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Hollywood Studios Moving Away from Big Money Stars


There's an old show business saying, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." But some "A" list, or top tier, Hollywood movie stars have been getting a lot of negative press lately, and experts say they are paying the price.

"Mission:Impossible 3" -- M.I.3 for short -- had all the earmarks of a summer hit -- an action-packed story, special effects, and of course, a big-name star, Tom Cruise.

M.I.3 has grossed $393 million worldwide so far. But Paramount Pictures and parent company Viacom recently severed their 14-year business relationship with Cruise's production company. They claimed the returns from M.I.3 were disappointing. Cruise says his company was planning to go on its own anyway.

Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone says Cruise's recent off-screen behavior kept some moviegoers away, costing his company approximately $150 million in additional revenue. Redstone bluntly described the star's behavior as "creative suicide."

Empire Magazine previews editor Helen O'Harra explains the thinking behind casting big name stars in certain movies. "They [the movie stars] bring a lot of baggage to roles, they have built up a persona, a personality that the public wants to see in films."

An actor's emotional "baggage," when channeled creatively, can sometimes result in a big hit -- such as Johnny Depp's eccentric performance as a pirate captain in the two "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

It can also lead to costly off-screen behavior. Experts believe Mel Gibson's recent drunk driving arrest and ensuing anti-Semitic tirade could adversely affect box office receipts for his new film "Apocalypto." It is due to be released later this year. Some even say this incident may have destroyed Gibson's film career.

Movie attendance and DVD sales have flattened in the last year. Entertainment reporter J.D. Cargill says the unpredictability of a movie audience's tastes means studios may shy away from casting "A" list actors. Many big stars frequently demand a fee of millions of dollars and a percentage of the profits from their movies.

"There used to be this formula in Hollywood like, with the right scripts and the right name on the marquee, and the right director and you're going to have a hit no matter what,” says Cargill. “But the truth is that's not the case anymore."

O'Harra believes special effects movies, such as "Superman Returns," do not necessarily require a big name actor to be a financial success.

"They [special effects movies] have not been star-driven so much as effects-driven. They are driven by the fact that you can see these amazing, incredible huge spectacles, rather than whose face is on the poster."

Cruise recently announced a new business deal with a group of investors to develop new film projects. His business partner last week suggested that hedge funds were eager to invest up to $100 million in their company.

Encouraging news, but the question remains -- given the high cost of filmmaking, is that enough to re-establish Cruise's business standing in Hollywood?

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