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What Was That? Part I
Four months before Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, the couple walked into the Mark Taper Forum, in downtown Los Angeles, to see a performance of Clybourne Park. A thirtysomething film marketer in the audience, out with his ready-to-burst wife for one last pre-baby hurrah, turned to her and said, “If he sees you, he’ll talk to you, because you’re pregnant.
“Because that’s what Tom Cruise does,” the husband says. “He helps people.”
Sure enough, at intermission, as the expectant mother stood in line for the bathroom, Cruise told her to go ahead of them. “Katie looked great,” says the husband. “Cruise looked like a tourist: dumb designer jeans and a white button-down shirt and J.Crew earthy-type shoes. He has amazing posture. He walks on his tippy toes. He seemed to be maximizing his height with each step.”
Cruise and Holmes stood in a darkened area near the bathrooms. “Everyone’s just staring at them. And he and Katie were extremely touchy-feely. They’re giggling. He was kissing her. And everyone’s like, Wow, this is real—because no one believes it’s real. But if they weren’t real, why would they be all over each other? Everything they do in public is over-the-top. But there was practically no audience. There were only five people waiting for the bathroom.”
Soon, though, the make-out session started to take on a different complexion. “This went on and on,” the witness recalls. “He keeps kissing her. And we’re like, This is strange that they’re still kissing. Who goes out and has a make-out session with their wife? I mean, really. It felt like a poorly directed love scene. It’s like you’re kissing your girlfriend on the subway—if you kiss her fifteen times, it starts to be less cool. By the end, I was just confused.”
M:I 5—Holmes Protocol
When news broke online, on June 29, that Holmes had filed for divorce, it seemed an inevitable denouement to everyone except Cruise, who told people he’d been “blindsided” by the news. The most common story line, soon purveyed from TMZ to Us Weekly to E!, was that Katie Holmes, an American sweetheart indentured into celebrity servitude by her No. 1-box-office-star husband and mind-controlled by an evil octopus-like religious empire, had found untapped inner reserves of strength and courage and pulled off a daring, meticulously planned ninja escape to save 6-year-old daughter Suri. There were reports of disposable cell phones, fired security staff and publicists, a secretly rented apartment in a strategic jurisdiction. Right there in the newspapers every day, plain to see, were the vindicating photographs of a reborn Holmes, smile back on her face, bounce back in her step, as she went about her new life right here in New York City, happy at last. In a stroke, Holmes had rebooted the Mission: Impossible franchise with a female lead—now she was the one dropping silently on a wire into a room bristling with retinal scanners and motion detectors. In the first tent-pole role of her career, she had hit all her marks and won the summer. But as the theater lights came back on, something felt slightly off—the story too scripted; surely it concealed a more complicated human truth.
The enduring, trashy mystique of celebrity super-couples, with their cartoony portmanteaus—Bennifer, Brangelina, TomKat—has something to do with 1 + 1 = 3 fame math, but more to do with category confusion, the blurring of real people into characters and lives into plots. The tabloid media have long been seen as the main shapers of these narratives—but that view under-weights the creative input of the stars themselves, who, by the nature of their vocation and also concern for their own tiny little zones of privacy, have always been comfortable with a high level of falsehood in the public presentation of their romantic lives. TomKat took the phenomenon to a new level, making for the richest, most layered and indeterminate story of celebrity couple-dom ever told.
The most basic reason for this is Cruise. There’s a kind of unholy contiguity between Tom Cruise the man, formerly Thomas Mapother of New Jersey, and Tom Cruise the empire, brand, and action hero made flesh. He rides motorcycles, flies planes, does his own stunts—he jumped off the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, for Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. Even his religion, Scientology, boasts a cinematic good-versus-evil morality. When it comes to women, he’s an unrelenting star-fucker (the narcissistic apex being his homonymous alliance with Penélope Cruz). His whole life is performative.
Cruise’s marriages offer a new dimension to these self-inventions, an extra frisson, because of the presence of another human being, who would presumably have to be in on the show, whether for the money, or fame, or (apparently unlikeliest) love. Because Cruise, for all his wealth and blinding, dimpled smile, has a whole wagon train of baggage. At the heart of this story, as of all Cruise stories, is the central Cruisean mystery, the conundrum of his thought-policing religion, Scientology, and the degree to which he is in its grip. Is Cruise really the short-circuited Scientology android he appeared to be when he was first courting Holmes? A prevailing unified field theory of the Cruise-iverse—one that purports to explain everything from his PR meltdown seven years ago to his oddly theatrical relationships to the incessant rumors about his sexuality—is that everything flows out of his wacky religion. But Holmes complicated this theory. Why would a 26-year-old actress with a healthy career—Catholic, no less—fall for someone like that?
What Was That? Part II
Cruise’s boyishness and modest stature had always played oddly with the womanly glamour of his previous paramours (Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman, Cruz); he could seem more like their son than their lover. On the other hand, Holmes, the apple-cheeked innocent from Dawson’s Creek, 26 to his 43 when they met, seemed more like his daughter than his lover, cute and childlike to the point that MSNBC repeated a British tabloid claim that she was still a virgin.
As a teenager crushing on Cruise, Holmes had told her sisters, “I’m going to marry him one day,” as she recalled in a Seventeen interview in October 2004. A few months later, Cruise called Holmes’s manager and asked to meet her, ostensibly for a role in Mission: Impossible III. Holmes, who only the previous month had broken off her engagement to the actor Chris Klein, was living in New York and flew to L.A. “I knew in an instant that we were going to be together, that we were going to get married,” she would later recall. Soon Cruise was flying Holmes to Rome, where he had the bed in their $3,500-a-night hotel room strewn with rose petals.
This wasn’t real life. It was a beat sheet for a Nickelodeon special. Cruise operates at a level of bludgeoning, on-the-nose symbolism, and for his first date with Holmes, he took her on a high-speed motorcycle ride to Santa Monica. His preferred flowers to give were red roses. He flew her in his 1944 Tuskegee Airmen P-51 Warbird, which he painted with the name Kiss Me Kate. Though twice-divorced, Cruise waited only two months to propose marriage, and he did so in Paris, on top of the Eiffel Tower, after dropping to one knee and presenting Holmes with a five-carat yellow-solitaire-diamond ring. Cruise then arranged a press conference to disseminate the news. “Sometimes dreams do come true,” Holmes said. Her love for Cruise was, “like, wow … When Tom calls for me, I’m coming … I miss him right now, and it’s been like one hour.” There was a distinct staginess about the relationship: Cruise sent an armed courier to deliver a Chanel diamond necklace in the middle of an interview Holmes was doing with W. “He’s my man, he’s my man!” Holmes gushed. “Tom and I will always be in the honeymoon phase,” she said.
But the TomKat plot quickly threatened to go off-genre. Barely a month after meeting Holmes, Cruise made the now infamous appearance on Oprah, where he jumped on the sofa, pumped his fists, and otherwise proclaimed how gaga he was about his new girlfriend. Sixty-three percent of respondents in a People magazine poll said they believed the relationship was a publicity stunt. Winfrey later admitted to finding his behavior perplexing.
There was a certain amount of evidence for the interpretation that Scientology was behind Cruise’s peculiar mania, and that TomKat was a puppet show. Even before the engagement, Holmes converted to Scientology. In quick succession, Holmes fired her manager, her agent, and her publicist. On the promotional tour for her movie, she was accompanied by a Scientology “handler,” who, when Holmes paused before answering an interviewer’s question about how she felt about Cruise, fed her the line: “You adore him.” Holmes then said, “I feel so lucky and so—like I’ve been given such a gift.”
The narrative quickly forked into parallel stories connected only by the names of their main characters. The one found in magazines like Star and InTouch, and around the Internet, was gothic opera (“Hollywood’s Most Suspicious Couple,” Life & Style screeched in 2006). The other, peddled by Cruise and Holmes, was a saccharine fairy tale.
In the tabloid/Internet telling, even Holmes’s pregnancy was a font of sinister implications. When Cruise bought an expensive sonogram machine for home use—not all that crazy for a celebrity who has to worry about a nurse’s aide selling out intimate prenatal secrets—bloggers pronounced him the next Wacko Jacko. “Silent birth,” a Scientology practice, was something Cruise was “forcing [Holmes] into … on a boat” (Star), and the couple’s derelict failure to cough up Baby Suri for the hungering cameras in her first several months led to ominous speculation (birth defects?): “Baby Mystery. Where’s Suri? Inside Tom & Katie’s Big Secrets” (Us Weekly). The tabs, regarding Holmes as a brainwashed zombie, reveled in publishing hostage photos of Stepford Wife Katie Holmes, her “dead eyes” proof that she was being held against her will. In March 2011, Holmes told an interviewer, “Our relationship is great.” By the end of the year, though, a subtle shift had occurred in Holmes’s interviews, as she seemed to downplay Cruise’s role in her life. In a November article for Marie Claire, Galt Niederhoffer, who had directed Holmes in The Romantics, profiled the actress, calling her “a devoted wife and mother” and noting, without irony, that one of her and Holmes’s favorite BFF pastimes was “devising stories about people we do not know.” The sole reference to Cruise was a simple “husband Tom,” and there was a foreshadowing quote: “I feel ready. For the next chapter in my life. I’m excited to begin a new phase: roles I might have been afraid to play, places I want to travel with my daughter.”
