Published May 07, 2006
"Mission: Impossible 3" had a tough weekend: The total take, according to boxofficemojo.com, came to $48 million. And this was a wide, wide release: More than 4,000 theaters unreeled Tom Cruise and company’s latest adventure if you wanted to see it. The problem, it seems, is that a lot of people didn’t.
How to measure the "M:I:3" opening weekend? Last year, "War of the Worlds," Cruise’s last movie, earned $64.8 million on its opening. The number of theaters was comparable.
In 2000, "Mission: Impossible 2," in 400 fewer theaters, did $58 million. The first "Mission: Impossible," back in 1996, took in $45 million, but in a thousand fewer theaters.
Statisticians will argue that the other two "M:I" movies opened on Memorial Day weekend, and that this one didn’t have the additional day. But the "War of the Worlds" numbers speak for themselves.
So what happened? I told you some months ago that Cruise’s name had started popping up in sitcoms as a punch line. He was described as “creepy” or “scary.” When a star’s legacy enters the public vernacular, it had better be as “cool” or “hip.”
Cruise’s bizarre behavior beginning one year ago did him no favors. And it wasn’t just Scientology: John Travolta, for example, retains his “cool” status and he also belongs to that group.
But Cruise’s actions — especially his “takeover” of Katie Holmes, a warmly regarded teen TV star thanks to countless reruns of “Dawson’s Creek” — backfired on him in every direction. Yes, people were upset that he was against psychiatry and pharmacological drugs.
Taking on another benign, beloved star, Brooke Shields, over motherhood only compounded the trouble. And the fact that Cruise was never repentant for anything he said, never gave in, never seemed “human,” finally made the foundation of his carefully crafted career start to crack wide open.
“Mission: Impossible 3” is not a dud or a flop. With worldwide sales, DVD and cable, it should probably turn a profit. Lucky for Cruise, director J.J. Abrams, coming from television, knew how to make an economical machine. But $20 million off from the “War” opening would be enough to make most stars grab a Zoloft and begin a heavy re-evaluation.
What, if anything, does private investigator Anthony Pellicano know about Universal Pictures president Ron Meyer that could embarrass the studio chief?
That's the question people have been asking all week since the story of Meyer's frequent jailhouse visits to Pellicano and their odd friendship have been revealed in The New York Times.
The answer may be a police report filed in Malibu in 1988 but never pursued. The report, made on Oct. 27, 1988, was made by Meyer's then-girlfriend Cyndy Garvey charging "spousal assault." It's a nasty report, with a police sergeant detailing Garvey's many bruises and wounds.
Even though the report was never followed up on, its mere existence is of interest. First of all, it's hard to get. The Malibu police department was not computerized in 1988. There was no publicity about the incident either. Second, on its face, it looks true. Without checking it fully, the accusations would seem terrible and substantial.
At the time, Meyer was a partner with Michael Ovitz in Creative Artists Agency. He told me in an interview today that after the incident he went to Ovitz, who immediately hired Hollywood attorney Howard Weitzman to handle the matter.
Weitzman, of course, was the man who'd brought Pellicano to Hollywood several years earlier in the John DeLorean case. It's likely, then, that Weitzman used Pellicano as an investigator in the matter.
Garvey — ex-wife of Los Angeles Dodgers star Steve Garvey — tells me she didn't pursue the case because she received a threatening phone call one night advising her to drop it.
But Garvey is not a reliable witness: she's been involved in several domestic abuse claims over the last 20 years, some resulting in litigation.
She's also been the subject of two damaging magazine articles that outline her odd behavior. A Los Angeles magazine story called "Look Who's Stalking" detailed her contentious relationship with a Los Angeles restaurateur. She wound up paying him $25,000 when he sued her for harassment.
In Garvey's police complaint in October 1988 against Meyer, she cited his neighbor, a man named Bilal Baroody, as a witness. The police state in the report that they couldn't reach Baroody and that was the end of it.
In 1997, Meyer says he loaned Baroody — a man supposedly of substantial wealth — $300,000. Subsequently, Meyer, according to sources, complained to Pellicano that he couldn't get his money back because Baroody had vanished.
Two years later, according to Pellicano's federal indictment, the jailed P.I. illegally ran a police background check on Baroody, who was then in a dispute with another Pellicano client, the late attorney Ed Masry.
Baroody remains a mysterious figure in this story. In 1992, he was celebrated on the floor of Congress by California Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally as a model citizen worthy of respect.
Dymally cited Baroody's business dealings with producer Dick Clark and his contributions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art.
But today, Baroody is merely a distant memory to his Los Angeles friends. According to people I've spoken with, he now lives abroad.
The episode in Malibu would also be a distant memory if the Pellicano case hadn't revived it.
According to sources, both Meyer's and Garvey's recollections of the incident are similar to a point, then diverge into different outcomes.
She showed up at Meyer’s house in the middle of the night, and was out of control, “going at 100 miles an hour,” says a source.
Meyer slapped her almost as a defense, as she was "flailing away at him.”
Both parties apparently agree that Baroody’s driver drove her home, and Meyer followed in his car to make sure she got there. They each agree that a female friend of Meyer’s who was staying in house witnessed everything.
But the police report is graphic, including a swollen and bruised eye and cheek. Could the slapping have caused that?
"I don't think so," said Meyer, who was interviewed by the police subsequently. "Anything like that she would have done to herself."
Another ex-boyfriend of Garvey says she has a history of self-inflicted bruises. Either way, the matter was then dropped.
Could Pellicano have made the matter “go away,” I wondered? Says Weitzman: "I do not believe Anthony Pellicano had any impact on the results of the investigation into Ms. Garvey's allegations. I personally talked with the Sheriff's investigator and the District Attorney reviewing her assertions, and was told that after they interviewed Ms. Garvey and other witnesses they did not believe there were sufficient facts to charge Mr. Meyer with any wrongdoing. Any inference that Mr. Pellicano was responsible for charges not being filed is just wrong."
Weitzman, however, did concede that it was likely that Pellicano interviewed the witnesses on Weitzman’s behalf. He could easily have intercepted the police report — and banked it for future use.
And that police report could have been devastating to Meyer if it had fallen into the wrong hands back then. Without an explanation of Garvey’s litigious history and false previous and subsequent claims against boyfriends, Meyer could have been severely hurt, at least professionally.
He's been in charge of Universal since a nasty corporate divorce from Ovitz in 1995. Over the years, the two have had a few public run-ins. Meyer, like other CAA execs, has done much to distance himself from his vengeful former partner. According to reports, Ovitz has felt hurt and abandoned by people whom he made rich and powerful early in their careers.
Was the Garvey matter on Ovitz's mind when he told Pellicano, according to the Times piece, to get "embarrassing information" about Meyer in case he caused trouble for Ovitz?
Ovitz knew the Garvey story; Pellicano no doubt did, too. Sources tell me that Ovitz probably used Pellicano to spy on everyone he worked with, at CAA and then at Disney, during his short tenure there in 1995-96.
"All I know is, he knew a lot about everyone," says a Disney source. "The people there were very intimidated. How would you like it if someone came to you with a folder about all the things you'd done in your life?"