LOS ANGELES — Careful listeners could almost hear Hollywood breathe a sigh of relief as Tom Cruise this week fired his publicist, Lee Anne DeVette, who is also his sister, and replaced her with one of the movie industry’s veteran star-wranglers, Paul Bloch.
The move followed a run of the worst publicity in his reign as the world’s biggest movie star, with Cruise, 43, attracting negative reaction last summer to his criticism of psychiatry and anti-depression drugs, his over-the-top wooing of actress Katie Holmes and his open advocacy of Scientology, which some consider a dangerous cult.
In an industry where box-office sales are dwindling, even as the pool of bankable movie stars seems to be shrinking by the day, a reburnished Cruise becomes more valuable than ever.
He remains one of the very few actors whose name on the marquee can virtually guarantee a successful movie opening, and Paramount Pictures is certainly counting on him to accomplish that in its big-budget sequel “Mission: Impossible 3,” which stars Cruise and is currently in production.
By putting Bloch and his colleague Arnold Robinson in charge of his public image, Cruise has opted for seasoned professionals who have longstanding relationships with the entertainment industry over his sister, who had no previous publicity experience before taking charge in March 2004, and is, like her brother, a committed Scientologist.
As recently as this fall, DeVette told journalists that she thought her brother’s widely ridiculed appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in June, in which the star repeatedly jumped on a couch to profess his love for Holmes, had delighted his fan base, and was merely blown out of proportion by the news media.
DeVette will now be handling Cruise’s philanthropic endeavors. She did not return calls seeking comment.
Bloch, who also represents actor John Travolta (another Scientologist), Bruce Willis and producer Jerry Weintraub, said that DeVette had done a wonderful job.
He would not indicate how or whether he intended to shift gears. The “A” list in Hollywood has always been a short one, but these days it seems that even once-reliable movie stars are failing to deliver audiences.
The gossip did not appear to affect the box-office sales of “War of the Worlds,” which was a blockbuster hit and took in more than half a billion dollars around the world.
But within the industry, Cruise’s comments and behavior gave many cause to worry.
And his publicity woes coincided directly with the movie star’s decision to fire his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, known in show business circles for her fierce protection of her clients, and replace her with DeVette.