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Tom Cruise Roars Back with a Mission to Head United Artists

Tom Cruise is back.

Take that, Sumner Redstone.

The Hollywood superstar, who was unceremoniously dumped in August by Paramount Studios — and whose Scientology-based beliefs were belittled by Redstone — was named Thursday to run United Artists, the film studio founded nearly 90 years ago by Hollywood legends Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.

Cruise and business partner Paula Wagner, who will serve as chief executive of the company, will join Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. in the deal that includes Cruise appearing in and producing UA films.

He also will be allowed to star in films from rival studios, MGM officials said.

The development is a major comeback for Cruise and Wagner, who lost their 14-year producing deal at Paramount Studios after Redstone, chairman of Paramount parent company Viacom Inc., blamed Cruise's public antics for hurting the box office performance of "Mission:Impossible III."

Cruise reportedly earned Paramount upwards of $1 billion over the course of their relationship, but the $133 million that "Mission: Impossible III" brought in at the domestic box office was far below industry expectations.

Some Hollywood pundits have blamed Cruise's devotion to Scientology and his criticism of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs as the reason his box-office value declined.

"He was embarrassing the studio. And he was costing us a lot of money," Redstone said in the upcoming December issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Redstone's wife, Paula, reportedly was behind the decision not to renew Paramount's megabucks deal with Cruise's production company.

"Paula, like women everywhere, had come to hate him. The truth of the matter is, I did listen to her . . ." Redstone told Vanity Fair. "His behavior was entirely unacceptable to Paula and to the rest of the world. He just didn't turn one [woman] off. He turned off all women, and a lot of men."

Redstone called "Mission: Impossible III" "... the best picture of the three, and it did the worst."

Cruise/Wagner Productions said then that it had secured financing from two unidentified hedge funds to back future projects.

MGM said Thursday that Cruise and Wagner have taken an ownership interest in UA, but did not specify financial terms.

The pair will have full control of the production slate, which is expected to be four films a year, MGM said.

Cruise's last appearance in a UA film was in "Rain Man" in 1988, which won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.

United Artists was founded in 1919 by Chaplin, Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. The studio operated as an artist-centered company for decades, churning out such hits as "Some Like it Hot" and a string of James Bond films, starting with 1962's "Dr. No."

In 1967 the company was sold to Transamerica, which owned it until 1981 when it was bought by MGM. In 1980, the studio released one of the most notorious flops in movie history, "Heaven's Gate."

In 2004, MGM was bought by a consortium that includes Sony Corp., Comcast Corp. and private equity companies Providence Equity Partners Inc., Texas Pacific Group and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners.

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