Memo to: Tom Cruise
From: Peter Bart
You’re a guy who always likes to face the facts, Tom, so I imagine you’re confounded by the mixed messages surrounding “MI3.”
Here’s a movie that bows to a worldwide gross of $118 million, so you’re thinking, wow — that’s my biggest opening ever for a non-holiday. Yet, you wake up to a media blast labeling your film a disappointment, and suggesting that your audience has abandoned you.
So what the hell happened, Tom? Should you feel delighted or daunted?
Well, both, actually. First, the bright side: Despite the carping and despite a few weak openings, “MI3” is a major global hit. The second-week numbers show a decline consistent with most summer pictures, but your movie will make a lot of money for you and for Paramount (all the more so because, as usual, you’ve waived your salary in return for a big stake in the project).
Not only that, but the movie generally received favorable (occasionally lavish) reviews, which should be gratifying to you and to your long-term producing partner, Paula Wagner.
In view of all this, Tom, you might well ask, “Why did I get hammered?”
The answer: You steered into a perfect storm of Hollywood Havoc.
Consider the following:
- Data leaking from the various tracking services created expectations of opening-weekend domestic numbers vastly beyond the $48 million that was ultimately delivered. The scope and noise level of your global publicity blitz, Tom, further heightened this sense of hubris.
- When the true numbers came into view, anti-Cruise missiles suddenly filled the horizon. The blogs and media pundits were all hungry to be first with the news that “MI3” had misfired.
So you might wonder, why are they gunning for me? Well, the “they” breaks down into various sub-groups, so bear with me a moment.
Within the industry, there are many who relish the agonies of Paramount’s rebirth. It’s a form of hazing: The Paramount team is new to the studio; in some cases, they’re even new to the movie business. The old pros like to see them suffer a little. That’s why the negative buzz inside the industry is so viral.
Then there’s the issue of your own PR, Tom, and you don’t want to hear about this. No star supports his films with greater fervor, and you rightly receive plaudits for this, but even when you steer clear of Oprah’s couch, you still manage to say all the wrong things.
You become Tom Terrific, the man with all the answers. You know all there is to know about religion, parenting and childbirth. You’ve surely solved the “Da Vinci Code.” You’re a good guy in private, Tom, but a pain in public.
Cut to another era, Tom: When I was starting out as a reporter, I found myself unexpectedly in conversation with Cary Grant.
As an actor, Grant was a deity, but when it came to the press, he was a mess. He said whatever was on his mind. The gist of our lengthy conversation was that he’d been dropping a lot of acid lately. He said he was trying to find himself. He acknowledged that someone as rich and famous as Cary Grant shouldn’t still be trying to find himself (and talking about it to a reporter for the New York Times), but that’s what was on his mind.
I never ran a word of the interview, but Cary Grant was my hero forever because of his vulnerability and candor.
I don’t want you to go on acid, Tom. Just relax a little. You don’t have to be perfect. No one around you is perfect. The folks at Paramount, who worked their butts off to open your film, aren’t perfect. The world isn’t perfect.
Once again, “MI3” is a big hit. You will ultimately see it as a success, provided you can assimilate its mixed messages and can withstand the monumental distraction that “The Da Vinci Code” will provide.
But before you launch into your next media blitz, Tom, think of Cary Grant. Think fondly of him. He sure wasn’t perfect, but his imperfections were downright lovable.