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Katie Holmes cruises full speed ahead

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New York Daily News
By Jo Piazza
1/13/08

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Get ready everyone: 2008 is going to be Katie Holmes' year.

The past two years have just been awkward for the 29-year-old actress, professionally speaking. The girl from "Dawson's Creek" transformed, in the eyes of some, into a Stepford soccer mom, taking on the kind of special celebrity abuse reserved for A-list stars and their spouses. Hollywood-watchers went on at length about how the once-promising actress' identity was stolen from her when she up and married Tom Cruise and popped out his spawn in a little over a year.

But 2008 could just be the year that Katie reclaims Katie. Her first feature since 2005's "Thank You for Smoking" opens Friday. And while director Callie Khouri's bank-robbing caper "Mad Money" may not be a masterpiece - or give Holmes the kind of well-rounded character she played in 2003's "Pieces of April" - she holds her own with co-stars Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton, and comes off as eminently likable again. She is sweet and funny and adorable. It could be her first step on the road to image recovery - not an easy move, given where she is at the moment.

The year has kicked off with a bang - and not the good kind - for Katie and Tom, with the upcoming release of British journalist Andrew Morton's unauthorized biography of Cruise.

Morton paints a sordid picture of Tom, Katie and their relationship to the Church of Scientology, claiming that the actor has become the second most powerful figure in the church, and that adorable 2-year-old Suri Cruise isn't actually his; in an outrageous claim, Morton says that some church members believe Holmes was injected with the frozen sperm of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (who died in 1986) in a twisted religious ritual straight out of "Rosemary's Baby."

Morton writes: "Sect members sincerely believed Holmes was carrying the baby who would be the vessel for L. Ron Hubbard's spirit when he returned around the galaxy."

Talk about your days of thunder. This isn't the kind of thing a girl can brush off as easily as someone saying she wore a crappy dress to the Oscars.

Cruise's people are, predictably, blasting the book as a bunch of lies. Publishing sources say the one-time Princess Diana biographer fabricated a lot of the book just to sell copies.

But it still has tongues wagging.

All of this comes after a tumultuous two years where Holmes' marriage to Cruise has been none-too-delicately painted as a farce amid urban legends of homosexuality and arranged marriage. Rumors of back-end deals and contracts replacing true love trail the couple, as insistent as other far-fetched Hollywood myths like finding pleasure in gerbils and someone or other being born a hermaphrodite.

But through it all, Katie has managed to hold her head high (albeit behind her now-requisite dark sunglasses) and it looks like this year, she's poised to take it all back. She has a sexy new haircut, and an assertive don't-mess-with-my-family stance to go with it. She'll be giving her first interview since Suri was born to "Good Morning America" on Monday.

The 5-foot-9 inch starlet has finally put her high heels back on. And she's staking her claim with her style choices - Oscar de la Renta, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin and Michael Kors.

"In the world of fashion, Holmes is escalating herself to the status of style icon," says celebrity stylist and Harper's Bazaar contributing fashion editor Mary Alice Stephenson. "She looks fantastic. She looks sophisticated. She was really cute before, but now she has a fashion point of view that just keeps getting better. And as she develops as a style icon, the film roles are going to continue to come along. The same thing happened with [Cruise's second wife] Nicole Kidman."

In short, Katie is becoming a woman to be reckoned with. Out on the town with her new best friend, Victoria Beckham, she stalks through crowds of paparazzi for day-long shopping sprees with seemingly not a care in the world.

Just last week, Holmes - who glowed after completing the New York Marathon in November - unveiled a sleek new muscled physique at the Critics' Choice Awards, where she showed up solo. And maybe coming alone was a calculated move: The next day, the headlines belonged to her and her alone. For the first time since Tom jumped up on Oprah's couch and declared his mad, mad love for the young starlet, she wasn't getting double billing.

Katie took baby steps toward independence in 2007, but get ready for some leaps in the new year. She won't be in this summer's "The Dark Knight," the sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins" (in which she played the girlfriend of Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale), but this way her talent won't be lost amid the craziness. Instead, she has the Ben Stiller comedy "Tropic Thunder" out in July, which is another chance for Katie Holmes to have the last laugh.

Entertainment Weekly entertainment correspondent Leah Greenblatt says Holmes is making shrewd choices career-wise, like turning down "Dark Knight" and last year's "Factory Girl," a role that went to Sienna Miller.

"She chose instead to work on 'Mad Money' with the woman [Khouri] who wrote 'Thelma and Louise,'" says Greenblatt. "I think Katie's just starting to ramp up being a movie star. It'll be interesting to see the choices she makes."

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