Cruise seemed not to have gotten the memo. In May, just a month before Holmes dropped the D-bomb, Cruise told a red-carpet reporter, “She’s an amazing woman,” and in Playboy, he called her “an extraordinary person.”
“I’m just happy,” Cruise said, “and I have been since the moment I met her. What we have is very special.”
Katie! Katie! Katie!
Around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, July 6, Day 8 of the tabloid serial “TomKat: The Divorce,” the paparazzi are clustered on the sidewalk outside Whole Foods in Chelsea. A few minutes earlier, Katie Holmes had gone in.
More shooters arrive on bicycles. This is the biggest story in the world right now, and the last week has seen a rotating encampment of Telephoto-wielding freelancers, who wait hours to get a shot of Holmes and/or Suri outside the Chelsea Mercantile building on Seventh Avenue, where Holmes has rented an apartment. There’s Jackson Lee from Splash News, a leading pap who got the first shots of George Clooney after his motorcycle accident in New Jersey in 2007. Marcus Santos, the Daily News photographer who two weeks earlier made news when Alec Baldwin allegedly punched him, has been reluctantly dispatched here. “It’s a crazy shit show,” says Santos, who has spent most of his career on disaster reporting. “None of us wants to be here.”
For the last week, the TomKat media have been shrugging off the disdain of passersby—“Vultures,” “Parasites,” “Get a life,” “Did you go to journalism school for this?”—while idly chatting about Holmes and Cruise:
“I think she’s a nice person.”
“She’s kind of gangly and dorky-looking.”
“She’s with a 50-year-old man?”
“Suri’s a bitch.”
“He’s a fruitcake,” a photographer says.
“Then how come no one’s ever come forward to say they were in a relationship with him?” asks a paparazzo.
They compare the pap-friendliness of various celebrities. Among the best are Cruise, in fact, and Hugh Jackman. Scarlett Johansson, who always runs, scowling, is “the worst.” They scoff at the hypocritical attention-seeking of celebrities (“Why do you think Alec Baldwin tweets his location?”). A middle-aged woman with curly gray hair, tinted granny glasses, and a Hawaiian shirt wanders over. She’s pet-sitting for someone in the building, and she wants to know why the media won’t pay this kind of attention to the problem of puppy mills. Craigslist has really become lax, she says. There’s a “secret kill site” on 110th Street. There’s also—
“Katie! Katie! Katie!”
Holmes, accompanied by a bald, burly off-duty police officer, has emerged from Whole Foods and begun the half-block walk back to the entrance of her building. She’s wearing a salmon blouse and blue jeans, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. The puppy-mills lady is left talking to the air as eight paparazzi swoop in front of Holmes, forming a solid wall of jutting lenses that moves furiously backward, calling her name as their legs backpedal and their shutters snap, keeping a few feet ahead of her as she proceeds up the sidewalk, eyes down, her crooked half-smile fixed on her face, and then disappears inside the building.
An intern from People who’d followed Holmes into the supermarket reports that she was in the five-items-or-less aisle. Someone notes that she was wearing heels, which she rarely did with Cruise, clearly “a sign of her new freedom.” The paps have already scattered to their cars and scooters to upload the fresh pictures and try to make a sale.
The Micro-Science of Super-Couples
From the point of view of a tabloid editor, the beginning of any celebrity marriage is also the beginning of a countdown to the inevitable celebrity divorce, and the Kremlinology of celebrity-relationship reporting isn’t as random as it appears. The Daily’s senior gossip editor Melissa Cronin almost forensically tracks PR metrics. She predicted the Ashton Kutcher–Demi Moore split based on the dwindling number of interspousal tweets. Likewise the separation of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who hadn’t been seen together in public in months.
The operative rule in megastar coverage is to watch what they do, not what they say. Cruise’s sunny Playboy interview in May notwithstanding, Cronin was skeptical: She had maintained a running tally on her calendar of days elapsed since Cruise and Holmes were last photographed publicly together—on April 1, in Louisiana, where he was shooting Oblivion. “We see thousands of pictures a day, and then for three months there were none.” Holmes also wasn’t doing any press with Cruise for Rock of Ages, and she didn’t attend the ceremony for his Friars Club Entertainment Icon Award (instead going to China for a “random ice-skating thing”). And Holmes, who early in the marriage went to Scientology’s Celebrity Centre all the time, hadn’t been seen there in months. “I was like, They’re gonna split up,” Cronin says. Counting photos gives the closest approximation of truth in the fuzzy science of celebritology.
Everybody knows that Tom Cruise loves to suck dick. Everybody knows that the creepy Church of Scientology “auditions” wives for him, and that his marriages are based on secret contracts written to conceal his sexuality in exchange for cash and the promise of fame. Right? That’s basically what one of our most eminent highbrow journalists recently tweeted, anyway. (@GeraldoRivera: “Does Scientology have a special program to provide cover for closeted gay superstars?”)
You probably already know that Cruise once hired a male porn star, Chad Slater, to meet him in a boxing ring for some top-secret nude wrestling (as reported in the French gossip rag Actustar; Cruise sued Slater for $100 million and won a default judgment). Surely you are aware that Katie Holmes was impregnated with the frozen spunk of L. Ron Hubbard, Suri’s real dad (one of the more preposterous claims aired in Andrew Morton’s biography of Cruise, yet one that the Church of Scientology felt it necessary to publicly refute). It must be old news to you that Cruise is sterile (a claim Cruise has sued various publications over, and which Nicole Kidman’s two failed pregnancies during their marriage, and the birth of Suri, would seem to rebut). And everybody knows how Marisol, wife of Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas, found him abed with TC, as a viral e-mail revealed in 2005. (A viral e-mail! That’s the source of the claim! Thomas has since said: “If I were gay, Tom wouldn’t be on the top of my list. It would be Brad Pitt.”) More recently, Gawker breezily announced the Holmes-Cruise split with this headline: “Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes Divorcing Because They Couldn’t Fake Being in Love Forever and Plus She’s Not a Dude.” And Jezebel weighed in with: “Katie Holmes Maybe, Possibly, Walked in on Tom Cruise Extramaritally Bending It With David Beckham.” Because everybody knows everything.
My cousin George is in the Cruise-is-totally-gay camp. George also happens to live in the Chelsea Mercantile, where Holmes is living, and on the evening of July 9, Day 11 of “TomKat: The Divorce,” I visit him in his apartment. Earlier in the day, Holmes’s lawyer announced that a settlement had been reached. The quick, abrupt end to what had been excitedly anticipated as a drip-drip-drip saga that could finally unravel some of the more unfathomable Cruisean mysteries has left the tabloids with major blue balls.
“I’ll tell you how I know he’s gay,” says George, who has lived on the twelfth floor since the Mercantile opened in 2000. He draws on his cigarette, then recounts riding in the elevator with his gay neighbor Demetrius, as we’ll call him, shortly after Cruise helped Penélope Cruz shop for an apartment for in this same building. “I say, ‘What’s the deal with that? Is he gay, or not?’ Demetrius says, ‘He’s gay.’ He says, ‘In the gay community, we know.’ I say, ‘What would you do if you ran into Tom Cruise in the elevator?’ He says, ‘I’d jump him.’ ”
This is George’s evidence?
“That’s from a gay elder statesman,” George says with all the conviction in the world. “They have servants in their house. Young buff guys who probably have fucked Tom Cruise. They wear leather wifebeaters. These are decadent gay men. There are Roman columns in the apartment. He said, ‘We know.’ ”
The First Law of Tabloid Dynamics
And so the story has ground onward, the daily headlines telling a clean, lean, high-concept action-adventure tale starring Holmes:
“Creepy crew, reportedly from Church of Scientology keeping tabs on Katie Holmes, daughter Suri.”
“Katie Holmes’s Secret Escape Plan.”
“Katie Holmes Steps Out Smiling in Public for the First Time Since Filing for Divorce From Tom Cruise.”
“Holmes Had to Flee Tom’s ‘Cuckoo’ Scientology for Herself and Suri.”
If at times the narrative has seemed to run on autopilot, that’s because it has. “How the tabloid magazines work is they make a judgment about what the audience already thinks about a celebrity story—Angelina stole Brad, and Jennifer is miserable about it—and they just keep repeating the story because it reassures people that what they already think is true,” says Ben Widdicombe, former “Gatecrasher” columnist for the Daily News. “With Katie and Tom, it’s, ‘She was this poor innocent lost bride, and Tom was her jailer.’ That certainly rings true to me, but that’s as deep as tabs go, so it becomes a self-fulfilling story.”
Of course, there’s almost no real information to support any particular narrative. Everything is blind-sourced. Everyone’s publicists deny everything, including denying, off the record, that they’re even sources. It’s an information desert, or close enough, and the tabs wring cover stories from the merest specks of news, pseudo news, and non-news (viz., the “Scientology goons” staking out Holmes, who turned out to be Holmes’s own security detail). The show must go on.
