No Such Nonsense

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Tom and Katie Show

What to make of it all?

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married yesterday in an opulent ceremony at a fairy-tale castle in Italy. Along for the ride was half of Hollywood - John and Kelly, Mark and J. Lo, Jim and Jenny, Jada and Will, Posh and Becks. Not there? Sumner Redstone, for one. He's the Viacom chairman who turfed Cruise from a long-term deal with Paramount because, well, Cruise gave Redstone's wife the creeps. Also not there: Oprah Winfrey, whose couch Cruise abused as he declared eternal love for Kate on national TV.

It's been a long strange trip. Not so long ago, Cruise was Teflon Tom. He was the biggest movie star in the world. He'd already made 4 movies before he really hit it big in 1983, sliding into the public consciousness in Ray Bans, socks and skivvies in Risky Business. With Top Gun, he became a legitimate action star. In Born on the Fourth of July, he garnered his first Oscar nomination. Throughout the 1990s, he reigned, along side Hanks, Gibson and Roberts, as box office gold.

He married starlet Nicole Kidman in 1990 and the two became staples on the red carpet - beautiful, toothy and glamorous. They adopted children and Cruise made huge hit film after huge hit film. He became a producer with Mission Impossible, swelling his already vast fortune. Simply, he could do no wrong.

By 2001, cracks started to appear.

He had already sued a German magazine for printing allegations that he was gay. After he and Kidman divorced, Cruise dated a series of starlets before meeting the "love of his life" in April 2005. The story goes something like this: Cruise was single and on the look-out. Katie had just split from long-time fiancee Chris Klein. Cruise heard about an article in which Katie spoke of her childhood dream to marry Tom Cruise. He arranged a meeting and the rest is well-documented history. They became engaged at the Eiffel Tower in April, had baby Suri a year later and finally married yesterday.

Along the way, Cruise suffered an unprecedented perfect storm of negative publicity. He had recently fired the public relations guru who had helped shape his public image and who tightly controlled access by the press. Cruise hired his sister as his new flack and took a new, very open stance with media. He spoke about Scientology. He criticized Brooke Shields for taking Paxil to deal with postpartum depression, saying that vitamins would have been more effective. He called Matt Lauer glib after Lauer defended the practice of psychiatry. And he infamously jumped on that couch on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Cruise released two films - War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible III. Though War made $200 million and Mission more than $100 million, both underperformed and fingers pointed straight at Tom. His erratic behaviour, many said, had hurt both films. Sumner Redstone certainly thought so. It was all just too much. Too big. Too implausible.

Suddenly, Teflon Tom was a joke. What were once hushed whispers entered the mainstream. Cruise was gay, they said, and Katie was under contract. Suri was fake, adopted, created in vitro or the daughter of Chris Klein. Gossip bloggers took the question of Cruise's sexuality as fact.

Is Cruise gay? Is Katie under contract, like Nicole Kidman before her? Is Suri really his? That these questions are so widely asked says a lot about how far Cruise has fallen. I watched him on Oprah that day and remember thinking that he was making an absolute fool of himself, and of poor, poor Katie. She looked stricken when he pulled her out from backstage at the end of the show. It was, in every way, ridiculous.

Can Cruise come back? Who knows. He's got a ton of money and a lot of power left. His new deal at United Artists positions him well. Most importantly, he's got a new staff of professional PR folks, who will hopefully keep him off the topic of mental health and off of any sofas. Good luck, Tom and Katie. I think you'll need it.


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