Paramount and Tom Cruise part company

Posted: August 23, 2006

In a move that shook Hollywood yesterday, Paramount Pictures has decided not to renew its film-production contract with Tom Cruise, a spokesman for Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, owner of Paramount, said. Cruise's camp said the decision was his own.

Redstone spokesman Carl Folta declined to give a reason for the decision, which ends a 14-year relationship with Cruise's company. Redstone told the Wall Street Journal that the contract was not renewed because of the actor's conduct.

The 44-year-old Cruise's last film, Mission: Impossible III, released in May, took in $133.5 million at U.S. theaters. The film cost $150 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo.com, which tracks costs.

The Journal cited comments Cruise has made, including his criticism of psychiatry and antidepressant drugs, and statements promoting his faith in the Church of Scientology.

Paula Wagner, Cruise's partner at Cruise/Wagner Productions, told the paper they chose to end the contract to set up an independent film company financed by hedge funds.

A weather boss at ABC

* Sunshine and smiles at ABC with the announcement that the Good Morning America family is growing by one.

Network prez David Westin yesterday announced that Sam Champion, the weather guy at WABC-TV in New York for 19 years, is coming aboard GMA as weather anchor.

Champion, who has darker-than-blond hair and somewhat chiseled features and an all-round healthy look, has also been named weather editor of ABC News.

"Sam is a great forecaster with a passion for reporting on the weather," Westin said. "Sam is quite well-known to our national audience who have seen him on GMA many times over the past 18 years. We are delighted to have Sam on board." (Many successful biz leaders repeat people's names in each sentence.)

Drowning in sequels

* Steven Soderbergh says Ocean's Thirteen, which is due out next summer and stars George Clooney, Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia, is his last dip in the Ocean.

"George wanted to go out strong," Soderbergh said, conceding that Ocean's Twelve wasn't all that great because the story was too complicated.

Convention of brainiacs

* Musicians Steve Earle and DJ Spooky and celeb Bianca Jagger are the latest pop-cult icons to sign up for Table of Free Voices, which will bring together 111 thinkers, social activists, artists, etc., around a massive table Sept. 9 in Berlin.

The assembled will discuss 100 questions about Everything, including science, politics and technology, chosen from 10,000 online submissions (many are about social issues such as overcoming corporate greed and political apathy).

Other notables, most of whom are liberal, include actor Willem Dafoe, who'll moderate, filmmakers Terry Gilliam and Wim Wenders, guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal, and Chinese dissident Harry Wu. Info: www.droppingknowledge.org.

HBO deal for Tony S.

* From Tony Soprano to Ernest Hemingway?

Such is the extraordinary journey that is James Gandolfini.

The Sopranos star will play the hard-livin' legend in a feature about the romance between the scribe and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. The flick will be helmed by Philip Kaufman, a preeminent expert on the conjunction of the horny and the literary (Quills, Henry & June, The Unbearable Lightness of Being). It is one of the first projects by Attaboy Films, which Gandolfini recently cofounded. There's more: Gandolfini also has signed a three-year deal with HBO to develop new shows and features.

Trials & tribulations

* Brittany Murphy, who got engaged to Joe Macaluso on New Year's Eve, after the trials and tribulations of her failed engagement with first fiance manager Jeff Kwatinetz, has met with hard times, People reports. The 8 Mile star and the best boy grip (responsible for lighting and electricity), who met on the set of Little Black Book, have called it off.

The two "have amicably ended their engagement. They remain close friends," Murphy's rep said.

"I love being in love," Brit had told People during the good Macaluso days.

Oprah's African education

* Oprah was in Johannesburg this weekend to announce the first 73 girls who will attend the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which the spiritual leader helped build with a $10 mil gift, the BBC reports.

"I'm going to ensure that every girl who wants to go to [college] will go, either in South Africa or anywhere in the world," Oprah said. "All you have to do is work hard."

The school, which is in Meyerton, just south of Johannesburg, will eventually teach 450 girls who have academic talent but whose families cannot fund schooling.

That sweet smell . . .

* Victoria and David Beckham, OBE, whose marriage veritably reeks of success, now wish to share that most pungent redolence with us all.

The couple have bottled their very essence to create Intimate Beckham, a line of For Him ("a portrait of modern masculinity") and For Her ("shimmering elegance, self-assured style") scents. The odorific balms are, the news release says with dramatic if awkward superlativity, "separately superlative and yet together are beautifully complimentary bringing out the best in each other" (i.e., their marriage stinks, but it's super profitable!).

The superlativest bit of all isn't that Becks and Posh Spice didn't bother showing up at the London release party Sunday, but that they sent look-alikes.

Ugh, who threw that stink bomb?

Contact "Newsmakers" at 215-854-5797 or newsmakers@phillynews.com. This column contains information from Inquirer wire services.

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