Bad buzz is never easy for a movie to overcome, especially the kind that’s been haunting Tom Cruise‘s Valkyrie for more than a year. When the film’s first trailer and still photo became public, everyone had an opinion about Cruise’s eye patch and voice — and it wasn’t great. But a confluence of events, accidential and intentional, have buoyed the WWII thriller from director Bryan Singer. Could the movie be…gulp…actually good?
After the initial burst of press, MGM’s United Artists division fell silent, in part because it was busy dealing with a management restructuring that saw Cruise’s producing partner Paula Wagner exit the studio along with other top executives. Ironically, the silence helped: The studio appeared to maintain a levelheadedness, while the new team, manned by former Paramount marketing guru Mike Vollman, with help from independent consultant Terry Press, tried rescuing the $75 million film. (MGM execs declined to comment for this story.) In a vote of confidence, they bumped Valkyrie from its Valentine’s Day weekend release (how tonally weird would that have been?) to this December, against some of the biggest box office guns. They also unveiled an appealing poster that harkens back to Singer’s 1995 hit The Usual Suspects. Two new trailers highlight the ensemble cast — Kenneth Branagh and Tom Wilkinson — and show the accident that prompts Cruise’s character to don the eye patch. MGM execs then began screening the movie, and — whaddya know? — response has been positive. ”It’s a more confident campaign now,” says an exec at a competing studio. ”It feels more like a war movie and less like a Tom Cruise vehicle.” Hollywood marketing lesson No. 1,393: Guns sell…eye patches don’t. — Nicole Sperling
Promising news from überproducers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. Now that their Holocaust film Defiance is set to open Dec. 31, the duo is focusing on small-screen ventures — namely quarterlife, their Internet show about a twentysomething blogger (Bitsie Tulloch). Though NBC canceled it after one week last February, the webisodes averaged a robust 300,000 viewers. As such, they plan to extend the series. Says Herskovitz, ”I have not forgotten quarterlife fans.” Meanwhile, the thirtysomething creators are in talks to create a new TV drama, but won’t elaborate for now. Suggestion: How about reemploying the wonderful Sela Ward? — Lynette Rice, with additional reporting by Carrie Bell
For the first time, the 36-year-old American Music Awards (airing Nov. 23 on ABC) will televise a preshow that includes two songs performed live by American Idol winner David Cook, along with extensive red-carpet interviews and fashion zingers delivered by a motley crew, among them Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, Project Runway‘s Christian Siriano, and Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba. Divas will rule the ceremony itself — everyone from Mariah Carey to Taylor Swift is slated to perform. But one big-name female artist with a new album to promote is noticeably absent from the lineup: Britney Spears will instead give a birthday performance on ABC’s Good Morning America Dec. 2, the day her album Circus is released. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus will celebrate her sweet 16 on stage at the AMAs. — Shirley Halperin