You may or may not have heard: last week Tom Cruise and his former boss, Sumner Redstone, broke bread. They had lunch some 18 months after Redstone didn’t pick up Cruise’s contract as on-lot producer.
The reason was that Redstone had had enough of Cruise the couch-jumping Scientologist who berated Matt Lauer on the "Today" show. That was in addition to the strange Katie Holmes courtship and marriage and so on.
But now I am told that a renewed Paramount deal for Cruise and a possible “Mission: Impossible 4” are not so likely. For one thing, sources tell me it was Cruise who called Redstone, not the other way around. Things, you see, have not gone so well.
Since Cruise’s departure, he’s made the terrible box-office flop "Lions for Lambs" under his new deal with MGM/United Artists. More importantly, if Redstone allows Cruise back, he will be returning after the release this fall of "Valkyrie," in which he plays Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the real-life would-be assassin of Adolf Hitler, with an eye patch, a withered limb and — according to the $100 million film’s trailer — a California accent reminiscent of Jerry Maguire.
"Valkyrie" is a set up for not only failure, but ridicule. Take for example this line of dialogue that is spoken to Cruise/Claus by one of his Nazi associates: “When the SS catches you they will pull you apart like warm bread.” (Translation: he’ll be toast.)
The Valkyrie trailer already shows what a misguided idea this movie is. A description of the film’s story ends with the words “He Must Kill Hitler Himself.” Unless director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie have completely changed history, the actual story is not quite that: not only did von Stauffenberg botch the assassination plot, but then he was killed by Hitler.
Even more damaging to Cruise’s career already this year were the Scientology videos that popped up this winter following publication of Andrew Morton’s scathing biography of the diminutive former box-office draw. The videos show Cruise touting Scientology, proclaiming himself to be a kind of superhero and accepting an award in 2004. The eeriest clip can be found on YouTube.
The videos prompted dozens of parodies all over the Internet, all mocking Cruise. It’s not clear if he could be accepted again as an action hero, someone the audience is willing to root for, after being the butt of so many jokes.
The fact that Cruise groveled in public with Redstone would indicate that the actor knows just how bad "Valkyrie" is and that he’s trying to shore up his future before the eye patch hits the fan this fall. Certainly, a signed $20 million contract from Paramount would be insurance against this unavoidable disaster destroying his career.
It also begs the question about Cruise’s career agenda as it stands now. Beyond "Valkyrie," he’s filmed a cameo in Ben Stiller’s "Tropic Thunder" wearing a fat suit. A preview of the film received a tepid response at aintitcoolnews.com — it’s a movie within a movie, always a bad concept as inside jokes go for the general audience.
He’s also attached to a comedy called "Men" to be directed by the less-than-elegant Todd Phillips (“Old School,” “Starsky and Hutch”). With yet another ill-conceived Ben Stiller project festering — “The Hardy Men” — it’s clear someone has decided this is Tom Cruise’s future. It’s paralyzing to think someone may have plotted this for him.
And it’s not like Cruise will find a lot of support at Paramount for his insta-return. Sources say that while the new folks running the studio would like to revive “Mission: Impossible,” they’ve been thinking more of a new young star, or an "M:I" team the way it was originally portrayed in the TV series.
“Would I like to do Mission: Impossible”? asked one Paramount exec rhetorically. “Yes, but not starring Tom Cruise.”
At Sunday night's premiere of the Rolling Stones film “Shine a Light,” I did get to ask around some more about the missing lyrics from at least two controversial songs.
On Friday, I told you that both “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Some Girls” were missing lyrics. Originally it was thought that this was because the movie was shot in front of an audience that included Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
But one source attached to the film insisted it was to get the film down to a PG-13 rating. IMAX, which is showing “Shine a Light,” couldn’t have taken an R rated film. Certainly, older teens would have been eliminated from the box office if the group and director Martin Scorsese had kept a couplet from “Some Girls” in which Mick Jagger sings about African-American women wanting to have sex with him all night. Oh, no no no.
So we get “Shine a Light” with family-friendly Rolling Stones. There are still a few little jabs, and Jagger still sings the line about getting “a dose” in “Some Girls.” The song “Loving Cup” is certainly no nursery rhyme, either.
The audience at the Ziegfeld premiere was mostly composed of media heavies. Few actual celebs showed, with the exception of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Carla Gugino, Gina Gershon and Kelly Lynch with screenwriter husband Mitch Glazer.
Otherwise, it was a heavy turnout of Paramount brass including Brad Grey, John Lesher and Brad Weston to support Scorsese. The latter flew in from Boston, introduced the film and zipped right back to continue shooting “Shutter Island.”
There were parties before and after the “Shine a Light” screening. The pre-event was held at Michael’s sponsored by Variety. While everyone waited for the Stones, we chatted with directors Barry Levinson and Brett Ratner. I also finally got to meet Pattie Boyd Harrison Clapton, who came as one of Ronnie Wood’s guests. She was delightful, funny, charming.
Later, the “Shine a Light” invited audience split into two groups. Grey took his — all of the Stones, etc. — down to a new private club a la Soho House called the Norwood at 241 W. 14th St.
Meanwhile, savvy producer Steve Bing had his guests dine in splendor at the old Le Cirque space in the New York Palace Hotel, where legendary doc maker Albert Maysles and miscellaneous members of the Stones like bass player Darryl Jones — who joined the group 14 years ago — were able to chow down in style. Eventually, at least Ron Wood showed up at the Palace and joined the big party.
And what about “Shine a Light”? After a second viewing, I think it’s a little too long — maybe a good 20 minutes. But it’s composed of riveting performances. This time I really enjoyed Keith Richards’ section, which has the only present-day interview material intercut with his solo leads. I wish the movie had more interview Q&A, particularly with Jagger. But I’m told that simply was not possible.
The audience at the premiere gave the Stones a standing ovation when they were introduced — a rarity at the Ziegfeld. The movie got huge applause at the end, and lots of clapping, singing along and waves of vocal approval during songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Start Me Up.”
There was a lot of laughter during the opening bits with the Clintons, especially Keith Richards’ hilarious aside to the camera: “Clintie, you’ve been Bushed!” The look on Charlie Watts’ face is priceless when he’s told he has to greet the ex-prez’s 30 guests.
“Shine a Light,” though, may do a lot to save or revive real R&B/blues-based rock played with real instruments by actual musicians. (It’s funny that it comes in the same week as REM’s powerhouse comeback rock album).
Jagger is outstanding, and the band is shown in its intimate working order. I think kids who see this film will understand what rock 'n' roll is maybe for the first time in this generation. If they really "get" it, then Justin Timberlake-Timbaland and the whole processed cheese of sampled derivative pop will seem pointless to them. I can dream, can’t I?