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Tom Cruise's Behavior Raising Eyebrows

Just months into his tenure as chairman of Paramount, Brad Grey is facing the sort of decision that makes Hollywood executives quiver: whether to proceed with production of the hugely expensive "Mission: Impossible III," even as its star, Tom Cruise, is puzzling associates and members of the public with his behavior while promoting another Paramount venture, "War of the Worlds".

An executive for Viacom, Paramount's parent company, said the studio had not yet decided whether to push ahead with production of "Mission: Impossible III," one of the company's most valuable franchises and a project on which tens of millions of dollars has already been spent. Shooting was planned to begin in Italy on July 18 and to continue on location in Europe and elsewhere.

"No definitive decision has been made; it's a discussion," said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared endangering the studio's relationship with Cruise.

While promoting that film over the last several weeks, Cruise engaged in an increasingly public discussion of his religion, Scientology. Then he set tongues wagging in Hollywood and elsewhere with an hourlong appearance on the May 23 "Oprah" show, during which he jumped around the set, hopped onto a couch, fell rapturously to one knee and repeatedly professed his love for his new girlfriend, actress Katie Holmes (photosKatie Holmes photos).

Many Hollywood stars are involved with the Church of Scientology, and there is nothing particularly unusual about trumpeting a new love. But some executives at Paramount and DreamWorks have voiced concern that fans were becoming distracted from the movie, which cost some $130 million to produce.

The two studios have already curtailed the normal promotional press junket ahead of the June 29 release of "War of the Worlds," limiting it to what Levy called a smaller number of "preselected interview sessions." He said the decision had nothing to do with Cruise but was made because there had been enough promotion already.

Cruise's recent comments and behavior have been fodder for the public who have questioned whether the love affair with Holmes was a publicity stunt. A spokeswoman for Cruise denied that this was the case.

But within Hollywood, the discussion among agents, producers, studio executives and other actors has been focused more on whether Hollywood's biggest box office star was doing long-term harm to his career. And there was sincere confusion over what Cruise, a 20-year veteran of the publicity machine, had in mind with his recent public appearances and statements.

Cruise's spokeswoman, his sister Lee Anne De Vette, said she had not heard anything negative after the "Oprah" appearance. "You're looking at someone who's genuinely very happy", she said. "The response we've gotten back is complete enthusiasm and exhilaration for his enthusiasm and exhilaration. He's a very happy person."

Still, there have been other publicity hiccups related to Cruise's increasingly public association with Scientology, the religion founded by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. In a series of television interviews last week, the star spoke at length about his passion for Scientology, at one point criticizing Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants: Scientology considers modern psychiatry and its medications to be harmful.

Cruise's insistence on making his religion a prominent part of his current work has raised some resistance in Hollywood. Some executives from the United International Pictures, which is releasing "War of the Worlds" overseas, complained earlier about being asked to take a four-hour tour of Scientology facilities in Los Angeles in late January.

And Cruise's insistence on having a Scientology tent on the set of "War of the Worlds" created a conflict at Universal, where the movie was being shot, two executives involved said. The executives, who asked not to be identified to protect industry relationships, said that Cruise, his agent Kevin Huvane and Spielberg all had to appeal personally to the president of Universal Studios, Ron Meyer, for the tent to be permitted on the studio lot, where no solicitation is allowed.

June 02, 2005 |

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