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Keeping Tom Cruise On Topic, and Quiet


Summer movie season is just getting started. It's not unusual for stars like Tom Cruise to be everywhere on TV and in magazines talking up their new films; in Cruise's case, the Stephen Spielberg sci-fi drama "War of the Worlds" due out at the end of the month. Most of the chatter, though, is not about the movie. It's about Tom Cruise's romance with the young actress Katie Holmes, who's in this summer's "Batman Begins." And Tom Cruise is spilling his guts on entertainment and talk shows like "Oprah."

(Soundbite of "The Oprah Winfrey Show")

Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Host): This is beyond--this is gone.

Mr. TOM CRUISE (Actor): I'm standing on your couch!

Ms. WINFREY: Yeah, I know. This is gone. This is gone. This is gone. This is gone.

Mr. CRUISE: She's an extraordinary woman. She really is very--you know, a very, very special person.

BRAND: OK, maybe that's just too much information, say some industry observers who believe that Cruise's disclosures about his romance and his membership in the Church of Scientology may hurt the career of one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. Joining me now to talk about it is Claude Brodesser. He hosts the entertainment industry program "The Business" on member station KCRW in Santa Monica.

Welcome to the program.

CLAUDE BRODESSER (Host, "The Business"): Hi, Madeleine.

BRAND: So listening to that bit from "Oprah," he just sounds like a man in love. What's wrong with that?

BRODESSER: Well, you know, the clip on "Oprah" has become something of--like a Hollywood Zapruder film. It's been dissected on blogs like Deframer frame by frame: `Here you can see on the grassy knoll chair Cruise standing near the book depository.' It just goes on.

I think this is something akin maybe--and I'm--because none of us were in that studio--to the Dean scream. That is when you're there, it's maybe not so out of control. Actors feed on adulation. And certainly when you're a film actor, despite the fact that you're constantly, you know, being reached for and grabbed at and photographed--when you're working, you're alone on the set with the director and, you know, a handful of grips, and that's that. And when you're in an audience, I think it's easy to feed on that sort of adulation and admiration and so on. And it may--maybe it got out of control. But to see the clip of the "Oprah" performance is--he does things with the human spine that even Dr. Detroit could not manipulate.

BRAND: He's leaping up on the couch. He's bending down.


BRAND: He's pumping his fists.

BRODESSER: ...there's a certain Kabuki theater quality to it. And from an image management standpoint, it's interesting as well because Cruise, of course, recently made changes to the team that sort of informs his public persona, to the extent that any team can ever do that for any star. And there are sort of amusing, I think, comparisons to be made to the Michael Jackson snafu that's currently unfolding daily. As a star's sense of control begins to unravel--you'll find that in the Jackson camp, people who were advising Jackson tended to have the last name Jackson. And in the case of Cruise--obviously her last name is not Cruise. They're from the Mapother clan, and her name is LeAnne Devette. But they...

BRAND: His sister.

BRODESSER: His sister is...

BRAND: That's his publicity agent.

BRODESSER: ...his publicity agent. And the fact is that family will never always be honest with you. They'll consider your feelings often before they'll consider the truth. And for her to be quoted in The New York Times as saying that there was--she's heard nothing negative about the "Oprah" appearance--it just suggests how utterly divorced from reality that perspective is.

BRAND: But, Claude, has there been any real fallout from this? Has the studio done anything in reaction to what's been going on with Tom Cruise?

BRODESSER: Well, from a business standpoint, beyond just the titillation of water-cooler talk, yes. I mean, it appears that there is a saturation point, as any marketing executive worth his salt will tell you, where people can only take so much Tom Cruise in their diet, and they start to rebel against it. And, in fact, that may or may not be happening. It certainly looks as if it might be. DreamWorks has said they are scaling back in the way of, you know, the usual junketing that is done on a film. And so I think, in effect, you know--there's a saying that no publicity is bad publicity. Well, but too much publicity can be bad publicity. And, you know, you want people to absorb their recommended daily allowance of Cruise in conjunction with--in a suspension of "War of the Worlds" and "Batman," not in an elixir of Katie and, you know, Oprah.

BRAND: Claude Brodesser writes for Variety and Daily Variety. He hosts "The Business." It's a public radio program about the entertainment industry on member station KCRW in Santa Monica.

Thanks for joining us.

BRODESSER: My pleasure, Madeleine.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).