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Skeletal Viacom executive presence Sumner Redstone has finally tinkled the gilded bell beside his desk, the sound of which let his minions know that he is displeased with Tom Cruise and that his Paramount Pictures movie studio must immediately sever its ties with the actor's production company. As security personnel in riot gear swarm upon Cruise/Wagner's offices on the Melrose lot and commence the tear-gas and rubber-bullet attack informing their employees that their services are no longer required, Redstone told the Wall Street Journal that Cruise's recent predilection for couch-abuse, anti-psychiatry pamphleteering, and the siring of mysteriously unseen infants harmed M:i:III's profitability, an unforgivable sin that triggered the end of the studio's 14-year relationship with the star:

Paramount now believes that Mr. Cruise's behavior hurt the box office of his most recent film, "Mission: Impossible III." Now, Mr. Redstone said he wants to sever the studio's connection to its biggest star.

"As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Mr. Redstone said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."

Of course, had Cruise agreed to a much less lucrative deal with Paramount, Redstone would almost certainly be willing to overlook his moral outrage, and maybe would even have been willing to ride along with Cruise on the occasional Ritalin factory bombing, or chip in to buy him an entire orphanage's worth of suspicious babies.

More news as it becomes available...and it should go without saying that reports of anguished cries from the direction of the Cruise/Wagner offices are always welcome.

UPDATE: Here's the Variety version of the story in case you hit the WSJ's subscription wall.

UPDATE 2: Cruise/Wagner responds to the WSJ, after the jump:

After being contacted by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cruise's representatives presented a different version of events. They said that Mr. Cruise's production company had decided to set up an independent operation financed by two top hedge funds, which they declined to name. Paula Wagner, Mr. Cruise's partner in the company, said such an arrangement represented a new business model for top actors prominent enough to take advantage of the flood of money coming into Hollywood from Wall Street.

"This is a dream of Tom and mine," Ms. Wagner said. She challenged Mr. Redstone's assertion that Mr. Cruise's behavior had cost the studio ticket sales, pointing out that the star's movies have made the studio a huge amount of money.

A staggeringly beautiful response, isn't it? No one can possibly begrudge an embattled, fading movie star and his producing partner their crazy dream to one day be publicly branded as unstable by the eighty-three-year-old media mogul who's decided that they're no longer worth their asking price.