Tom Cruise Bids for Comeback in Knight and Day

by Anne Thompson
June 23, 2010 11:43 AM
6 Comments
  • |

Thompson on Hollywood
My latest career watch column takes on the fascinating case of one-time mega-star Tom Cruise, who has fallen on hard times in recent years and bids for a major comeback in the summer popcorn action comedy Knight and Day, which opens June 23. What will it take to turn this career around? Here's a taste:

Latest Misfire: After Viacom's mercurial CEO Sumner Redstone terminated Cruise and long-time producing partner Paula Wagner's 14-year Paramount deal in the wake of 'Mission: Impossible III''s disheartening box office -- which returned more cash to Cruise than the studio -- the power duo took over MGM's sister studio United Artists. They went on to release two back-to-back flops starring Cruise.

Even with director Robert Redford and Meryl Streep co-starring, the dead-earnest $35 million war drama 'Lions for Lambs' was a critical and audience failure in 2007 (grossing $15 million stateside and $63 million worldwide). UA pushed back Bryan Singer's $90-million World War II thriller 'Valkyrie' in order to do costly reshoots. Cruise was less than convincing as an American-accented German Army officer who joins a failed plot to assassinate Hitler, and UA's marketing campaign never recovered from portraits of Cruise in full military regalia and eye patch. After the film opened in December 2008, grossing less than $200 million worldwide, MGM parted ways with Wagner and sidelined UA.

Biggest Problem: Cruise, who will be 48 on July 3, has to be the smartest guy in the room. As long as he was repped by PR doyenne Pat Kingsley, Cruise was invulnerable, protected from overexposure -- and himself. But his desire to express his views on Scientology -- the religion introduced to him by his first wife, Mimi Rogers -- clashed with Kingsley's views, and they parted ways around the release of 'The Last Samurai.' After he hired his sister to do his PR, with no handler pulling back the reins, Mr. Know-It-All emerged. He advocated Scientology over modern medicine, disapproved of anti-depressant drugs, and expressed his ardent love for Katie Holmes by jumping on Oprah's couch. Five years later, that image still haunts him.

The same testosterone energy that fueled Cruise's perfectionist performances turned many fans away. Now, studios no longer offer Cruise $20 million against 20 percent of the first-dollar gross. Other movie stars land roles that were once packaged for him. Ignominiously, he saw his lead role in 'Salt' go to Angelina Jolie, and another movie fell apart that was set to star him as a U.S. president. Many moviegoers actively avoid Cruise, who has come to represent the worst excesses of the studio system. "Almost everything Tom Cruise ever does seems 100 percent forced and artificial -- phony -- to me," says one industry observer.

Biggest Assets: No matter how much audiences resist the real Cruise, he is still a formidable big-screen star capable of playing comedy, drama, hero or villain. His masculine presence, athletic prowess -- he fearlessly performs many of his own stunts -- and charm are all on display in 'Knight & Day,' James Mangold's send-up of summer action capers, in which he stars as a renegade spy who falls in love with every-girl Cameron Diaz. Although both stars are in fine comedic form, advance tracking was weak ahead of the film's June 23 Wednesday release, moved up to give the movie time to build good word-of-mouth. Weekend sneaks bumped the numbers, but the film, which at press time ranked 60 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, could open well behind Adam Sandler's latest, 'Grown Ups.' But Cruise remains a huge draw overseas.


  • |

More: Genres, Headliners, Career Watch, Action, Tom Cruise

You might also like:

6 Comments

  • little margie | June 24, 2010 12:43 PMReply

    Gee I wonder what ever happened to Warren Beatty? Who?

  • Joe Valdez | June 24, 2010 5:24 AMReply

    I can't argue with a single criticism that's been leveled against Tom Cruise the celebrity -- his sister handling his PR is up there with New Coke -- but it's clearly become trendy to pick on him.

    If Cruise fell off his motorcycle next week the web would be flooded with stories about what a gifted actor he was, how many master filmmakers he went out of his way to work with, how he was one of the last movie stars in the business.

    In terms of his performances, more people love RISKY BUSINESS, TOP GUN, JERRY MAGUIRE, MAGNOLIA, EYES WIDE SHUT, MINORITY REPORT or even LEGEND than will admit it right now.

    No, I don't plan on paying money to see any of the man's movies in a theater anytime soon, but a lot of the hatin' just seems ingenuine to me.

  • Worked on Valkyrie | June 24, 2010 4:30 AMReply

    This is incorrect. UA did not push back Valkyrie for "reshoots" -- we didn't reshoot anything. We shot additional footage once the film had been cut together (including the opening desert sequence). Literally nothing was reshot. Furthermore, the studio moved the date to find the **right** one.. and $200M worldwide for a WWII conspiracy thriller (not an action movie) about the Germans starring a disfigured Tom Cruise is a pretty good result (and everyone at the studio was thrilled at the time). Lastly, Paula Wagner had moved on long before the film was released.

  • foxhd1986 | June 24, 2010 3:58 AMReply

    what comeback? he doesn't need one.
    stop judging actors by the amount of money their movies are making!
    if that is all that matters, then most of european actors and movies should not even exist.
    if that is all that matters, then it means that robert pattinson and miley cyrus are the best actors in the world (no freaking way)
    are you going to say that will smith needs a comeback also, just because seven pounds didn't make a lot of cash?
    or that christian bale has never shown any acting skills until the batman blockbuster?
    did nicolas cage needed a comeback after winning an oscar in a movie that only scored 35millions at the box office? do you really like to see him in awful films like ghost rider or knowing?
    and what about kenneth branagh? and what about all the great european and asian actors that never made a movie in hollywood? do they suck too?
    just cause tones of brain-washed weirdos went to see avatar and twilight (the type of movies that don't need you thinking and that are made just for freaking money) doesn't mean that they are more valuable (in terms of art) than lions for lambs.
    so maybe tom cruise is not the best actor in the world, but he's pretty damn close to being the one (no matter what the box office says).

  • Brian | June 24, 2010 3:17 AMReply

    I did not like the films Joe Valdez names, nor did I particularly care for Cruise's performances in them. Some of them were genuine crowd-pleasers, of course, so that's just me. I did like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2, COLLATERAL, and THE LAST SAMURAI a lot and thought Cruise was fine in them. I consider his smooth, sociopathic hitman in COLLATERAL to be his best performance ever. I'd like to see him play more roles like that. Say, a film noir-type drama in which he pairs off with a spectacular leading lady and gradually turns into a psychotic jealous/possessive lover-type. He'd be great in something like that. Or a remake of Hitchcock's SUSPICION, without the watered-down ending. Or historic roles like LAST SAMURAI and VALKYRIE. Now that he's gotten older and developed some seasoning, he could play more historical figures. I'd love to see him in a western. (But then, I'd love to see most good actors who are stars or near-stars today do westerns.)

  • Anne | June 24, 2010 1:01 AMReply

    Just don't see him as an interesting actor anymore or want to see his films. His best is in the past.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Academy Reveals Key Dates for the O ...
  • WATCH: It's All Hitting the Fan in New ...
  • This Weekend in Theaters, Johnny Depp ...
  • Pick Hit: Raunchy R-Rated Comedy 'Neighbors,' ...
  • Trailers from Hell on 'Pink Flamingos,' ...
  • WATCH: Trailer for 'Scandal' Star Tony ...
  • Friday Box Office: Sequels Beat New ...
  • HBO Renews 'Veep' and 'Silicon Vall ...
  • WATCH: Director Alexander Payne's Bizarre ...
  • Meron and Zadan Return for Third Round ...