had three cameras running, and every member of the cast sitting in their seats on the plane. So it meant going through the experience of knowing you were going to die over and over. People were constantly crying when the shooting was done.”

Meanwhile, "United 93" is going to open the Tribeca Film Festival next Tuesday night with a big premiere screening at the Ziegfeld, followed by a dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant that the studio and producers are very serious about not labeling as “party.”

It’s a private dinner for the families, who are unlikely to be in much of a mood to shmooze.

Elton's Dilemma; Artie Bucco, at Last

There’s so much going on this week, both on and off Broadway, that I think they should actually decree this pre-Tony period with some special rubric, like Tony Time.

Anyway, tomorrow night, “Lestat” has its big opening. Yesterday’s piece in The New York Times was not very encouraging. Apparently, the improvements the producer was bragging about were supposed to have begun with the performance I saw last Monday. They didn’t work. The first 20 minutes of that show would be considered a felony in most states.

If you’re looking for another event on Tuesday night, try the We Are Family Foundation gala honoring Elton John. Hey, wait a minute: isn’t Elton going to be at the “Lestat” opening, since he wrote the music? Talk about double booking!

“Lestat,” of course, was postponed from an earlier date because it wasn’t ready. It still isn’t ready, trust me. Elton, stick with the Foundation dinner. You’ll be singing “someone saved my life tonight” for real!

…Last night, "The Sopranos" killed off Rusty, played by the legendary Frankie Valli. I’m told Frankie has his own tale of Broadway woe, and that one may be heard soon. In the meantime, the episode was a hilarious goof on Hollywood, complete with an inside look at a “luxury lounge” for stars and special appearances by Lauren Bacall and Ben Kingsley. A couple of hit men came from Italy, did their job and returned with goods they were able to afford, thanks to the favorable rate of exchange on the Euro.

Not only that: two of the show’s least used, best actors — John Ventimiglia and Kathy Narducci, as Artie and Charmaine Bucco — were featured in a great way. As the show comes to an end, I like that creator David Chase is letting all of his supporting players get to make grand curtain calls. Now, if only we find out what happened to Furio (Federico Castellucci). Marone! But the rabbit touch was nice, David...