It’s official: Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner have landed on their feet.
With Thursday’s announcement that a deal had been struck to turn over venerable United Artists to the actor and his producing partner, Sumner Redstone became Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Mission: Impossible III.”
In every Cruise action movie, Tom prevails and the villain gets smoked. In this case, Redstone — who as head of Viacom tossed Cruise and Wagner off the Paramount lot with all the grace of security guards hustling off paparazzi — was pistol-whipped, garroted, tossed off a speedboat into the waiting jaws of crocodiles and, to finish him off, forced to sit through “Jackass: Number Two.”
The specifics of the deal are intriguing but also beside the point. Cruise and Wagner have full control of production at UA and are free to make whatever they want, including action pictures in the $100 million range. The longtime producing duo will also have a ownership stake in the company.
But more important, this is about revenge. As the sayings go, revenge is sweet, revenge is a dish best served cold, revenge is sticking it to a greedy ungrateful curmudgeon who either wears a bad rug or visits a bad hairdresser.
So revenge-themed films might just be the order of the day when Cruise and Wagner sit down to plot out which projects they intend to make. To help them narrow down the list, here are some suggestions in the revenge genre that just might be up their alley:
“DEATH WISH: A NEW BEGINNING” — The old Charles Bronson franchise saw him going around New York City with a handgun, looking for human filth to waste. This updated version would see Tom patrolling the halls outside the Viacom boardroom, looking for human filth to waste. In this one, Tom will be armed with the Vanity Fair baby photos of Suri, a DVD of “Cocktail” and a copy of “Dianetics.” Those poor bastards won’t stand a chance. Like the Bronson series, this will turn into a lucrative franchise seemingly with no end, simply because Viacom executives multiply like amoebas. Tom can go after them over residuals, ownership of Paramount projects and even for moving expenses.
“LOSIN’ IT ON ‘TODAY’” — The movie opens with Tom jousting with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show over antidepressants and psychiatry. Suddenly the lights go out. When they come back on, Lauer is tied to a chair and Tom is hosting the show. It’s a little like Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” only with Ann Curry instead of Sandra Bernhard. After enduring Lauer’s grilling, Tom gets his revenge by subjecting Matt to a harrowing series of “Today” segments, including one on holiday gifts for the savvy traveler, a revealing interview with Howie Mandel and a heartwarming piece by Curry about homeless lepers. Spoiler alert: In a twist, this will be one picture in which Tom’s character meets a horrible fate: He’s hired to replace Katie Couric and given the task of goosing ratings for “The CBS Evening News.”
“THE FIRST WIVES CLUB II” — Generally speaking, Tom has had good relationships with ex-wives Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, at least publicly. So a little dramatic license would have to be applied. In this project, Rogers, Kidman and Tom’s former girlfriend Penelope Cruz team up and plot to take Tom’s money. That, of course, will be easier said than done, since much of it is locked inside the Celebrity Centre at the Church of Scientology. So the girls enlist the help of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and the rest of the “Ocean’s Eleven” gang, since they have experience at robbing enormous sums of cash from seemingly impenetrable fortresses. But stealing from Las Vegas casinos protected by state-of-the-art alarm systems and heavily armed commandos is a snap compared to ripping off celebrity dough from brainwashed religious zealots. At its core, this is still a revenge movie, even if Tom is on the wrong end of it.
“9 TO 5 AGAIN” — The original plotline of the 1980 film starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin involved three female office employees plotting revenge against a sexist, egotistical bully of a boss. In this remake, the part made famous by Dabney Coleman will be revamped to resemble Redstone. This time Tom will only produce and not act. Katie Holmes will take over the Fonda role, with Tara Reid standing in for Parton and Lindsay Lohan reprising Tomlin’s part. Donald Trump has the imperious attitude and the sleeping-muskrat coiffure to pull off Redstone. There will have to be some suspension of belief that someone Redstone’s age still cares about groping women, or that Trump as an actor playing Redstone cares about getting his hands on anything besides money and real estate. But that’s where the magic of movies comes in.
“PAPARAZZI” — This film was released two years ago. But doing it again wouldn’t be considered a remake, since it appeared in theaters for about 15 minutes and on DVD shelves in even less time. The story is about an actor who gets disgusted with the extent to which tabloid photographers go to photograph him and his loved ones, so he decides to strike back at them. This also will require a suspension of belief, because everybody knows that since Vanity Fair got the scoop on the Suri photos, every sleazebag with a camera has been busy chasing Brangelina all over the world. But the idea of Tom going after photographers with a gun is appetizing, especially if he clears a path outside so I can make my way to my regular table at The Ivy.
Mike Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.