Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, and his producing partner , Paula Wagner, have entered into an exclusive multipicture deal with Paramount Pictures.

As part of the deal, which calls for Cruise and Wagner to develop projects for the studio, Cruise will star in two major films for the studio over the next three years. Cruise is starring in Par’s “The Firm,” which is scheduled to begin principal photography next week.

The Cruise-Wagner Co., formed last July by Cruise and Wagner, his agent at Creative Artists Agency for the last 11 years, will be based on the Paramount lot.

As expected, the deal was brokered by CAA, which not only represents Cruise, but Stanley Jaffe, Paramount Communications prexy.

Jaffe, who is acting as chairman of Paramount Pictures in the wake of last week’s resignation by Brandon Tartikoff, was not available for comment. Jaffe produced “Taps,” the military school drama in which Cruise made his feature film debut.

Not a vanity deal

John Goldwyn, president of Par’s Motion Picture Group/Production, said this is not just a case of another actor setting up shop at a studio. “This is not an actor’s vanity deal,” Goldwyn said.

“As an actor he is an important asset to have at a studio and having teamed with Paula with her extensive filmmaker relationships, I’m confident in very short order there are going to be some very formidable projects in the works.”

The deal couldn’t come at a better time for Paramount. Most industry observers believe the studio, with only one movie due for Christmas release, is going through rough times, especially in light of Tartikoff’s impending departure.

Adding a star of Cruise’s stature and an intended producer like Wagner, with her heavy industry contacts, can only help bolster the studio’s image.

Asked about staffing of the new company, Wagner said, “It’s a little early to tell, but we want to keep it efficient. We’re still assessing the situation.”

In addition to acting and producing films under the new deal, Wagner also said that Cruise is very interested in directing a project.

“It’s something that Tom is looking forward to doing,” she said, although she added, “There’s not a specific project yet.

“Paramount is hoping that Tom will become their Clint Eastwood,” said another source with Paramount ties, referring to Eastwood’s multifaceted career that began with acting.

“Their hope is that he will star in, direct and produce films for them and become a franchise like Clint has become.”