Tom Cruise’s "Valkyrie" has been pulled apart like warm bread. As I said last week, it’s toast.
Actually, "Valkyrie," one of the worst ideas for a film ever, has been postponed again for release. Now instead of an October release date, the Nazi assassination plot film gets knocked to Presidents' Weekend, 2009.
It’s not only Presidents' Weekend, but it’s also Valentine’s Day on that Saturday. That means MGM/UA is expecting audiences to go to a violent nearly all-male (and over-30-male, to boot) film about heroic Nazis who get themselves murdered by Hitler. The female audience will not want to see it.
How do you say it? Auf wiedersehen.
But if "Valkyrie" is moved again, where can it go? The studio would really just have the Valentine’s date through the middle of April. That’s when the summer films start kicking in — for 2009, already, remember, that’s a year from now!
And that Valentine’s date is tricky for other reasons. It’s the weekend before the Academy Awards, when audiences presumably will be catching up at the last minute on Oscar fare from — possibly — Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in "Benjamin Button" to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Revolutionary Road" to Winslet and Ralph Fiennes in "The Reader."
"Valkyrie" suffers from a number of other problematic issues. For one, it simply is not marketable no matter what day it arrives. With one exception, the characters all are men. And the lone female, Carice van Houten, is foreign.
With the women gone from the box office, there’s also the question of fielding a Jewish audience. You can scratch most of them from the potential ticket buyers as well.
What were these otherwise smart people — Paula Wagner, Cruise — thinking? Possibly, the idea was to ingratiate Cruise to Germans who denounce Scientology. Maybe. But the idea hasn’t worked. It was a bad idea from the get-go and it’s only gotten worse. The trailer is one of the best laughs ever, as we’ve discussed in this space ad nauseum.
Cruise, it seems, has just taken one bad step after another in the last couple of years. This is unfortunate. Before he lost his mind in public in 2005, he had a good reputation and was a solid actor. In some movies he surprised us: "Jerry Maguire" is his crown gem, but he was good enough to score Oscar nominations for "Born on the Fourth of July" and "Magnolia," too.
But "Valkyrie" was one of those films where someone should have said "No." And no one did.
As of last week, director Bryan Singer still expected to shoot four more scenes with a disbanded cast including a big war/action sequence that sets up the film but still doesn’t exist. "Valkyrie" already has cost $90 million and should hit $100 million before it’s done. That doesn’t include the marketing costs, which will add on a good $50 million.
The money is another issue. United Artists’ deal with MGM and Merrill Lynch called for making four to five films a year. So far they’ve made and released one, Robert Redford’s "Lions for Lambs."
By many industry estimates, that gallant effort probably will lose a total of $50 million when all is said and done. It cost $43 million to make, grossed $57 million worldwide, and that doesn’t count marketing and prints. And it’s not like today’s DVD release will help much: Amazon.com lists it around No. 50.
The other part of the money equation is Merrill Lynch. So far its foray into film financing has been a spectacular bust.
A year ago, the bank announced a pool to fund Summit Entertainment releases that ultimately went bad such as "Penelope," "The Hottie and the Nottie," "PS I Love You" and "Love in the Time of Cholera." It is backing a Nicolas Cage thriller in production called "Knowing."
Merrill Lynch had better luck with "Disturbia," a $20 million film that grossed $80 million domestically. It was part of its fund called Melrose I at Paramount.
But sources say the "Lions" loss and the continuing problems with "Valkyrie" have made the bank uneasy, to say the least.
And then there’s the "Valkyrie" central issue of its plot: I’m told a lot of the film takes place between Cruise’s Col. Claus von Stauffenberg’s failed assassination of Hitler and the time when he’s caught and killed himself. So you can tell, we’re already drifting away from the premise to a kind of action film.
But action films — with big chases — usually end with the hero triumphing or escaping. Von Stauffenberg was executed. This means that no matter what tricks Singer can come up with for Cruise, in the end, he gets it.
Remember when the Germans wouldn’t let Cruise film at the Bendlerblock House, now a memorial? (They finally gave in.) That’s the place where von Stauffenberg and friends were executed.
Tom Cruise has millions of dollars, lots of homes and cars. He doesn’t need my advice. But it’s time to get back to being charming, smiling that big toothy grin that glistens with success. He needs another "Jerry Maguire"-like romantic comedy, and he needs it now.
Carole King — the genius musical composer who wrote hit after hit in the 1960s ("Up on the Roof," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow") then scored as a performer with "Tapestry" and other albums in the 1970s — once was a desperate housewife with a secret.
Journalist Sheila Weller reveals in her book, "Girls Like Us," just released by Atria/Simon & Schuster, that King suffered in silence during her marriage to songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin.
Weller was feted with a media-heavy launch party Monday night at the Waverly Inn that drew Vanity Fair chief Graydon Carter and famed musician Danny Kortchmar, the man who introduced King to James Taylor and him to Carly Simon and maybe all of them to Joni Mitchell. That tangled web also is explained in "Girls Like Us," a superb, compelling page-turner for any music fan from the '60s and '70s.
But it’s King’s story that’s an eye-opener. Pregnant with her first child at 17, King married Goffin (he was the father, and 22). Singer Louise Goffin was born in 1960. Their second child, Sherry, came three years later.
In 1964, however, Goffin fathered another little girl via an affair with Jeanie McRae, a married singer from the Cookies, an R&B group for whom he and Carole wrote hits.
Not only did King not kick out Goffin right away — they didn’t divorce until 1968 — but the couple wrote a song for McRae that Herman’s Hermits eventually turned into a hit. It was called "I’m Into Something Good." I am not kidding.
King and Goffin, of course, are all the time champs of American hits, one of a handful of Brill Building writing teams responsible for the "canon" of songs that is the basis for what we now call "pop classics."
After their divorce, however, they each went on to marry many times. Goffin never got relationships right. Around 1995, he and his then-wife were at each other’s throats. One time, they called this reporter at New York magazine from different rooms in the same house, threatening to kill each other. They’re divorced now, too.
Hit songwriters — very high-strung, I guess!
The reminiscing continues for the wonderful and much-missed Anthony Minghella ... I’m told the prolific Minghella did some work on the script for the upcoming Rob Marshall movie musical, "Nine," which could star Javier Bardem with a bevy of beauties including Penelope Cruz and Judi Dench. …
… "Monkee" Micky Dolenz has agreed to perform two of his many hits at Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt’s annual We Are Family Foundation dinner on April 28. The dinner honors Patti Labelle, Deepak Chopra, and Gibson Guitars’ generous Henry Juszkiewicz. …
… Two of the good guys in the music biz, Norman Chesky and his brother, David, have skillfully guided their Chesky Records for audiophile recordings into the 21st century. Their latest off-shoot is HDTracks.com.
"HDtracks is a digital music store offering CD quality downloads with complete PDF liner notes," Norm writes.
"We are partnered with a growing number of independent labels and distributors to bring you a vast selection of quality recordings from around the world. HDtracks is the first digital music site created by music lovers for music lovers."