This feels like yesterday’s papers, but a source “very close” to Tom Cruise has told Slate‘s Kim Masters that “he’s teetering on the brink of a certain kind of trouble that no star like him has ever been in before.” Cruise’s films always cost a bundle, and “the weak performance M:I3 is enough to give any studio pause,” Masters writes. “Meanwhile, Cruise’s production deal with Paramount expires in a few weeks. Negotiations to renew are not, as yet, under way. Without big, profitable movies starring Cruise, the deal is far too rich to be justified. One marketing executive speaks for many in saying, ‘He needs to go away.’ The idea is that Cruise should stay out of sight for at least a year, allowing time to get over what one prominent agent calls ‘the cootie factor .’ Apparently Cruise does not grasp the cootie factor and has no plans to take a break. And the agent says it would be very hard for his reps, at this delicate moment, to explain the situation to him. ‘He’s in a zone that he’s never been in and it’s their job to make sure he feels the positive light,’ he says. Another source close to the star agrees. ‘You’ve got to be very careful in conversations with him,’ he says. ‘Tom is not ever going to face facts.'” But if he reads Masters’ column, he’ll at least be semi-primed for that dreaded conversation…or so, I gather, went the rationale among Masters’ sources when they decided to lay things bare in a public forum. For what it’s worth I sussed this one out a month ago, and said towards the end of the piece that “if Cruise is smart (and he is), he can damage control his way out of this, to some extent. Just downplay the weirdo stuff and focus on the work, the work, the work. Next up (according to what I’ve read): the Glenn Ford role in James Mangold‘s remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and (according to the IMDB) the role of renegade American pilot Billy Fiske in Michael Mann ‘s The Few. Onward and upward. He’ll earn a bit less, but what’s that? This is a crisis but also a big opportunity for the guy. He’s begun one of those life passages that can lead, with the right attitude, to non-material riches.”