A Humble Reconsideration of Tom Cruise (OP note: this is where it gets good)
What if we have Cruise all wrong? The legend of TomKat is ultimately little more than a mobsourced Wiki text, massaged and exegeted day by day. It may be secular scripture, but it’s only loosely based on the lives of actual people named Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Consider, again, the supposed “contract” and “auditions.” These are thriller concepts, screenplay words. No doubt, Cruise and Holmes, and earlier Cruise and Kidman, did have a “contract” that included terms related to the length of their marriage; this is more generally known as a “prenup.” No doubt, Cruise did hold “auditions” for a new girlfriend-wife; these are more generally known as “setups,” or even “dates.” It’s not like Cruise is going to meet someone in a bar or on OKCupid. Ex-Scientologists say that after the divorce from Kidman, the church did try to introduce him to various Scientology women, but none took. And reports that in 2004 Cruise summoned various starlets to meet with him—Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson—hardly require a nefarious explanation. As the star of the Mission: Impossible franchise, it was business as usual for him to be involved in choosing his co-star, and he wouldn’t have been the first single male actor to simultaneously be evaluating the mating potential of a hot young actress. Finally, although everyone has a Cruise-is-gay story sourced from “someone who works in the business and would know,” who really has any idea what or who makes the needle dance on Cruise’s plethysmograph?
Actually, one person who knows what gets the needle jumping, albeit on a different device—Scientology’s lie-detector-like E-meter—is Marty Rathbun, dissident former top-ranking executive of Scientology, who, before leaving the church in 2002, was Cruise’s personal “auditor.” He spent more than a hundred hours listening to Cruise’s innermost secrets, and while Rathbun has never disclosed the contents of those sessions, he does insist, about Cruise, “He is as heterosexual as they come.”
In 2001, an Australian magazine published a remarkable transcript, now floating around the Internet, of an intercepted cell-phone argument between Cruise and Kidman, and it’s impossible to read and still believe there was nothing real there.
“We’re hanging on by a fucking thread, okay? A thread,” Kidman says at one point, later adding, “I had a great relationship that is now not a great relationship.” Complaining that Cruise hasn’t visited her on the set of Practical Magic, she says: “Did you give me anything? Did you give me a note, did you give me a bunch of flowers?
Cruise responds: “Nic, did I get any flowers when I came back from Eyes Wide Shut? I was waiting here, I had the candles lit, I had a bath ready for you.” Kidman: “I don’t really want this, okay? I don’t want to spend my whole dinner break on the phone yelling.”
Eventually, Cruise, calling her “bubba” and “knucklehead” and “Niccy babes,” manages to lower the temperature with some Cruisean charm. “I’m a sweetheart,” he says. “Why don’t you just admit it? Just give in to it. Most of the time I’m adorable. I’m just absolutely adorable, Nic [laughs]. Come on, laugh a little.”
Kidman [softening]: “How is your foot?”
An Alternative Theory of Katie Holmes (lol this bit....Xenu, you have to try harder than these factual errors masquerading as devil's advocacy)
Something didn’t quite track about the media consensus that insta-jelled around the story of Holmes leaving Cruise. Was it possible that the “feminist hero” in our midst, as one commentator styled her, was actually a character of much greater complexity and savvy and Atlas-shrugging, Cruisean will to power—“I’m going to marry him”—than anyone had assumed?
The details of Holmes’s “escape” are most remarkable for their deliberate and very public choreography. Consider:
• Instead of sitting down with her husband and saying she wanted a divorce, Holmes waited until he was in Iceland, then phoned him with the announcement, and was reportedly unwilling to reconsider.
• Holmes didn’t give Cruise any explanation for the decision, according to someone with knowledge of the situation.
• Afterward, according to the knowledgeable source, Holmes wouldn’t speak to her husband again, instead making him deal directly with her father (a divorce lawyer, as it happens).
• The story as it played out in the press was self-evidently driven by leaks from the Holmes camp.
• At the same time, false stories, uncorrected by Holmes’s publicists, ran, suggesting that Holmes had secured the new apartment without Cruise’s knowledge (in fact, according to Cruise’s publicist, Amanda Lundberg, Holmes and Cruise had agreed to get the apartment in mid-May).
• In Holmes’s daily photo ops, Suri was a conspicuous prop, as she has been for years. If you think this is just a case of a celebrity trying to live a normal life: When was the last time you saw a picture of Blue Ivy? Can you name any of Julia Roberts’s kids?
• Playing into the escape-from-Scientology story line, it was reported that Holmes had now “registered” with a Catholic church. Who “registers” with a church? You just go.
• And Holmes wasted no time in starting filming of a new movie, based on her own screenplay about a single mom, Molly, on the day the settlement was announced.
The Mercantile is a curious choice for a woman in jeopardy. She has come to Manhattan, perhaps logically, since she has said she wants to do more Broadway. (Last Thursday, it was announced she’ll be in the comic play Dead Accounts, opening at the Music Box this fall.) But this is not some secluded building on East End Avenue. It’s in the center of the city, and the residents of its 354 units include Cruz and Javier Bardem, Bobby Flay, Lisa Stansfield, and Kyle MacLachlan. The building has a privacy-friendly underground garage, but so do dozens of other buildings in the city, and Holmes hasn’t even been taking advantage of it. If she wanted, she could exit the garage in a car with dark windows, and paparazzi would never catch a glimpse of her or Suri. Instead, every day, when she’s left the building for errands or meetings, she has promenaded out to a waiting car, in full view of photographers. Nor, when on foot, has she used the side entrance on 25th Street: She’s been stepping out right into the paparazzi maw for the sake of trivial grocery shopping. How about FreshDirect? One night, cousin George and I rode the elevator to the penthouse, to what George was certain was her apartment—its previous tenants included Marc Jacobs and Nick Jonas. I expected bodyguards, but George scoffed: “This building is a sanctuary.” We stood in front of the door for a minute, wondering how creepy it would be to knock, before we went back downstairs—and as it happened, Jonas still lives in the apartment; Holmes is on the eleventh floor.
“I’m convinced that she’s the most fame-hungry person the world has ever seen,” says someone who’s worked with Holmes. Holmes’s entire divorce M.O. suggests an alternative gloss on her great escape. It’s implausible that Cruise’s workaholic lifestyle, or the rigors of Scientology, came as any surprise to her. To embrace the portrayal of her as a victim is to deny her agency.
If Holmes felt trapped, it may have just been in someone else’s movie. Promised above-the-title billing, she never managed to move beyond a supporting role. Where at 26 she found Cruise’s monster life “exciting,” at 33 it just made her feel smaller. And it doesn’t require any overt or conscious cynicism on Holmes’s part, or mean she wasn’t genuinely smitten with Cruise when they wed, for her also to have expected the union to be a boon to her career.
Marrying Cruise had done wonders for Nicole Kidman, who not only became massively more famous but whose acting career took off while she and Cruise were still together. And Holmes, who already had a hit TV series to her name and a $1 million role in Batman Begins at the time of her wedding, was starting ahead of where Kidman had. Indeed, marrying Cruise did make Holmes a lot more famous—there she was on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, styled by Victoria Beckham—but it also, because of Cruise’s bizarreries, drove her Q rating downward. When her character was reprised in the next Batman movie, The Dark Knight, Holmes was passed over for Maggie Gyllenhaal. She got parts in mostly small movies, but they bombed at the box office. The Times called Holmes the “weakest link” in Mad Money, and for her work in the Adam Sandler comedy Jack & Jill, she was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress at the 2011 Golden Raspberry Awards (her second nomination; she had received the first for Batman Begins).
At the same time, unfavorable comparisons between her and fellow Dawson’s Creek alumna Michelle Williams became painfully inescapable. As Williams became a figure of sympathy because of her husband (the late Heath Ledger), Holmes became a joke because of hers. Holmes is said (scout’s honor!) to have been enraged by Williams’s success. While Holmes was playing Jackie O. in a mini-series that ended up airing on Reelz—that’s Channel 238 in the Time Warner NY cable system, if you’re wondering—Williams was playing JFK’s sometime-mistress Marilyn Monroe, in a feature film, en route to a third Oscar nomination.
But Scientology, or rather its terrible reputation, offered a way out. Holmes, unable to get the kinds of roles she wanted, realized she could cast herself in the part of a lifetime. Like Truman in The Truman Show, she finally grasped her ontological status as a character in a fiction, and that self-awareness propelled her out of the story and crashing through the fourth wall. She knew a good third-act twist when she saw one.
“It’s not like she ever had a huge career to begin with. She was a rising star. Now she will have a huge career,” says an editor at a leading celebrity magazine. Holmes, emerging from a seven-year, one-on-one apprenticeship with the world’s most famous action hero, simply rewrote the script.
Or maybe she didn’t. But what a story.
for the actual tl; dr crowd: this writer insists Tom's not gay, not creepy, just misunderstood, Xenu is misunderstood too, Katie is a conniving bitch who broke Poor Tom's heart like a big meanie.
