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New poll shows Tom Cruise’s star falling

But powerful Hollywood friends rally to actor’s defense
/ Source: Reuters

Powerful Hollywood friends of Tom Cruise rallied to his defense Wednesday as a new poll suggested the actor’s odd behavior in recent months may have cost him millions of dollars at the box office.

Days after his latest movie, “Mission: Impossible III,” opened to lower-than-expected domestic ticket sales, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Cruise’s star power has dimmed considerably during the past year in the eyes of the public.

In the survey of 1,013 adults conducted during the film’s first weekend in theaters, 35 percent registered a favorable opinion of Cruise, while 51 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

That’s a major turnaround from last year, when Cruise’s previous film, “War of the Worlds,” opened and his poll ratings were 58 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable.

USA Today reported that Cruise’s popularity decline with women was especially sharp, slipping from a 56 percent favorable rating in 2005 to 35 percent now.

The poll prompted an immediate and concerted defense by Cruise’s supporters, who insisted the actor’s popularity and standing as one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars was undiminished.

“Tom Cruise is one of the most important stars ever in the motion picture business,” Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, a close friend and former agent, told Reuters. “I don’t know anybody who has had the consistent success rate that Tom has. And nobody should be counting him out.”

“Mission: Impossible III” grossed $47.7 million in its first three days at the North American box office, well short of the $60 million to $70 million expected by industry watchers despite generally warm reviews and an extra-wide opening in more than 4,000 theaters.

Supporters challenged the notion that the film’s initial commercial showing was a disappointment, citing the $70 million in overseas receipts it generated in its first weekend.

“It’s the biggest non-holiday opening for a Tom Cruise movie ever, and the third-biggest in the history of his movies,” said longtime producing partner, Paula Wagner. “His career has spanned over 20 years of powerful, culture-reflecting and culture-changing films.”

The action film, which was distributed by Paramount Pictures, cost just under $150 million to make.

Public ‘besieged’Some experts have said the movie suffered from overexposure of Cruise, 43, in the media during three weeks of publicity, premieres and stories about him, his fiance, actress Katie Holmes, and their newborn daughter, Suri.

“The media overexposes him, and then turns around and asks the question: ’Is he overexposed?’, which is kind of ironic,” Cruise spokesman Arnold Robinson told Reuters.

USA Today said that many of its survey’s respondents cited Cruise’s public behavior during the past year, including his blunt criticism of psychiatry and actress Brooke Shield’s treatment for postpartum depression, for their waning impression of him.

“As a woman who has dealt with postpartum depression and has taken antidepressants in the past, I have no desire to line Mr. Cruise’s pockets with any of my hard-earned cash,” Fiona Sutten, 34, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, told USA Today.

Cruise also became the butt of countless jokes for his manic, couch-hopping appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last May to declare his love for Holmes a month after they started dating.

Robinson, his publicist, said the media bore responsibility for keeping those images fresh in the public’s mind.

But one associate who spoke on condition of anonymity said any star “has to be careful” about the persona he or she projects off screen, and that Cruise may have become too freewheeling while promoting “War of the Worlds” in the midst of his high-profile courtship of Holmes last year.

Dave Karger, author of a recent Entertainment Weekly cover story questioning whether Cruise was still worth his huge salary, told USA Today he saw first-hand evidence that Cruise’s antics in recent months had hurt him.

“A lot of people came up to me and said, ’I don’t want to support this movie’s first weekend.’ They made a conscious choice to avoid it,” Karger said.