The water-squirting prank was ill-advised, unoriginal and foolish – because we need Tom Cruise more than he needs us
I know we like to think we’re the cultural and financial centre of the world but do the math (as the yanks say) and you’ll see that the UK is a mere blip on Hollywood’s sales charts.
Not that you’d know it. Our media – the best in the world, of course – likes to think we can command the big stars to talk to us whenever we want and, to be fair, Hollywood often obliges. None more so than Tom Cruise, who has struck up a special relationship with his mobile phone walkabouts in Leicester Square becoming a regular feature of his premieres.
But for how long?
This week’s War of the Worlds walkabout could be the last after the ill-advised “prank” when a TV interviewer so hilariously squirted water in Tom’s face. Never mind that the idea of a “hoax” interviewer is so old hat you wonder how it got past the commissioning chiefs.(Has no one at Channel 4 these days seen Dennis Pennis? Or Ali G? Or Dom Joly? Or do they just think if it was funny once it’ll be funny forever?).
The point is that it could backfire horribly on the entire UK media, just as it did when Steve Martin responded to Dennis Pennis’s off-the-cuff question (“Why aren’t you funny any more”) by cancelling all his UK interviews.
Hollywood’s army of publicists, who have a Stalinist approach to the job, already view the UK in general, and our red-tops in particular, as dangerously volatile. A tabloid friend of mine, sent to cover showbiz in LA, found that after six months she still had not got in to a premiere, still had not got into an advance screening, still had not met a single PR and still had not had a phone call returned by one.
Over here, the reality is that we get a lot more access to the A-list than our sales figures or journalistic reputation deserves. And perhaps we should be grateful. We certainly shouldn’t take advantage of Cruise’s largesse – we do love having him around, larking about, calling our mums up, grinning his big Hollywood grin, falling in love with photogenic girls and being an all-round decent guy – because we need him.
We need him to brighten up the TV news (“and finally…”), to fill the tabloids with pictures, to feed our gossip in the pub after work. And he needs us… well, he needs us to round up the gigantic sales figures for his movies so they’ve got a zero on the end.
Don’t let’s kid ourselves. He doesn’t need us at all. And we’d better hope the Hollywood PRs weren’t watching too closely what happened. They only like pranks when they’ve been pre-arranged and pre-approved. And you can bet your life there were a few butts being kicked down at Premier PR, who failed to vet the water-squirter out of the pen, the morning after.