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Female Fans Turned Off by Tom Cruise
August 27, 2006

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

The London Daily Mail recently reported that Sumner Redstone, the executive who kicked Tom Cruise off the Paramount lot, had an in-house lobbyist who influenced his decision.

Evidently, Paula Fortunato, the 43-year-old wife of the 83-year-old CEO, was "incensed" by Cruise's criticism of Brooke Shields' use of prescription drugs for postpartum depression.

Fortunato, who met Redstone while he was still married to his first wife of 55 years, reportedly told her husband, "I never want to see another Tom Cruise movie again." She also suggested that Cruise's comments had turned female fans off.

In commenting on the Cruise-Paramount fissure, Redstone made some unusually brusque public statements blaming Cruise's "unacceptable conduct" and "creative suicide" for the split.

The executive focused on the Oprah couch-jumping incident and "Today" show face-off with Matt Lauer to explain the Cruise pink slip. But Hollywood is a place where eccentric behavior is typically part and parcel of the celebrity picture so as a sole explanation Redstone's rationale rings hollow.

Perhaps Paramount execs had been taking note of the downward trend in Cruise's popularity.

Negative perception of Cruise has risen almost 100 percent since mid-2005 while positive perception has fallen about 40 percent; this according to Marketing Evaluations Inc., the company that tabulates the closely watched Q Scores. A USA Today/Gallup poll recently determined that half of those surveyed held an "unfavorable" opinion of the actor.

And in a poll conducted by Yahoo! Entertainment in the U.K. that surveyed people on which celebrities they would most like to have as their best friend, Cruise came in last.

While his behavior may have been a factor, the reality of the Cruise-Paramount situation is that the breakup was the result of failed negotiation. The studio made an unacceptable offer to the actor's company, most likely believing that Cruise's value was lower than it had previously been.

Richard Lovett is president of one of the prime agencies in town, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which happens to handle Cruise.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lovett responded to the Cruise-Paramount separation with the following comment: "Paramount has no credibility right now. . . . It is not clear who is running the studio and who is making the decisions."

Lovett also hinted at a possible CAA boycott of Paramount.

Cruise's producing partner Paula Wagner, a former CAA agent who is married to Cruise's CAA rep Rick Nicita, responded to Redstone's remarks, saying, "We had ceased negotiations. I'm not sure why this happened. You need to respect your artists."

"I don't understand why this would be turned into a personal attack. Because that's what it is," Wagner added.

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