Film magnate's wife 'threatened boycott of Cruise movies'

Reports sweep Hollywood that actor's attack on Brooke Shields is the real reason for his dismissal
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A novel theory of what lay behind the sacking of Tom Cruise by his Hollywood studio has emerged: he got up the nose of the main man's wife.

Reports are circulating that the star so angered Paula Fortunato, pictured left, wife of Sumner Redstone, boss of the studio's parent company, that she told her husband she was "boycotting Cruise's product for ever". Some film-world blogs have suggested this statement - provoked apparently by Cruise's criticisms of Brooke Shields's use of prescribed medic-ines, and coming from a 42-year-old wife to her 83-year-old husband - was enough to seal his fate.

But whether it was this, disappointing DVD revenues or the star's increasingly quirky behaviour, the fall-out from his dismissal may only just be beginning.

The decision by the Viacom boss to dispense with Cruise/ Wagner, the company owned by the star and his partner Paula Wagner, has sent a signal to both Wall Street and Hollywood that high-priced talent deals are likely to end.

Cruise and Wagner enjoyed a rich deal at Paramount that in recent times has provided them with as much as £8m a year to cover the costs of running their film company. Cruise is expected to make as much as £60m from Paramount's Mission: Impossible III, which is likely to gross around £500m. By contrast, Paramount, the movie-making arm of Viacom, will make only several million.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr Redstone also estimated that Cruise's oddball off-screen behaviour had cost the studio between £80m and £125m in box-office receipts. Cruise is devoting more of his life to Scientology and some suspect he has set his sights on becoming leader of the church. He caused controversy by insisting that a Scientology tent be installed on the set of War of the Worlds to give a form of massage from volunteer Scientology ministers to cast and crew members.

Cruise also became embroiled in a feud with Brooke Shields, who revealed she had become dependent on an anti-depressant drug following the birth of her daughter. Cruise, like all Scientologists, is opposed to prescription medication and scolded her in an interview, calling her irresponsible. Shields retorted that she doesn't take advice from someone "who believes in aliens".

Cruise's increasingly strange behaviour has become more noticeable since he sacked his long-time publicist, Pat Kingsley, last year after she tried to persuade him not to talk about Scientology when publicising a film. Cruise said of his decision to get rid of her: "I give people lots of chances and if they're not doing it at a certain point, hey, I fire them."

Nowadays he seizes every opportunity to talk at length about his faith and about what he sees as the evils of psychiatry - he calls it "an insidious cult".

However, Paramount's divorce from Cruise is by no means the first as the studios, faced with rising costs and dwindling income, cut back on star salaries and big budgets.

Studios have noted that only three of the 10 highest-grossing films of last year - War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factor and Mr and Mrs Smith, were star-driven. The rest were films with no big names, such as Star Wars: Episode III, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia.In recent months, studios have shut down high-profile star vehicles because of rising costs, including the proposed Jim Carrey-Ben Stiller film Used Guys.