The most revealing tidbit in the announcement that Paramount Pictures was terminating its deal with Tom Cruise's production company - ending a 14-year relationship between the studio and the star - was a quote by Sumner Redstone, chairman of Paramount's parent company Viacom, in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
"As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Redstone said. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."
It's safe to assume that the suits at Paramount felt Cruise's Scientology-fueled antics hurt the boxoffice performance of War of the Worlds and especially Mission: Impossible III, which grossed a disappointing $133 million in the U.S. this summer, even though it happened to be a terrific popcorn movie - arguably the best of the Mission: Impossible franchise.
But it's practically unheard of for a studio bigwig to go on the record with his displeasure with an actor, especially one of Cruise's stature. Paula Wagner, Cruise's longtime producing partner, denounced Redstone's comments as "outrageous and disrespectful" in the pages of Variety, but the damage has been done. With his popularity among moviegoers slipping, and now Redstone piling on publically, Cruise's status as damaged goods is now official.
My unsolicited career advice: Take a long, long vacation, Tom - go away for a year or three - then find a meaty supporting role in someone else's movie. When you did just that for Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia, you came away with an Oscar nomination and some of the best reviews of your career. Accept the fact that Johnny Depp has stolen your box-office crown: You had a great run, but no one stays king forever. And most important of all, keep that Scientology stuff to yourself. Please.