Source (looks like Xenu got to a media outlet at last)
Known for playing sensitive good guys in The Hunger Games and The Last Song (where he met his fiancée Miley Cyrus), the youngest Hemsworth is looking to challenge his brother Chris- aka Thor- for action hero primacy. As an ex-sniper who goes by the name of Billy the Kid, Hemsworth joins the grizzled mercenary crew reuniting fo this months Expendables 2. The combat newbie is in good hands, rubbing shoulders with a cast of experienced skull-crackers like Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone.
InStyle: You moved to L.A. from Australia three years ago. What’s one of your favorite things about America?
Liam: Southern accents. Whenever I go to Nashville or am around my fiancée’s family, I just end up talking like them. I love the South in general. There’s a lot of deep fried food, and the people really remind me of Australians- very laid back.
InStyle: A buff action star who chows down on fried food?! what else do you eat?
Well, if I’m losing or gaining weight for a role, I try to stick to a Paleo diet- meat, vegetables, and fruit, nothing processed- and adjust the amounts. Othewise, when I’m in New York, all I can think about is pepperoni pizza. I love the New York-style thin crust. I don’t cook that much anymore, but I like doing stir-fries and pastas, or I’ll coat shrimp with shredded coconut and fry them in coconut oil.
InStyle: Again with the frying!
Liam: I cook a bunch of things in coconut oil. I feel it’s healthier than other oils. I’d never seen it until I got to the U.S.
InStyle: You’re an amateur chef- a girl’s dream. Describe your ideal woman.
Liam: My fiancée. She’s extremely happy and has a sense of humor about life. And she has taught me you can step back and not take everything so seriously. Happy, positive, fun- those qualities are good in anyone.
InStyle: Speaking of Miley, does she ever weigh in on your wardrobe?
Liam: She doesn’t care. My style is very inconsistent. One day, I’ll put together a cool outfit, and the next, I’ll look like a homeless person. Mostly I’m a T-Shirt and jeans- Levis or Nudie. I purchased a couple of Converse hoodies the other day. They make really good, soft cotton sweaters. But I stole this Vince shirt from the [wardrobe racks on the] InStyle shoot.
InStyle: Um, moving on. I see you have a fuchsia iPhone case.
Liam: Thank you for noticing. I had a leather one, but it fell apart. I found this at home. Yes, I have a pink iPhone. And yes, my friends make fun of me.
InStyle: What music is on there?
Liam: I like ‘60’s, ‘70’s, ‘80’s rock. I’ve been listening to “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears nonstop. I’ll sing along as well [laughs]. Rod Stewart, Zac Brown- have you heard of Matisyahu? He’s got a great song called “One Day.” And I love Nirvana. I play Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” when I have a cry.
InStyle: Stallone is one of your co-stars. Ever sing the Rocky theme?
Liam: “Eye of the Tiger”? [Laughs] All the time. That’s the only thing I listen to when I box.
InStyle: How did the Expendables 2 cast treat the new guy?
Liam: As a young actor, it was pretty daunting to go on set, but I loved hanging out with the guys. They’ve done so many movies and they’re all friends. They’re also all ridiculously fit. Randy Couture is a UFC fighter and Jason Statham is…Jason Statham. I thought since my character is the young one, he’s supposed to be in better shape then the rest. But I felt like I was the weak link.
InStyle: Well, as the team’s sharp-shooter, at least you get to carry a huge gun. How’s your aim in real life?
Liam: Straight, but those 50-caliber sniper rifles weigh about 40 pounds! I did a bit of training with a gun specialist, but I don’t actually want to kill anything.
InStyle: Your brother Chris plays Thor. In a smack down between him and Billy the Kid, who would win?
Liam: Thor’s a God. You can never beat a God, no matter how big your gun is.
What Women Have To Say On Liam
Melissa George [Co-Star in Triangle]: ‘I knew Liam was going to be a big star from the first day I worked with him. Not only is he a great actor, he’s easy to get along with. No matter how difficult the scenes were he was willing to stay longer and make them perfect.’
Jennifer Lawrence [Co-Star in The Hunger Games]: ‘Liam is laid-back, honest, and hilarious. He has an effortless, masculine chic-he can look just as cool in jeans and a T-Shirt as he does in a suit.’
Teresa Palmer [Co-Star in Love and Honor]: Liam is the definition of what a movie star should be. He has such a warm, generous, open energy and boundless talent and charisma, making him a natural leader. It’s truly rare to find someone who has his level of success and is still so eager to learn.”
MILEY AND ME
Hemsworth talks about life as half of a hot Hollywood couple, from choosing what to wear to parenting a pet.
On the red carpet, matching outfits are purely coincidental for this duo. “We don’t usually coordinate,” he says “and I think people usually get sick of seeing black. Still, I loved when we both ended up in all black [Dolce & Gabbana for him, Pucci for her.] at The Hunger Games premiere in L.A.”
It’s not just his wife-to-be’s black-tie ensembles that get this actor’s thumbs up. He’s equally complimentary of Cyrus’ off duty attire. “Miley switches up her style all the time,” he says. “Whether it’s a nice dress or a ripped T-Shirt, she always looks good in what she’s wearing.”
For Hemsworth’s 22nd birthday in January, Cyrus gave the longtime pooch fanatic an English Bulldog puppy named Ziggy. “We always had pet dogs when I was growing up,” Hemsworth explains. “And I love English Bulldogs.”
Plus stills from new film 'Love & Honor'
source | source | source
Sylvia Woods’ life stands as a strong rejoinder to those who doubt that the American Dream is achievable for all.
Woods, who died Thursday at the age of 86, rose from being a waitress at the then-Johnson’s Luncheonette — to buying and renaming it after herself on Aug. 1, 1962.
Over five decades, the trailblazing entrepreneur would become Harlem’s unofficial hostess and “Queen of Soul Food.”
Sylvia’s became a world-famous destination — the go-to establishment for Harlem’s elite and visiting black celebrities.
Eventually, politicians of every background would be sure to make their way uptown to pay respects to the charismatic “Miss Sylvia” — including once-and-future presidents, governors and mayors.
It didn’t hurt that the food itself was darn good: Sylvia and her late husband Herbert offered a menu true to their native South Carolina cuisine — fried chicken, cornbread, ribs, collard greens, etc.
Woods extended the Sylvia brand into bestselling cookbooks, catering and a line of seasonings and canned goods.
Sylvia Woods leaves behind a great New York legacy — good food and a landmark of African-American culture and achievement at Lenox Avenue and 127th Street.
Team USA will take on the Summer Olympics with sugary pop goodness.
It pains me to say that when you consider one-half of this video is a Miley Cyrus song I promised myself never to listen to again. It's just so damn hard not to press replay when the soccer squad who will try to win gold for the US of A is dancing and lip-syncing along.
NESN reports the women who will suit up and go for soccer gold in just a week's time put out a grand video, unfortunately based on Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA."
The video seems to have the whole gang involved, and even has commanding forward Abby Wambach, usually one dominating the box with her formidable size, showing her gentler side. She shakes those hips to a song we will all now hum throughout the day, making this a perfect blend of good and bad news.
In a year that was dominated by a parody song that will not be named here, (like Voldemort, I fear the mere mention of a certain Carly Rae Jepsen song would welcome droves of copycat providers), the women now have a music video of their own that needs to go viral.
While less of this particular song might be a good thing, the opposite can be said about Team USA. They are pure winning wrapped up in a three-minute video. Let's hope that keeps up for the next few weeks.
this writer sounds pressed but i think its qt
There aren’t a lot of artist collaborations I can think of that would make the Internet poop itself like Flying Lotus and Earl Sweatshirt. So you’ll have to excuse my ridiculously high expectations/keyboard gushery in seeing that this actually happened. It all takes place as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series, which has clearly reached an insane peak. Do I want to write about this song? Sure. But would I rather you just listen and go berserk? Yes.
Click to listen!
If you listened to Flying Lotus’ new tune, “Between Friends”, chances are you went nuts over the Earl Sweatshirt collaboration and then wondered, “Who the hell is Captain Murphy?!” Well, some are speculating that it’s an alter-ego of FlyLo, Earl, or even Tyler, the Creator. Honestly, you can hear touches of both Earl and Tyler in the raps both on that track and “Mighty Morphin Foreskin”. But maybe it’s actually FlyLo spitting? Who knows. Either way, it’s pretty dope and that beat is nuts.
Wait: Maybe it’s Earl and Tyler. Oof.
A male pop fan who idolised Britney Spears has undergone a sex change operation to make himself look more like the star.
Transsexual Kara Hays has now spent over £60,000 on gender re-alignment surgery and breast implants. The 26-year-old, who was born a man and used to be known as Kody, now has long-flowing blonde hair in imitation of the 90s pop singer.
