Saturday, 29 March 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #75: Cruise-ing Back to Paramount

The eerily accurate Nikki Finke reports a pending peace treaty between Tom Cruise and Paramount made over a penitent dinner between the actor and Viacom honcho Sumner Redstone.

This comes at a time when Paramount is set to lose independent juggernaut Dreamworks SKG when its contract runs out and is hungry for the sort of franchise that Cruise and Mission: Impossible could provide.

Now while Tom's last Paramount film M:I3 made around $400 million around the world, it failed to make a profit (real or imagined) due to a massive budget, that went even bigger due to, according to many reports, the antics of its leading man. Tens of millions more were spent to market the film, digging an even deeper hole.

Tom is currently co-head with his manager Paula Wagner o
f the near moribund United Artist label for MGM, and so far things aren't looking up. Cruise's rather cynical attempt to win back the hearts of Hollywood's elite, the anti-war flick Lions for Lambs, only alienated the people whose opinions really mattered-- the general public. His next film, Valkyrie, is plagued with stories of production problems, budget overages, and a generally negative aura around the project despite the heroism of the source material.

Now if I was head of Paramount, I would think twice before bringing back Tom Cruise to revive Mission: Impossible. I'd reboot the whole franchise with a whole new star. My first choice would be Robert Downey
Jr. His upcoming Paramount film Iron Man, has a lot of positive buzz with it and looks like it's going to be a big summer blockbuster. He also has something that Tom Cruise doesn't have: public goodwill. He's a classic comeback story, transforming from a talented, but tragic Hollywood train wreck, into a hard working actor. Americans love hard working comeback kids, plus, he hasn't humiliated himself in public with antics that keep late night comedians, and sketch shows with fresh material.

Plus, he will be waaaay cheaper than Cruise, and you'll be able to have a script built around the ensemble of the Mission: Impossible team rather than centring almost exclusively on the "star."

But I don't think they'll go for it. It might take a willingness to gamble that I don't think Paramount has right now.

Now I see an opportunity for MGM and the team that's seeking to revive the studio. They could trade Cruise back to Paramount, at Hollywood's equivalent of Checkpoint Charlie, which I think is outside Spago's. I suggest tossing in the Weinstein Company distribution deal in as well as a parting gift. Then MGM should lure the disaffected Dreamworks SKG people to defect over the wall to MGM, for a more equitable and profitable partnership via United Artists.

This will give MGM/UA the commercially viable productions it needs to fill its release schedule and generate revenue while they basically rebuild the company from scratch.

That's my 2 cents.


  1. I like your thinking, and let's go further.

    What does every studio need?

    Material. Most Hollywood writers are both incestous and run a closed shop, based on nepotism, and creatively bankrupt, Hollywood's money and social isolation being very destructive to writers. See Paul Haggis, Steven Gaghan, etc.

    What material could UA use? How about a Comic Book Universe? One neither Marvel, DC, and one that comes CHEAP?

    Valiant's universe had both good characters and might (or might not be) had for cheap. Shadowman among the ruins of New Orleans? Or Solar, Man of the Atom? Magnus Robot Fighter? Teen tragic superheros Harbingers? Eternal Warrior? X-O Man o War? Bloodshot? Ninjack? Great characters, like Spawn, and original. Not just more Superman clones.

    If not Valiant, Dark Horse. X, Hero Zero, Ghost, King Tyger, Titan, Vortex, Motor Head (Barb Wire was not done right, a real actress who took it seriously could do well), and of course Catalyst Agents of Change.

    Or there's Malibu, with Hardcase, Firearm (average guy with gun up against supertypes), Solitaire, Prime, Freex, Strangers, etc.

    You can build a whole stable of relatively cheap, Summer actioners, without any anti-American stuff. Cater to young men like Disney does to tween girls. Enchanted was genius in how it was done, but you can't find material like that anywhere.

    Comics great explosion in the late 80's and early 90's has produced tons of material. No need to go but expensive stuff from Marvel or DC. Dark Horse is probably the best bet, but Marvel might sell the Malibu line rights for film. Valiant might be trickier but could work.

  2. Dark Horse just signed a deal with Universal, so they're out of the running, so to speak. But I can see where you're going with this.

    MGM/UA could make a deal with one of those companies, or with a co-operative of creators, like the ones at Image, with a deal that involves modest up-front money, and no screwing with the profits.

    It's nice to see people thinking outside the box.

  3. Thanks Furious. I'd forgotten about the DH deal. I imagine that we will be seeing some cinematic characters like Ghost and X fairly soon.

    The best Comics are very cinematic. Hollywood's other big problem is their lack of material. Apatow is merely talented, not genius. I can't understand why John Hughes is not having money thrown at him to make more movies.

  4. A bit late and off the topic on hand. I've just watched a fine 1952 film called "The Bad and the Beautiful" in which a producer thought that maybe, he should make a film all by himself to truly show everyone how amazing his vision really was. Unlike reality like the mess over in Newline, after watching it fully edited, he knew he had made a stinking pile of crap and shelved it before it hit the theaters.

    Makes you wonder how it would of turned out if those real idiots realized the massive error on their part and not steer so frivolously into another waiting box office bomb after another. paramount will learn and ignore again this one true follies in that business.