The Girl Next Door
Recasting Mrs. Cruise
Holmes Tries to Restart Career After Tom, Baby; Mulling 'Mad
Wall Street Journal
by Kate Kelly
January 26, 2007
As a teenager, actress Katie Holmes put off a second audition for the TV series "Dawson's Creek" because of a prior commitment to her high-school musical. These days, the 28-year-old performer is taking it slow with another important matter: getting back to her acting career after her marriage to megastar Tom Cruise and the birth of daughter Suri.
Ms. Holmes has taken a long hiatus from the movie business, avoiding new roles since getting involved with Mr. Cruise nearly two years ago. Now, she wants to be back in the game. In recent weeks, representatives at the Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency have been working hard to map out a new career plan for the temporarily out-of-work actress, her associates say.
There are signs that it won't be easy, partly because studios may be gun-shy of her new status as a tabloid fixture, and partly because her expectations may be raised as the new Mrs. Cruise. She recently was unable to make a deal with Warner Bros. to land what appeared to be a good opportunity: a reprisal of her role as assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes in the sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins," scheduled for summer 2008 and titled "The Dark Knight."
Resuming a movie career is sometimes difficult in Hollywood, where a break can turn into a permanent vacation from the fast-moving business if an actor isn't careful. Stars of much bigger stature than Ms. Holmes, including Meg Ryan and Demi Moore, have found it tough to regain their momentum after taking time off.
Yet Ms. Holmes has an added problem: her relationship with Mr. Cruise has been a tabloid free-for-all from the moment it started, generating negative publicity that may make studios more reluctant to take a chance on her. Unlike, say, Russell Crowe, who garnered a ream of bad publicity from throwing a malfunctioning phone at a New York hotel employee, Ms. Holmes's trouble stems simply from getting involved with a fellow actor who himself has generated controversy -- certainly no crime. But the impact on her job prospects could be similar; Mr. Crowe's career appears to have veered off track since his eruption.
Much has changed for Ms. Holmes since two summers ago, when she was known primarily as the pretty ingénue from "Dawson's Creek" and films like "First Daughter" and "Go." Since then she's become a mother, married into great wealth and begun hobnobbing with figures like Yahoo's chairman and chief executive, Terry Semel, and David and Victoria Beckham, the world-renowned soccer player and his wife. (Ms. Beckham -- the former Spice Girl known as Posh -- "styled" Ms. Holmes for a coming Harper's Bazaar cover).
She's also become inextricably linked to the 44-year-old Mr. Cruise, a Hollywood legend who has been criticized for his controversial Scientology faith and a pattern of erratic public behavior that is regarded in some quarters as a box-office liability. Mr. Cruise's production contract was not renewed last August by Paramount, partly because of his antics, including ecstatically proclaiming his love for Ms. Holmes on Oprah Winfrey's couch and inveighing against the use of antidepressants by Brooke Shields and others on the "Today" show.
Familiarity Up, Likability Down
Through all that, the public's familiarity with Ms. Holmes has increased. But her likability rating, as well as that of her husband, has simultaneously dived, according to research figures from Marketing Evaluations Inc., The Q Scores Co. "Publicity works both ways," says Steven Levitt, president of the Manhasset, N.Y., company. "It helps build careers, and helps pull them down."
In a movie industry that depends on carefully crafted public images to boost box-office results, even the slightest distraction -- say, a long maternity leave dotted with tumultuous public moments -- can create potential pitfalls. "Actors should act," says the Hollywood historian David Thomson, who recently published a biography of Mr. Cruise's ex-wife Nicole Kidman. "It's a craft that needs constant work and honing."
Led by CAA agent Hylda Queally, who also handles clients like Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet, Ms. Holmes's representatives are working to end that hiatus. But they're trying to pick their spots. Earlier this month, Ms. Holmes rebuffed the "Dark Knight" offer, say people involved with the project. The studio is searching for a new actress who can replace Ms. Holmes in the big-budget picture, for which the salary range likely would have been $1 million to $2 million, say these people, compared to the roughly $1 million she earned for "Batman Begins."
"We never got to the negotiating stage" for "Dark Knight," says Julie Polkes, a spokeswoman for Ms. Holmes. "Katie was offered ["Dark Knight"] but was unable to accept the role because of scheduling conflicts. She was in the process of negotiating for another project. In addition, when she returns to work, she would like to tackle a new character." A spokeswoman for Warner Bros. concurs that Ms. Holmes dropped out because of timing.
A Necessary Pay Cut
Ms. Holmes currently is leaning toward accepting a role in "Mad Money," a comedy about three female Federal Reserve workers who pull a scam to pocket old currency before it's destroyed. Tentatively budgeted at about $12 million, "Mad Money" is slated to begin shooting in a couple of months, these people say, and may also feature Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton. Callie Khouri, who wrote "Thelma & Louise" and directed "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," is planning to direct. But to keep within its slim budget, Ms. Holmes would have to cut her usual fee to about $250,000, say these people, who stress that the deal isn't finalized. Spokespeople for the two other actresses didn't have any comment.
Ms. Holmes's name still comes up in discussions for some big roles. Warner Bros. executives talked at one point about casting her in the lead role in the studio's "Wonder Woman" superhero movie, being developed by producer Joel Silver. But since the script hasn't been completed, people involved with the project say any casting decisions are on the back burner for now.
To some talent representatives and studio executives, an ensemble role in a quality picture seems like the right way for Ms. Holmes to go. "If she finds the right material and directors, I am sure she will do very well with her continued career," says Chris McGurk, who was a senior studio executive at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer when it distributed "Pieces of April," considered to be one of Ms. Holmes's best films. Playing a black-sheep grown daughter sharing Thanksgiving dinner with her troubled family, "she turned in a great performance in a very tough role in the middle of a very strong cast," Mr. McGurk says.
No matter what, though, she's likely to face scrutiny over whether the Mrs. Cruise factor will overshadow her acting talent. During the summer of 2005, Warner Bros. marketers were frustrated over the "Batman" campaign, say people there at the time, when Ms. Holmes's budding romance with Mr. Cruise distracted attention from the movie -- creating paparazzi frenzies on the red carpet and prompting her to use coveted late-night television air time partly to promote her then-boyfriend's movie, "War of the Worlds."
More recently, the actress was largely absent from the promotional effort behind "Thank You for Smoking," a film based on the popular satirical novel of the same name that was released by the Fox Searchlight label last March, a month before the birth of her daughter. (Ms. Polkes, her publicist, says, "we have not heard any concerns" about her publicity efforts.) The actress's representatives even asked that her name not be featured on the back of the "Smoking" DVDs that were distributed to Oscar voters, say people involved in those discussions. Ms. Holmes didn't want to draw undue attention to herself in a film she regarded as an ensemble effort, says Ms. Polkes. Fox obliged.
Ms. Holmes "is currently in final negotiations for a project," Ms. Polkes says, adding that she "is ready to go back to work and will be available to support any movie she is a part of, as she has done consistently in her career."