'When you feel like you’re a girl living in a boy’s body and you try to change you want that validation that you look like a girl. I viewed her as a very strong woman, everybody wanted to date her. 'I focused on Britney and Christina Aguilera for my inspiration: they were the stars that were around when I was younger, they are who you looked up to. 'Nowadays people have Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
The 26-year-old says her new appearance, which has turned her into a lookalike of the pop singer who shot to fame with her debut album '...Baby One More Time' in 1999, has finally brought her happiness following years of anguish.
In 2002, Kara then underwent a gruelling 14 hour gender reassignment surgery and breast implant surgery, and has so far spent around £60,000 dying her hair blonde and modelling herself on her idea of perfection. She began being mistaken as Britney and was even referred to as the mega star by members of the paparazzi, something she claims was 'incredibly validating'. Kara later moved to New York to attend the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts for a year, graduating last year before starting on a degree in public relations.
Source - (full articles + pictures at source)
It's official! Mariah Carey is joining American Idol. And she's already feeling the love from Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Seacrest.
E! News caught up with J. Lo and asked whether she believes Mariah will be a good Idol judge. "I think so, yeah! Why not?" Jennifer answered. "She's a musician for a long time she has a lot of experience. And it's that experience you offer them at the end of the day, the contestants just want to get better and grow through the process."
Fox President Kevin Reilly just chatted with us at the TCA Press Tour, pointing out that Mariah should not be viewed as a replacement for Jennifer. "It was never the goal to replace [Jennifer]. And I think they are very, very different personalities. So once Jennifer declared that in fact she felt comfortable moving on, we never actually said, ‘Who's going to be the Jennifer replacement?' And in fact, we were talking to Jennifer and there was a scenario that maybe she would have stayed, but we've decided that this is actually going to be for the best. And we have no shortage of names."
"Replacement" or not, Jennifer tells us she does have some advice for Mariah and any new judges coming: "Just enjoy the journey," Jennifer told E! News at her concert with Enrique Iglesias in Newark, N.J., on Saturday. "There is pressure as far as the live shows, but you know what? Just remember you're there at the end of the day to help those contestants grow and to get to the end and to get to that finale. And whenever I thought about that it always made my job a little less pressure-filled and a littler easier, because it's not about you. It wasn't about me, it was about them. It was about helping them and that always made it a lot of fun for me. I'm going to miss it a lot."
They have a lot in common
The tape ... which is 30-minutes long ... was shot in New Mexico and features Minka with an ex-boyfriend.
The tape is shot in a semi-professional manner. The camera is secured by a tripod and hooked up to a TV monitor, so both Minka and the BF can watch the action they create. Minka is very aware of the camera.
It's unclear how old Minka was when the tape was shot. Two songs from Brandy's second album, "Never Say Never," are playing in the background. The album was released on June 8, 1998 -- 16 days before Minka's 18th birthday. But one source questioned whether the song was added after the fact to make it appear she was over 18.
As for Minka, we put a call in to her rep. So far, no comment.
As for the claim the Brandy songs were added after the fact, that's not possible, because we now know Minka is singing and dancing to the songs in the video.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Drescher to get the dirt on tonight's episode when she, Ramona and Mario Singer we well as Sonja hit the road to Bal Harbour, Fla.
The Hollywood Reporter: How familiar were you with the show when you signed on?
Aviva: I was familiar but not a diehard fan. I watched intermittently and knew what was going on. I knew I’d get scrutiny but I was not prepared for how much scrutiny. Now I wish I’d watched every episode & read every blog.
You seem very genuine and unaffected.
I don’t have anything fake, except for my leg. (Laughs.)
What’s been the trickiest thing or person to navigate?
I would say it’s the scrutiny. I am even at times horrified by something I might see on the web. I never thought in a million years I’d bat an eyelash at that. One site called my hands “alien hands.”
The other person difficult to navigate is Ramona -- I know not to trust her. I myself wonder if Ramona is really like that or putting it on for the cameras.
Why did you want to fix Sonja up with your dad, a sex addict?
My dad is very handsome, he's pretty successful and he’s also totally with-it and brilliant and funny and he’s unfiltered. He’s also really really sexual for his age, which is bordering 80. Sonja was married to someone 30 years her senior before so I thought, "Why not?"
Carole tweeted that the end of tonight’s show is crazy and a preview for the rest of the season. Care to comment?
I don’t think you’ll see a crazier show than the next eight episodes. I can’t believe it and I lived it.
We love Alex and Jill blowing the lid off of all of the behind the scenes secrets of their former show.
Alex gives us weekly insight into each episode on RumorFix and now Jill is giving us dish every Wednesday on Good Afternoon America. This week, Jill revealed that the women will “sometimes” engage in ridiculous behavior to appease the producers and get airtime.
GAA host Lara Spencer mentioned the now-infamous scene where Sonja uses a bidet, filled to the brim with ice, to ice down her wrinkles.
“Leave it to Sonja to come up with something creative for editors,” Jill said about the scene. “They love this stuff. I just hope that they cleaned [the bidet].”
When Laura pressed if people will do stunts because they “know it will get them airtime,” Jill responded that they “sometimes” do.
“[Sonja] might have thought it would have been funny for the show. Not in a bad way, I think she might have done it before,” Jill added.
Mariah Carey just became the HIGHEST PAID JUDGE in reality television ... because her one-year deal with "American Idol" is worth close to $18 MILLION ... this according to sources connected to "Idol."
Carey's deal dwarfs the contract Jennifer Lopez signed when she joined the judge's table -- J.Lo only scored a measly $12 mil for her first year on the show.
Carey also blows past Britney Spears ... who's making $15 million on "X Factor."
Somewhere ... Nick Cannon is smiling.
Mariah has since tweeted about joining the show ... saying, "It's gonna be so much fun working on American Idol. As a singer-songwriter, I'm excited to help find and nurture new talent. LYM! – MC”
Worth every penny.
The View discusses Gun Control
Chris Cuomo on the Aurora Tragedy
American Idol changes with Randy
Steve St. Bernard
Classic View Clip:
The GOP racist and hateful remarks
Classic View Clip: The GOP racist and hateful remarks
source source source source source
As parents, we all face the challenging task of explaining the facts of life to our children as they come of age. Sometimes, it seems as though they know more than we do!
It’s no different for the Duggar Family – in fact, it’s practically an ongoing process, since their 19 children are all growing up fast. Six of them are in their teens, three are getting close, and even their toddlers won’t be little forever. In her latest blog for TLC, mom Michelle takes us through the way she and Jim-Bob introduce their children to the realities of puberty.
Michelle handles The Talk with her daughters. “[I'll] make it a special time out with mom — we may go for lunch at their favorite place — and I’ll explain to the girls about this new season of life and how exciting this is, because they’re entering womanhood,” she says. Their day out ends with a trip to the store for an introductory look at feminine products and a little coming-of-age gift of perfume and lotion. Dad Jim-Bob talks to the boys about the changes going on in their bodies.
But the other point of their parental heart-to-hearts is to let the blossoming Duggars know what’s expected of them when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex.
Michelle tells her daughters that “you want to guard your heart to make sure that you are keeping your affections where they need to be and not giving away parts of your heart by emotionally getting attached to individuals, because your future spouse will be the one who you want to give all of those things to.” Jim-Bob talks to the boys about treating women with respect, which means not flirting with girls in any way. “Don’t show wrong, inappropriate actions to others who may not be your future spouse.” And both parents encourage their children to come talk to them about any “temptations or struggles” they may be feeling. The teen girls have been known to ask Michelle to pray for them before they go out into a situation where they’ll be among boys.
The Duggars are committed to the idea that God helps men and women choose soulmates for life, and that all physical and emotional affection should be saved for the person one marries. Instead of letting their children date, they participate in group activities with other families who share their particular faith and views. Once the child finds a future spouse, the parents take them through a lengthy supervised “courtship” process. Even then, hand-holding is as far as the couple is allowed to go until the rings are on.
I think we can all agree on the open-communication policy and the puberty talk. Even the little gift for the girls is a cute idea. And there’s no chance a Duggar teen will ever be starring in Teen Mom 4. But how healthy is it for these children to have their lives controlled so closely that they can’t even be left alone with a peer?
The people of Boston will have to purchase their chicken sandwiches elsewhere: Mayor Thomas M. Menino has sworn that the franchise will have to fight city hall to bring its fast-food empire to Boston after Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, said gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” The Atlanta-based chain is hoping to open a restaurant in a popular tourist spot near the Freedom Trail — a rather ironic choice in Menino’s eyes.
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” Menino told the Boston Herald on Thursday. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against the population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion. That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
Chick-fil-A has been the target of critics for years. The LGBT advocacy group Equality Matters published a report that concluded Chick-fil-A had donated more than $3 million to Christian groups that oppose homosexuality between 2003 and 2009 and donated another $2 million to anti-gay causes in 2010 alone. Cathy, however, never spoke publicly about the company’s policies on the matter. Cathy finally went on record with the Baptist Press on July 16. When asked about Chick-fil-A’s support of the “traditional family” (referring, presumably, to one led by a married husband and wife), Cathy responded, “Well, guilty as charged…We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
With Cathy on the record, customers and companies alike are deciding whether to boycott the franchise. In a June 20 announcement on Facebook, CEO Lisa Henson said that the Jim Henson Company — home to the Muppets — is breaking ties with Chick-fil-A: They will no longer supply toys or other merchandise to the fast-food chain. The post has since received 6625 likes.
