Upside of Taps

From Risky Business to Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise had a good 23 year run…and now it’s over.
Not his career, obviously, or the power that comes from being a big star with a huge fan base — Cruise is still fairly secure in these realms. But something fundamental changed this weekend with the somewhat disappointing earnings of Mission: Impossible III. What’s over and finished now is Cruise’s rep as a nearly invincible box-office powerhouse.

He may rebound in a year or two — not financially, but perhaps with a really good film and a superb performance. Maybe. He could luck into it. What he needs is to make another Jerry Maguire or another Born on the 4th of July — something that exudes sweat and struggle and personal growth.
But he’ll never be Mr. Financial King Shit again. Not in the realm he’s enjoyed for the last 15 years or so. Not after the bruising he took this weekend.
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With the $46 to $47 million brought in by M:I:3, there is solid numerical proof that Cruise’ drawing power has diminished. The $57 million earned by John Woo’s M:I film in 2000 means a drop of $10 or $11 million for the just-opened film.
But if you adjust for roughly a 15% inflation in ticket prices since 2000, M:I:3‘s 2000 ticket price earnings is more like $40,000,000. So it’s really $57 million vs. $40 million — same franchise, same Cruise, same everything. That’s significant.

“His career is far from over and he’s still a player…but he’s not where he was,” says a veteran marketer. “I know that the people at Paramount wanted to see $300 million last summer out of War of the Worlds, and that they were disappointed with the $234 million it wound up with. It was all the Scientology shit and jumping on the couch and criticizing Brooke Shields.
“With these grosses and all the competition to come this summer I would say M:I:3 won’t do much more than $125 to $150 million in this country. It’ll be off a minimum of 40% next weekend. There’s no way it can crack $200 million domestically.”
If I know Cruise he’ll be making smart, well-rigged films for at least another two to two and a half decades, and perhaps longer than that. He’ll just have to take less money, is all. He’s been making films on a percentage-of-the-gross payment basis for a while now, and he will probably continue to do that.
Cruise is an extremely wealthy man. He and whomever he’s with as a domestic ally and his daughter Suri can live in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives without Cruise working another day in his life. Which is an absurd proposition, of course. The guy is an energizer bunny. He’ll never stop. He can’t.

But he’s melted himself down over the last year or so. Women are said to have gone cold on him. His image isn’t quite that of a Michael Jackson-esque freak, but he seems to be in that ballpark. For now, at least. If he’s 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 a big opportunity for the guy. He’s begun of those life passages that can lead, with the right attitude, to non-material riches.