Brad wrote a well thought out and concise article about why Viacom’s (owner of Paramount) decision to cut ties with Tom Cruise was a poor one. Initially I felt the same way, why would they dump one of the biggest stars in history, and in such a public manner too? But I’ve considered it further and I now have plenty of factors that point to a clear verdict: Dumping Cruise was the best course of action.
The financials and the public quotes around the story have already been broken down so I’m going to assume you know the particulars and just get into why Viacom made the only move it could have. Here are my theories:
Viacom/Paramount knows more than we do. It’s hard to imagine that a billion dollar conglomerate would operate in the dark on this one. They MUST have hundreds of sources within the industry, and with those they could tell the minute by minute pulse of Cruise. We all think that the Science is the main sticking point, but what if it is the tip of the iceberg? What if Cruise really is sacrificing goats? If the other shoe drops in a few months Viacom will look brilliant dropping captain insano and his ten million per year price tag.
Cruise’s deal was unique, precedent setting, and foolish. Why give ten million dollars to “develop” films? Just sign Cruise to a seven picture deal, paid for each picture, and pocket the change. Now clearly Viacom/Paramount didn’t do either, but if Cruise presented them an “All or nothing” proposition they wouldn’t have had a choice. I will admit that parting ways in such a fashion, with an old codger rambling about Cruise and career suicide was the wrong way to broach the subject no matter what the reason, but that doesn’t mean the decision was wrong too.
It was planned. Okay, this is a stretch, and puts me right into “magic bullet” territory, but what if this whole thing was orchestrated? Cruise needs to be an underdog pronto; his crazy image is the one people know about right now. What if Cruise’s reps knew the deal was over and knew that the Viacom head was prone to poor public speaking? The rest would have been as easy as pie. Tell the Washington Journal to be at a party Redstone was attending on the eave of the announcement, ask for a quote, and let the sparks fly. I know this is far fetched, but if you had hundreds of millions of dollars at your disposal couldn’t you come up with something clever like this? Now Cruise can make his “back in the ring” movie with a chance of success. He’s officially got something to prove, and he has the studio to thank for that.
They already own all of his projects. That’s right folks, they’ve got contracts in place for a myriad of projects that were developed while he was under the Paramount umbrella. Now, admittedly negotiations on those projects could get testy Paramount has the legal high ground. It’s the old “why buy milk?” theory. Cruise going forward has the rights to a Hurricane Katrina project but that’s about it. He’ll either have to start over, star in Paramount films, or try to wrangle the rights to every project of his Paramount owns. Clearly, Paramount still comes out of this with a ton of assets only know they don’t have to worry about bad Cruise pub or paying him to develop films.
The Spielberg Factor. Steven Spielberg and Cruise have been the best of pals for the past decade but rumors have circulated that their relationship was on the downslide. Seeing the callous way Cruise was treated you’d have to think Spielberg didn’t lift a finger to help his old pal Tommy. Isn’t it reasonable to think that if Spielberg was on line one telling you if you didn’t re-sign Cruise he wouldn’t deal with Paramount any longer a deal would’ve gotten done? Paramount might have seen this reluctance on Spielberg’s part as an indication things weren’t right in CruiseLand. If Spielberg hinted at no longer making films with Cruise… Well, the writing would be on the wall wouldn’t it?
So there you have it, five solid reasons (or maybe four) that the studio made the right call on a former icon. Paramount might have in fact been the canary in the coal mine. If Cruise’s career really is gasping for air then being the first one out might have been a stroke of genius.