In response to the backlash, Chick-fil-A released a statement on Thursday that said it had a history of “applying biblically-based principles” to business management. (The franchise closes on Sundays, for example.) But the statement went on to say that the company does not discriminate:
“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
Regardless of its policies, the fast-food chain has been on a track of nationwide expansion. Having opened its first restaurant in a Georgia mall in 1967, Chick-fil-A now boasts more than 1600 restaurants in 29 states and rakes in around $4.1 billion a year. While its home state contains a whopping 196 stores, there are just two within the state of Massachusetts — both resting in the suburbs, well outside Boston city limits.
But Menino just may succeed in effectively banning the chain from Boston: The mayor blocked the development of a Walmart in Roxbury last year, citing the retail empire’s negative impact on neighborhood business and lower-wage workers as his motivation. Now, he plans to offer Chick-fil-A a similar hurdle-laden policy. “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult,” Menino said. “Unless they open up their policies.”
At the very least, Menino will be able to count on the support of Boston’s Northeastern University students in this fight. Chick-fil-A already had to cancel its plans to build a restaurant on that campus when students protested that the chain had donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups. Administrators heeded the student’s wishes and told Chick-fil-A to fly the coop.
L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies went to the Jackson family home in Calabasas and took a battery report ... after family members reported a disturbance.
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... Lost Hills deputies from the Sheriff's Dept. showed up this afternoon at the compound and someone inside accused someone else present of a physical assault.
Deputies took a report but no arrests were made.
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... Lost Hills Sheriff's deputies have been on the Jackson case since April, when a business associate of the Jackson family alleged that Katherine Jackson was being emotionally and financially mistreated by family members.
At the time, deputies interviewed Katherine who denied she was being mistreated, but we're told the Sheriffs are still on the case and are interviewing other family members to determine if there is possible financial abuse.
Sources say the alleged battery has something to do with these ongoing allegations. source
What is that raisin up to now????
ABC is considering shuffling its Wednesday comedy lineup -- and potentially giving a big boost to its second-year show "Suburgatory."
The network is likely to swap timeslots for "Suburgatory" and its new comedy "The Neighbors," Deadline reports. The move would send "The Neighbors" to 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesdays and give "Suburgatory" the prime real estate following "Modern Family" at 9:30.
Early reviews from critics on "The Neighbors" -- about a family that moves to a suburban development populated entirely by aliens disguised as humans -- haven't been especially kind. But it will still have a solid timeslot between "The Middle" and "Modern Family" and the potential to possibly reach more of a parents-and-kids audience in the earlier spot.
"Suburgatory" averaged 7.25 million viewers and a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49 in its inaugural season -- numbers that could rise some with "Modern Family," one of the top-rated comedies on TV, as its lead-in. In turn it could provide a more compatible lead-in for ABC's high-profile new drama "Nashville," which is set for 10 p.m. Wednesdays in the fall.
Sounds like a good move to protect Suburgatory, but I'm not entirely sure if it's a 9:30 show.
How do you measure a movie star? As recently as ten or twenty years ago, it was easy: Just look for the biggest names with the biggest paychecks and biggest box-office grosses. But oh, how times have changed! These days, some of our most famous actors struggle to open a movie, while Hollywood’s hugest successes often feature lesser-known names donning spandex superhero suits. Celebrity has become disconnected from stardom, as top-selling tabloid cover subjects get ignored at the box office. Even those eye-popping paychecks of yore have begun to wane: The days of free and easy $20 million salaries are over, and cautious studios are slashing pay rates in favor of potential (but controlled) back-end profits. In short, it’s never been harder to calculate a star’s worth than it is in 2012, and that’s where Vulture's 100 Most Valuable Stars list comes in.
1. Robert Downey Jr.
The Comeback Kid: "I think every movie I ever do is going to be one of the three biggest movies ever, and it finally happened," Robert Downey Jr. bragged this summer during his Comic-Con victory lap. Just goes to show you, there’s power in positive thinking: Nearly unhireable a decade ago, this year Downey helped power The Avengers to that record-busting billion-and-a-half worldwide gross and ended up in the very top spot on our Most Valuable Stars list. Since his breakout performance in 2008’s Iron Man, Downey has made only one misstep (2009’s underperforming The Soloist) and has managed to deliver seven huge hits. Three of them put him in the Iron Man armor, sure, but Downey’s got another franchise, Sherlock Holmes, which grosses more than half a billion worldwide with each installment, and his comic turns in Tropic Thunder and Due Date both crossed the $100 million mark domestically. It helps that Downey is so like his most famous character that Iron Man 3 director Shane Black says, "He IS Tony Stark"; audiences clearly can’t get enough of either. Sober, savvy, and versatile (so much so that only Downey could pull off the part of an Aussie actor donning blackface in Tropic Thunder and snag an Oscar nomination for it), Downey’s engineered the biggest comeback that modern Hollywood’s ever seen, going from drug-addict joke to blockbuster king. Let that be a lesson to some of this list’s more scandal-ridden subjects: There’s always a second (or third, or fourth) act to be had, if you’ve got the talent to pull it off.
2. Will Smith
The Returning Box-Office King: Will Smith has never won an Oscar, but he’s the definitive Hollywood omni-star — an international box-office love object whose attachment to any project all but guarantees that it’ll get made and be a hit. There’s no mystery about this: Smith’s twenty years’ worth of films, including such galactic smashes as Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black, have grossed more than $6 billion worldwide. He’s got a safe cushion from which to tweak his formula, whether mixing action with melancholy in I Am Legend; slurring a drunken, misanthropic superhero in Hancock; or playing a give-until-it-hurts organ donor in the quizzical 2008 drama Seven Pounds, the ending of which earned snickers, but the film still took in $168.1 million worldwide. He’s only made one movie in almost four years, which is the main reason he doesn’t top this list. Instead, he’s been busy building up the next generation of super-Smiths, setting up son Jaden in the hit Karate Kid remake and foisting his adorable daughter, Willow, on audiences with "Whip My Hair" and Annie. But when he decided to return with MiB3, audiences welcomed him back. While the $174.9 million U.S. gross was the lowest of the trilogy, internationally it has taken in $436.6 million, his highest take ever. If any doubts linger — did MiB3 drop because the franchise is too old or because he stayed away too long? — his next test is the sci-fi opus After Earth. But if anybody can turn an M. Night Shyamalan movie into a hit, it’s Will Smith.
3. Johnny Depp
The Quirky Tentpole Perennial: Johnny Depp rose to fame as an almost reluctant leading man, surfing the outer edges of Hollywood and testing his versatility with a range of roles from the bizarre (Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) to the romantic (Don Juan DeMarco, Chocolat), with a couple of crime dramas thrown in for variety (Donnie Brasco, Blow). These days, though, those early outings seem like the liner notes of a stellar career, trumped by his Keith Richards-inspired turn as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s mammoth Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which has earned more than $4 billion for Disney and a reported $300 million for Depp, enough for the actor to acquire an island. (He’s flirting with a fifth installment, of course.) There’s also his fruitful eight-film collaboration with director Tim Burton: Their highest-grossing flick, Alice in Wonderland, topped the billion-dollar mark, though the pair’s latest outing, Dark Shadows, failed to gross $100 million, suggesting audiences may be tiring of their fantastical shtick, and the disappointing domestic grosses for The Rum Diary and The Tourist suggest that he’s not invulnerable. Still, the studios awarded Depp top marks for value, just one of a handful of A-list actors to reach that number (Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, and Will Smith are the others). After a recent high-profile split from longtime partner Vanessa Paradis, the normally private Depp returned to the tabloids, and he should also expect increased media scrutiny after he was controversially cast as Tonto in Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger.
4. Denzel Washington
The Solid Star: Denzel Washington may not get the hype of flashy stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp, but there’s a reason that he scored so high on this list: As Moneyball taught us last year, the most important thing is to get on base, and Washington is the master of hitting solid doubles and triples at every at bat. All but one of his last ten movies (2007’s smaller, Oscar-baity The Great Debaters) has grossed more than $50 million, branding him one of the most dependable choices a studio can make. If "opening" a movie on its first weekend is still the surest sign of star power, Washington can guarantee you something more than $20 million every time, and his most recent action vehicle, Safe House, opened to $40 million. (And though Washington’s often paired with a younger up-and-comer like Ryan Reynolds or Chris Pine, box-office pundits give him the lion’s share of credit when his movies open well.) Not bad for a 57-year-old leading man! The two-time Oscar winner has the promising Robert Zemeckis drama Flight on tap for awards season this year; let’s hope that after winning the Tony for Fences in 2010, Washington’s ready to set aside those lucrative explosions for a while in order to show off some dramatic firepower.
