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Celebrity love gives Hollywood a headache

Studios worry that couples could affect film bottom line
/ Source: The Associated Press

Call it Hollywood’s summer of tough love.

In a season full of expensive action movies, the love lives of celebrities — Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes — are giving Hollywood executives their biggest headaches and sending the stars headlong into damage control.

The stakes are huge for the studios with $100 million-plus film production costs and the stars who could see millions cut from future paychecks if their careers start to slide.

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In an unusual move, Jolie’s attorney asked reporters attending a news conference this week to sign broad agreements saying that her comments would “not be used in a manner that is disparaging, demeaning or derogatory.” The proposed pact threatened legal action for violating its terms.

Jolie stars in this Friday’s thriller “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” alongside Brad Pitt with whom she has been romantically linked in numerous news and magazine stories.

The actress has denied intimacy with Pitt, who is in the midst of a divorce with his wife, actress Jennifer Aniston. At the news conference, Jolie did not discuss her relationship with her co-star but did speak out about the publicity.

“Certainly, this one has been ridiculous in how much attention has been paid,” she said.

When asked how about their onscreen chemistry, Pitt went on a comic riff about the film’s other star, Vince Vaughn, saying the energy between them “was palpable” and later adding Vaughn was a “handsome, handsome fellow. Tender lover.”

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is being released by Twentieth Century Fox at an estimated cost of around $100 million to make. Fox declined to comment about its marketing efforts.

Fear of another ‘Gigli’Whether the few public words about their romance helps or hurts “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” awaits the weekend box office reports, but it may only fuel the desire to see the movie because it feeds into the film’s themes. Beyond its gun-toting action, the movie truly deals with a couple falling in and out of love.

Still, no studio executive, producer, actor or actress wants their film to suffer the fate of 2003 romance “Gigli,” which bombed at box offices after all the publicity surrounding the romance of its stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

Several Hollywood publicists say Paramount Pictures, which is releasing “The War of the Worlds” this month starring Tom Cruise, is worried about whether negative stories over Cruise’s manic confession of love for Holmes on The Oprah Winfrey Show will hurt the nearly $130 million film.

During the interview last month with the talk show host, Cruise became giddy when asked about Holmes. He jumped onto Oprah’s couch, then ran backstage to get his girlfriend and bring her out shouting, “I love this woman.”

A Paramount spokeswoman denied the speculation saying, “Not at all, we’re happy for him.” Cruise spokeswoman Lee Anne DeVette, the star’s sister, was not immediately available.

Likewise, Holmes stars in the June 15 release of “Batman Begins,” a movie that cost between $120 million and $130 million and is being released by Warner Bros.

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman declined to comment on the Cruise/Holmes affair and its impact on the film.

Veteran celebrity handlers said the publicity should help Holmes’ star rise, but Cruise had risked a backlash after the publicity-savvy actor uncharacteristically lost his cool on Oprah.

Recent polls in People magazine and US Weekly, showed that more than 60 percent of those responding thought the romance was a publicity stunt to promote upcoming films.

This past weekend at a taping of the MTV Movie Awards, Cruise curtailed his emotions onstage by embracing Holmes slightly and accepting an award with a serious speech that contrasted sharply to the irreverent mood of the awards show.

Twentieth Century Fox is a unit of News Corp Ltd., Paramount is part of Viacom Inc. and Warner Bros. is a division of Time Warner Inc.

Reuters, which attended the media event for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” did not sign the initially proposed agreement regarding the treatment of Jolie’s remarks.

The news agency signed an amended letter saying in part that it would not use the interview in a defamatory manner.