Add studio chief to Cruise’s resume

Multitasker helps relaunch United Artists

Those who subscribe to the notion that everything happens for a reason might call the breakup between Tom Cruise and Paramount last summer the first step toward the happy outcome that brought Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner to the helm of a resurrected United Artists a year ago.

“This was an incredible opportunity,” says Wagner. “Harry Sloan (MGM’s topper) approached us with the UA idea. It was a perfect concept because of how UA was formed and by whom, and out of that was this new entity born.”

Moving forward in record time, Cruise and Wagner — the latter, as CEO, running UA’s day-to-day operations — has just released its first effort, the star-studded “Lions for Lambs,” with the widely anticipated Cruise starrer “Valkyrie” slated for next summer and Oliver Stone’s “Pinkville” to follow.

“We’re lining up our slate right now, through the next 18 months,” Wagner offers. “We’re planning four to six films a year, starting with 2008 and going into 2009. I think our first official year of those numbers will be 2009.”

She suggests that UA’s proud, nearly 90-year history inspires her vision for the studio. “That’s something that helps define the direction we would like to take this company in,” she says. “We are a filmmaker-driven company, a company that supports artists, a company that is what the name says: united artists. But at the same time, this company has a financially prudent backbone. We will make films that have worldwide entertainment value.”

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