MEMO TO: Tom Cruise.
You seem to be living at a remarkably high decibel level for someone who’s recently been fired, Tom. Paramount may not want you, but filmmakers all over town are submitting projects for your approval as the new co-head of United Artists and you’ve just greenlighted one of them, co-starring Meryl Streep and (who else) Tom Cruise. Further, there’s more buzz surrounding your wedding than there was around the release of “Mission: Impossible III.”
And the CEOs of all the congloms (including Paramount’s Brad Grey) have signed on to co-host a big charity dinner honoring you, as though to reinforce the question, “Why would anyone fire Tom Cruise?”
Since you continue to be at the center of the storm, Tom, I thought I’d pursue my policy of offering unsolicited advice about the conduct of your career and the rebirthing of United Artists:
- Your fans, Tom, want you to turn off Cruise Control. Actors and filmmakers who have worked with you in the past testify that you’re both considerate and supportive as a colleague, not the manic control freak depicted by the media. In presiding over your new company, it’s more important than ever to foster a kinder and gentler Tom Cruise who creates a positive presence in the community.
- Both you and your producing partner, Paula Wagner, are closely identified with the Power Establishment, which can be a strength. Remember, however, that UA in its banner days under Arthur Krim and David Picker built its reputation by welcoming mavericks and outsiders. Tony Richardson was hardly a hot Hollywood director when Picker signed him for “Tom Jones” (which won an Oscar). Similarly, the James Bond books had been sitting on the shelf for a few years before UA mobilized the franchise.
- In its prime, starting in the ’60s, UA fostered brilliantly idiosyncratic niche films rather than tentpole pictures. During your Paramount deal, Tom and Paula, you clearly tried to sandwich provocative fare between your “Mission: Impossible” pictures, but both “Ask the Dust” and “Elizabethtown” turned out to be cutting edge without the edge. Was it that your “Mission” projects sucked all the energy out of the company?
- The major talents, and their reps, by and large, believe that the studios are scaling back both in marketing and dealmaking: Witness that “Borat” became a hero at Fox, but his next movie was set up at Universal. Or that Martin Scorsese made his biggest hit at Warner Bros., but now has closed an overall deal at Paramount. Talent is looking for love and loyalty, Tom. You’re in an excellent position to provide the nurture.
- The last few years of your career, Tom, have provided reinforcement for the notion that stars should avoid providing TMI — too much information. The studios of old used to shield the private lives of their stars from public scrutiny. Whatever details we learned were usually phony — even bios were dreamed up in the offices of press agents. So remember, Tom, your fans don’t need to know about the teachings of Scientology. I’ve had many friends over the years who were Quakers or Mormons, but they never shared their doctrinal epiphanies with me. Try thinking like them, Tom. They’re nice people, too.
Now you might very well ask, “Who are you to give me advice, especially about United Artists?” That’s a good question, Tom, but I would offer the following: I was once the nominal head of UA during its darkest days in the late ’80s. I say “nominal” because UA, at the time, had been stripped of its identity. A percentage of MGM releases were arbitrarily assigned to UA without thought of style or subject matter. As a member of the MGM management team, it was my job to nurture them.
MGM’s new hierarch, Harry Sloan, wants to change all that, and I hope you will help him bring it off.
And, yes, the time may come when you, too, may have to fire someone. I know you’ll think twice, or three times, about it.