Los Angeles (Reuters): A day after one of Hollywood's most powerful men publicly scolded actor Tom Cruise, the film capital began to think cost-conscious studios may finally be fed up with giving stars the star treatment. But some industry insiders believe Viacom Inc Chairman Sumner Redstone's rebuke of Cruise was more a sign that a great money-making career was on the wane. In few other places on Earth are stars pampered the way they are in Hollywood. Jewelers want to loan them diamonds, developers want to give them houses, and studios want to cater to their every whim.
Few actors besides Cruise have been held in such high regard in Hollywood. But his last film, Mission: Impossible III, while raking in close to $400 million worldwide, did not do as well as hoped. And, in Hollywood, you are often only as good as your last picture. Redstone said a key reason Viacom's film studio, Paramount Pictures, did not renew its deal with the actor was his off-screen behavior. Redstone told the Wall Street Journal: ''He's a terrific actor. But we don't think someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot.'' Cruise raised eyebrows with several publicity gaffes in the past year, including his couch-hopping appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, his outspoken espousal of Scientology and denunciations of psychiatry. To some, Redstone's comments signal a major change in Hollywood.
''There is a definitive, palpable change in climate,'' one source at a major Hollywood talent agency said. ''Stars' demands have gotten so over-the-top, and they've gotten so petulant. And the studios, because they're part of publicly traded companies, have to maintain quarterly results, I do think they are less intimidated by the stars,'' he said. A high-ranking studio executive who declined to be named, said, ''I think we're more willing to say 'no' now. ... We're finding the more we pay, the less our profit margin is and the less people appreciate the risk that we're taking.''
Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose credits include the Disney blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, agreed that the demand for talent had become a kind of buyer's market. ''I think the studios are certainly being much more conscious of the bottom line, and they're being much more careful on how they structure their gross deals,'' he told Reuters. ''They just are tightening the screws as far as what's good business for them and the (movie) community.'' Nevertheless, the biggest stars, like Cruise and Tom Hanks, remain in demand, Bruckheimer said.
''If you want Tom Hanks for a picture, he's got a price. You either want him for the picture and pay his price, or you go to somebody else,'' he said, adding that mid-level performers are the ones who get squeezed. In one high-profile example of Hollywood executives losing patience with their stars, the head of a major film production company sent a letter to actress Lindsay Lohan saying she was acting like ''a spoiled child'' on the set of ''Georgia Rules.'' Film historian David Thomson said he thought Cruise was having career troubles based on his age and the loss of his boyish screen charm. And with Cruise gone, Viacom could sign younger stars at a cheaper rate, he said. ''The crucial thing was that Mission: Impossible III did significantly worse than the first two films in the series. I think Paramount judged that as a sign of Cruise's waning appeal.
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