5. Brad Pitt
The Not-Just-A-Pretty-Face: One of the most recognizable names — and most photographed faces — in the entertainment industry, Brad Pitt spent his mid-40s largely eschewing his "worldwide sex symbol" status with a series of less-predictable leading roles in films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (in which he ages backwards), the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading (in which he plays a vapid gym-head), and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (we’re still trying to figure out what that one was about). And since being really, really good-looking (eighteen magazine covers in five years!), starring in international blockbusters (Pitt’s films have earned a cumulative $1 billion internationally in the last five years alone), and dating some of the most coveted women in the world doesn’t seem to be enough for the underachiever, Brad Pitt also runs Plan B Entertainment, whose recent productions include the Oscar-nominated The Departed and Moneyball (in which Pitt also starred). Though he hasn’t taken home a gold statue himself, Pitt just came off a recent staggering run of back-to-back-to-back-to-back Best Picture nominees. Not bad for a man responsible for virtually half of all tabloid coverage alongside partner Angelina Jolie. Now with six kids in tow, the soon-to-be Mr. Jolie recently premiered his new crime drama Killing Them Softly at Cannes and will then be seen in the troubled 2013 postapocalyptic zombie flick World War Z.
6. Matt Damon
The Sign of Quality: Much like the other sides of the Oceans 11 triangle, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Matt Damon resists all temptations to sell out and invariably makes the interesting choice: When you see his face in an ad, you know that the project isn’t going to be an average example of that genre, just as the Bourne movies weren’t mere actioners and True Grit wasn’t just a western. Next year’s Elysium, directed by District 9’s allegory-prone Neill Blomkamp, promises to be anything but generic sci-fi, and then there’s the slated HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (in which he plays the young lover of Michael Douglas’s pianist). With Damon’s presence as its own meaningful imprimatur, he’s managed to bring some increasingly rare adult films to a surprisingly high gross, hence his high studio rating: "surprising" because his targeted grown-up, discerning audience doesn’t rush out to an opening weekend. As a result, his mid-price films are often dismissed as underperformers when they don’t debut strong — then a year later, you look up to see that We Bought a Zoo, roundly considered one of last Christmas’s duds, grossed $75.6 million in the U.S. Nobody paid much attention to the relatively low-tech Adjustment Bureau at the time (That’s the hat movie, right?), but it wound up with $62.5 million. An ardent activist, he’s cognizant that his serious films and causes threaten to paint him as a dour personality, so he’s quick to preempt that by popping up in Jimmy Kimmel skits and SNL digital shorts. Say his name and while some people will think of his work with Haiti, many more will start humming, "I’m fucking Matt Damon."
7. Clint Eastwood
The Beloved Icon: Eastwood comes in at number seven on Vulture’s list, to which some of you may be shouting, "What is this, 1977’s Most Valuable Stars?" To those doubters, let us point you to the one movie that Eastwood starred in during our five-year window: 2008’s Gran Torino. At age 78, he was the only recognizable star in the film, playing an aged version of his iconic squinting vigilante, and it grossed $270 million worldwide. Eastwood’s on-camera appearances have slowed down, even as he continues to direct a movie a year and be recognized as one of America’s great auteurs, but Gran Torino showed just how much more powerful his face is than just his name in the credits: Only one of his eight films since 2003’s Mystic River has made more than $40 million, and it was 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, the only other movie he starred in. Studios rate him near the top of their scale, and his likability score is second only to Sandra Bullock. In September, at 82, he’ll star as Amy Adams’s nearly-blind baseball-scout father (presumably a gruff one) in Trouble With the Curve, directed by his Malpaso Productions partner and long-time first assistant director Robert Lorenz. Unlike past icons like John Wayne, Eastwood has never shied away from showing how age has changed the man his longtime fans remember from the spaghetti westerns. By not trying to be stuck in an era, he’s made his audience want to stick with him.
8. Angelina Jolie
Mrs Hollywood: In addition to her duties as the world’s most famous celebrity, Angelina Jolie is also occasionally called upon to open a movie — which she’s perfectly capable of. She’s the daughter of Jon Voight, the former wife of Billy Bob Thornton, a world-saving humanitarian, a perennial Most Beautiful Person, the fastest-growing private adoption agency in North America, and the live-in mother of Brad Pitt’s children, which means that few of her moves go unnoticed by gossip magazines. But her box-office history will show that she’s also pretty good at choosing her work: Jolie stands alone among actresses whose name guarantees a solid first weekend for a large-budget action movie. And her one-for-them (2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2008’s Wanted, 2010’s Salt), one-for-me (2007’s A Mighty Heart, 2008’s Changeling) approach has helped her weather the occasional one-for-nobody (2010’s The Tourist, which was the butt of Ricky Gervais jokes domestically, even if it eventually earned a nice foreign tally). That Oscar she won for 1999’s Girl, Interrupted means she can dabble in prestige (like last year’s In the Land of Blood and Honey, her directorial debut) without it seeming like a desperate bid for take-me-seriously awards attention. Next on her schedule is Disney’s Maleficent, a $170 million live-action version of the Sleeping Beauty story told from the villain’s perspective, and if there’s anyone who can enliven the already-crowded big-budget fairy-tale genre, it’s Angelina in horns.
9. Meryl Streep
The Queen: It’s a common complaint that there are no roles for actresses of a certain age. This is because a) there are not many written, and b) those that are all seem to go to Meryl Streep. Yet, who could begrudge her? Now entering her fourth decade of being dubbed "the greatest living actress," she is the beloved grand dame of Hollywood, with everyone still rooting for her at the Oscars even though we all know that, with three, she has plenty, but it’s so entertaining to watch her gasp and fumble her glasses and act like it all still affects her after all the years of plaudits. And that’s part of her charm: always looking like she’s having fun. In the eighties, she dove into the most wrenching material, but now she seems driven by what she will enjoy (one pictures her choosing movies like Julia Child would go grocery shopping: a little of this, oh my, that would be good today...). What bigger fuck-you is there to anyone who might think of her as a precious actor than clearly having a ball doing Mamma Mia!? Or giggling and flirting her way through Nancy Meyers’s It’s Complicated? She was better than them both, but she didn’t act like it, and audiences flocked to them, with Mamma Mia! grossing an astounding $609.8 million worldwide. She has not given up on serious drama, winning an Oscar for last year’s The Iron Lady, but before taking on the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, she’ll appear in the August marriage comedy Hope Springs. It probably won’t get her an Oscar, but she’ll make it more fun than sex therapy with Tommy Lee Jones should be.
10. George Clooney
The King of Hollywood: George Clooney is a movie star. And not just any movie star: He’s one of the biggest the town has to offer, despite a dearth of blockbuster breakouts on his resume. Still, that doesn’t seem to bother him too much, nor does it bother studios. He’s the sort of actor who recalls Hollywood’s golden age, and he prefers to be picky with material, mixing up his resume with unique choices like Syriana and Coen Brothers films rather than always reaching for the sure thing. And though he had a run of weaker films a few years back (we’re looking at you, Leatherheads and The Men Who Stare at Goats), he’s the rare star who can power dramas like The Descendants, Up in the Air, and The Ides of March to success at home and abroad. Yes, his biggest hits remain the Ocean’s franchise and a turn as Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin that he’d rather disavow, but Clooney has got a lot of Academy cred as an actor-producer-director: seven Oscar nominations and one win for his supporting work in Syriana. He somehow manages to keep himself unsullied by the tabloids despite his swinging-door relationship status and instead draws press attention where he wants it, spotlighting top-tier causes like Haiti and the Sudan. Up next, he teams with Sandra Bullock for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, and he’ll also produce the film adaptation of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
11. Sandra Bullock
America's Oscar-Winning Sweetheart: It feels like Sandra Bullock has turned a corner in her career, even if she’s yet to fully make good on it. The comedy queen surprised in 2009 when she powered The Proposal to a then-career-best $163 million... and trumped that just a few months later when The Blind Side grossed a staggering $255 million and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. Yes, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came along last year to give Bullock two back-to-back films nominated for Best Picture — something no one could have foreseen back in her Two Weeks Notice/Miss Congeniality 2 days — but it hardly felt like Bullock cashing in her new capital. Instead, it feels like 2013 will be the year that she truly tests her newfound mettle: In addition to starring almost single-handedly in Alfonso Cuaron’s innovative sci-fi film Gravity, she’ll be seen in a big ol’ comedy with Melissa McCarthy, this one manned by Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig instead of Bullock’s usual list of anonymous rom-com directors. Will she still have that shine four years after the biggest year of her life? We think audiences will cut her some slack for taking time off to deal with personal matters (including a messy divorce and a newly adopted son), and the general public seems to agree, since they handed Bullock the highest likeability score on this entire list.
