Tom & Reese: the impact of off-screen movie star antics

tomcruiseWithin the space of a few minutes Monday morning, I heard a New York radio station teaser for an upcoming show biz-related  story — “Oscar winner arrested” — and a business report on the weekend movie grosses in which the reporter called the star of the number one movie in the United States “a wingnut.”

The teaser turned out to be a promo for a report on Reese Witherspoon’s arrest in Georgia for disorderly conduct (after her husband was accused of driving under the influence). The “wingnut” was Tom Cruise, whose sci-fi drama “Oblivion” scored big at the box-office last weekend.

On the Witherspoon matter, the Internet was already blasting “America’s Sweetheart” for taking a snippy, entitled tone with a cop, asking him a variation of “Don’t you know who I am?” and then vaguely threatening him that his name could be mud after the fracas.

Once she was thrown in the clink, Reese quickly saw the light, issuing an apology, and adopting the most angelic pose I have ever seen in a police mugshot (below).

As an actress pushing 40 — with a few recent flops behind her — Witherspoon and her people obviously wanted to nip this affair in the bud, and get the star back on track.tomcruise1

Nobody in Hollywood wants to have the continuing image problems that have plagued Tom Cruise since his public meltdown during the 2005 summer of “War of the Worlds” (the Oprah couch-jumping; the confrontation with Matt Lauer on “The Today Show”; the dust-up with Brooke Shields).

What is almost forgotten about that period by the public — but not within Hollywood — is the fact that Cruise’s image problems all arose after he fired veteran publicist Pat Kingsley and replaced her with his own sister.

In Hollywood as well as everywhere else, you get what you pay for. 

Cruise has made several highly successful films since that fateful summer, but the tone of his personal press coverage is almost always negative now.

Bad press off-screen can bleed into reviews as well as news coverage. An actor who got a pass on more than a few duds in his prime — “Legend,” “Cocktail” etc. — has been viciously attacked for light entertainments such as “Knight and Day” and better-than-average fare like “Valkyrie.”

A lot of the reporting on the strong “Oblivion” grosses was presented in a bizarrely negative manner.

The Los Angeles Times stressed the fact that this was Cruise’s “first No. 1 film opening in seven years.” Buried in that story was the fact that a Cruise movie released less than two years ago, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” opened at No. 3 because it debuted in only a few hundred IMAX theaters, but “later climbed two positions when it expanded to cinemas nationwide.” (Couldn’t they say “climbed to No. 1”?)

“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol” wasn’t just a mammoth hit, it was the most successful entry in the four movie franchise — grossing $692,497,903 globally.

But, the fact that Cruise demonstrated his continuing popularity just 16 months ago doesn’t jibe with industry perception that he is “fading,” so “Ghost Protocol” is simply ignored by those who like to bash the star.

Joe Meyers