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Tom Cruise doesn’t want anyone to see him looking fat and bald. At least that’s the word his lawyers spread late last week after a photo of Cruise in a fat suit and chest wig made the rounds.

Just as the weekly celebrity magazines were rushing off to print last Friday, Nov. 16, many editors received letters from Cruise’s lawyer, which threatened legal action if the photos of Cruise, snapped on the set of Ben Stiller’s new film “Tropic Thunder,” were used.

The portly pics were traced back to photo agency INF, who also then sent a letter to magazines saying, “The pictures, which were shot by an INF staff photographer, show Cruise in a fat suit and chest wig on the set of Tropic Thunder. ... While these pictures were taken without breaking any criminal or civil laws, we have decided to pull them from circulation effective immediately.”

“It was crazy,” an editor at one of the celeb weeklies told me. “We had at least four calls from publicists and two legal letters on Friday. All they did was draw more attention to the picture.”

Just why was the Cruise camp so irate about the pics? Some say that it’s because “Tropic Thunder” is not part of Cruise’s own production company, United Artists, so he didn’t want it getting around that he was appearing in “Tropic.”

“He could have gotten away with very few people knowing about his cameo until the movie came out,” points out one person familiar with the fracas. “Now he’s going to have to answer questions.” For the record, Cruise’s rep tells me, “Tom’s involvement with United Artists does not prohibit him from acting in non-United Artists projects.”

There's also this to consider: Cruise rarely does cameos, and Stiller is a friend of his. Could this just be a case of a paparazzo spoiling some fun and ruining a surprise? It sure wouldn't be a first.

Heather Mills keeps trying to cash in
She keeps saying she’s no gold digger, but Heather Mills is now demanding freebies from Stella McCartney, the fashion-designer daughter of her soon-to-be ex, Paul McCartney. Stella was, at best, frosty to her stepmother when Mills and her dad were still together. Mills asked that Stella give her deep discounts on her high-end designs, but Stella offered “just 10 percent off at her boutique in London,” says Mills’ enraged rep. “And they were related.” Yes, “were” seems to be the operative word.

Weekend box office:
So much for my winning streak. “Beowulf” slayed the competition at the box office, grossing $28 million. What does it mean? It means that Angelina Jolie has a certain appeal when she’s dripping in gold, and that’s bad news for “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” which came in fifth. “Love in the Time of Cholera,” which couldn’t even be helped by Oprah Winfrey, who featured the book and teased the film during a recent episode. “Cholera” came in 10th and grossed only $1.9 million.