12. Mark Wahlberg
Smarter Than He Looks: Mark Wahlberg is the kind of actor who you think is underrated until you realize that everyone in Hollywood rates him just fine. Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, David O. Russell, and more all want to work with him; he always brings unexpected intelligence to his cops, mooks, thieves, and thugs; and he’s been nominated for two Oscars. He just seems underrated because even as he’s so dependably great, he’s always happy to let someone else get a little more glory in a showier part, stepping back to let Christian Bale loudly self-destruct in The Fighter and be the straight(er) man to Will Ferrell in The Other Guys or a giant teddy bear in Ted. Because he’s not a showboat, audiences trust him (our studio panel rate him a high eight), and he never gets blamed for his grimace-y failures, like The Lovely Bones and The Happening. (Hell, nobody even held him responsible when Entourage turned into a punch line, and that was his life story.) He deftly trades off comedies and dramas and has high likability for being able to laugh at himself — embracing Andy Samberg’s SNL impression — and in real life, coming off as a family man who is still a Southie goofball at haht. But this image as a slightly dopey townie belies his career savvy; he’s a strong producer (Boardwalk Empire) and single-mindedly makes great projects happen for himself, whether The Fighter or next year’s promising Russell Crowe partnership Broken City.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio
The Auteur's Muse: It’s been fifteen years since Leonardo DiCaprio stowed away on Titanic, but audiences refuse to let go. That blockbuster made him a heartthrob and superstar at 22, but DiCaprio seemed allergic to the status even back then, zeroing in on filmmakers who would help give his career some critical credibility. After making films with Woody Allen (Celebrity) and Danny Boyle (The Beach), DiCaprio forged a crucial partnership with Martin Scorsese that earned him an Oscar nomination (for The Aviator), his second Best Picture winner (The Departed), and a big fat spring hit (Shutter Island). DiCaprio is still capable of Titanic-style monster grosses — Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Inception earned the actor a worldwide gross of $825 million — and his work in James Cameron's epic, Hollywood's first international hit, won him lasting international appeal, as his five most recent films grossed more outside the U.S. than at home. Coming up, the loyal DiCaprio once again teams with with Baz Luhrmann on a retelling of The Great Gatsby and later with Scorsese on The Wolf of Wall Street, but he’s still willing to take chances for the right director, and will test his audience by playing a villain for the first time, a rotten-toothed racist in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.
14. Daniel Radcliffe
The Boy Wizard: Daniel Radcliffe will forever be best-known as the titular wizard in the Harry Potter film franchise, which to date has netted more than $7.7 billion worldwide. Now the kid with the thunderbolt scar has entered a new, more mature phase of his life and career: Beyond a starring role in well-reviewed horror flick The Woman in Black, Radcliffe used the Broadway stage to exhibit his versatility and craft. He stripped naked in Equus and more recently appeared in the revival of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, alongside John Larroquette. (Both roles earned him Drama Desk Award nominations.) Still, it’s difficult to overstate the impact of Harry Potter on Radcliffe’s career. The rabid fandom associated with the book series and film franchise transferred into continued interest in Radcliffe’s professional and personal life. Even his non-Potter roles have considerable success; The Woman in Black made about $74 million overseas, outperforming its U.S. box office by $20 million. Still, even though the eight Harry Potter films made him an extremely wealthy young man, Radcliffe manages to come off as affable, relatable, and down-to-earth, a hardworking actor who’s more than just a former child Muggle. He’ll next try playing poet Allen Ginsberg in the beatnik murder drama Kill Your Darlings.
15. Tom Cruise
The Star With Baggage: Tom Cruise was so close to a real, honest-to-goodness comeback: After his audience appeal dipped precipitously in recent years with films like Knight and Day and Valkyrie, he steered Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol to mega grosses last winter, earning a career-best (and franchise-best) total of $694 million worldwide. Finally, it seemed like Cruise had put his tabloid troubles behind him and could resume his superstardom. And then came summer: Not only did Rock of Ages (sold mostly on Cruise’s supporting role) bomb at the box office, but Katie Holmes sprung divorce papers on Cruise and launched a stunning, successful PR offensive against her former husband while Cruise was tied up working on Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion. And now, once again, Cruise has to fend off stories about his overweening commitment to Scientology, alleged mistreatment of Holmes, and the safety of daughter Suri, which won’t help restore his already once-depleted appeal with female audiences. Cruise will always be a big star and an overseas draw, but will the newly renewed gossip mill weaken Cruise’s winter starring vehicle Jack Reacher? Too soon to say, though he’ll always have a Mission: Impossible 5 if he wants it — or needs it.
16. Jennifer Lawrence
17. Christian Bale
18. Liam Neeson
19. Emma Stone
20. Shia LaBeouf
21. Chris Hemsworth
22. Steve Carell
23. Adam Sandler
24. Bruce Willis
25. Channing Tatum
26. Ben Stiller
27. Rachel McAdams
28. Dwayne Johnson
29. Camerona Diaz
30. Zach Galifianakis
31. Hugh Jackman
32. Vin Disel
33. Jason Statham
34. Tom Hanks
35. Natalie Portman
36. Tina Fey
37. Ryan Gosling
38. Kristen Stewart
39. Daniel Craig
40. Matthew McConaughey
41. Reese Witherspoon
42. Julia Roberts
43. Jonah Hill
44. Jennifer Aniston
45. Will Ferrell
46. Amy Adams
47. Bradley Cooper
48. Ben Affleck
49. Taylor Lautner
50. Jim Carrey
51. Daniel Day Lewis
52. Robert De Niro
53. Jason Segel
54. Vince Vaughn
55. Jeff Bridges
56. Mila Kunis
57. Jeremy Renner
58. Seth Rogen
59. Robert Pattinson
60. Russell Crowe
61. Anne Hathaway
62. Katherine Heigl
63. Kevin James
64. Owen Wilson
65. Cate Blanchett
66. Tyler Perry
67. Jaden Smith
68. Gerard Butler
69. Sacha Baron Cohen
70. Chris Pine
71. Scarlett Johansson
72. Sylvester Stallone
73. Kate Winslet
74. Sam Worthington
75. Ryan Reynolds
76. Justin Timberlake
77. Tom Hardy
78. James Franco
79. Colin Firth
80. Charlize Theron
81. Sean Penn
82. Jason Bateman
83. Kristen Wiig
84. Andrew Garfield
85. Melissa McCarthy
86. Paul Rudd
87. Zac Efron
88. Gwyneth Paltrow
89. Jake Gyllenhaal
90. Chris Evans
91. Kate Beckinsale
92. Julianne Moore
93. Blake Lively
94. Jamie Foxx
95. Michael Fassbender
96. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
97. Jennifer Garner
98. Keanu Reeves
99. Zoe Saldana
100. Keira Knightley
'My issues weren't as obvious as drugs,' says Springsteen in New Yorker profile. 'They were quieter, [but] just as problematic'
The new issue of the New Yorker has a whopping 15,000-word Bruce Springsteen feature by David Remnick. The piece shadows Springsteen from the earliest rehearsals for this year's Wrecking Ball tour to his home in Colts Neck, New Jersey, all the way to the ongoing European leg of the tour. Over the months Remnick spoke to Springsteen at great length about his life, and also to most of the E Street Band, including new saxophonist Jake Clemons and former drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez. The result is one of the most thorough profiles of Springsteen ever published.
Among the revelatory moments:
• Springsteen has been seeing a therapist ever since 1982. "He was feeling suicidal," said Springsteen's longtime friend and biographer, Dave Marsh. "The depression wasn't shocking, per se. He was on a rocket ride, from nothing to something, and now you are getting your ass kissed day and night. You might start to have some inner conflicts about your real self-worth."
• Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, recently underwent major brain surgery to remove a growth near his optic nerves. He recovered, but he lost vision in that eye. Springsteen was by often Landau's side during this difficult time. "He knew I was going through something, and I thought I was going to die," Landau said. "It wasn't rational, but the fear was there . . . We shared a lot of deep talk."
• Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen had an epic fight over lyrics to 1987's "Ain't Got You," a rare personal song in which Springsteen addresses his own wealth. "I'm, like, 'What the fuck is this?'" recalls Van Zandt. "And he's, like, 'Well, what do you mean, it's the truth. It's just who I am, it's my life.' And I'm like, 'This is bullshit. People don't need you talking about your life. Nobody gives a shit about your life. They need you for their lives. That's your thing. Giving some logic and reason and sympathy and passion to this cold, fragmented, confusing world – that's your gift. Explaining their lives to them. Their lives, not yours.' And we fought and fought and fought and fought. He says 'Fuck you,' I say 'Fuck you.' I think something in what I said probably resonated."
• New saxophonist Jake Clemons (nephew of the late Clarence Clemons) first talked to Springsteen about joining the band in January. "But you have to understand," Springsteen told him. "When you blow that sax onstage with us, people won't compare you to Clarence on the last tour. They'll compare you to their memory of Clarence, to their idea of Clarence." The pressure weighed on Jake. "I don't know if anyone can perform in the shadow of a legend," Jake said. "To me, Clarence is still on that stage, and I don't want to step on his toes."
• Patti Scialfa is sometimes frustrated with her role in the E Street Band. "I have to say that my place in the band is more figurative than it is musical," she says. "Sometimes my frustration comes when I would like to bring something to the table that is more unique. But the band, in the context of the band, has no room for that."
The New Yorker article is here. It's really, really, reeeeally good.