Why the actors' strike won't happen.
It appears that Tom Cruise isn't putting all his eggs into the Valkyrie basket. Valkyrie, you'll recall, is the Bryan Singer-directed thriller in which Cruise plays a German officer who tried to assassinate Hitler.That project has hit some bumps on its way to theaters. Meanwhile, Cruise is also making an attempt to go back to his roots. But making that happen isn't simple: It seems that the Cruise camp recently reached out to Paramount about making Mission: Impossible 4 and got seriously disavowed.
Paramount's response was to ask whether Cruise would like to produce the film—as in, produce but not star in. And, since he's contractually guaranteed the right to produce such a film at this point, it wasn't much of an offer. This tells us not to read too much into that supposed rapprochement between Cruise and Sumner Redstone. And it suggests that the fighting between Cruise and Paramount studio chief Brad Grey over the deal for M:I3 was a lot more rancorous than we knew at the time.
We don't want to keep you in suspense: Cruise's answer was no. Our source tells us that Paramount met this with a shrug, since in the not-too-distant future the studio expects that it will be free, contractually, to make the movie without involving Cruise's production company. Some film executives say they think Paramount is being foolish, because they believe there is an avid audience for Cruise in this role. After all, the last one grossed about $400 million worldwide. (Maybe M:I4 could pair Cruise with Shia LaBoeuf as the young successor.) But Paramount seems to think it could relaunch the franchise with a young star and leave Cruise out of the equation.
So back to Valkyrie. We've already delved into the drama surrounding this film, in which Cruise plays would-be Hitler assassin Claus von Stauffenberg. Somewhere along the line, someone mentioned that there had been bad press in Germany. Well, of course there was. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, Germans don't care for Scientology, and the subject of Valkyrie is a German hero. But this was different bad press. The rumor that our source had heard was that there was a kerfuffle because some people believed Cruise's company, United Artists, had tweaked a photo of von Stauffenberg to heighten a postulated resemblance to Cruise.
Indeed, United Artists released a side-by-side photo comparison some months back in which the resemblance was striking.
Our (not definitive) search didn't turn up any German press about this alleged photo tweaking. When we asked UA, the studio said that tweaking didn't happen. We took a look at an AP photo and then at the image used by UA. *
And we weren't sure. So we submitted the pictures to our experts at Slate.
Jim Festante, a Slate designer, wrote: "Look @ the nose, mouth, and chin. Definite (but slight) altering. Also, the head's width is squeezed slightly." And then designer Holly Allen added this: "To me, the nose looks different and definitely the eyebrows. Cheekbones and angle of the chin, too." Finally, as a coup de grace, designer Jacob Berlow overlaid the AP photo of von Stauffenberg with the United Artists version:
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Jack Nicholson by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images. Historically accurate photograph of Claus von Stauffenberg from AP Photo. Photograph of Roman Polanski by Bill Bridges/Globe Photos, courtesy HBO.