'Valkyrie,' UA Not Just Another Cruise/Wagner Casualty, Say Cruise/Wagner

Michael Cieply's latest dispatch from the Tom Cruise beat inventories the wreckage from the mid-air collision that is Valkyrie and United Artists, including exclusive interviews with hobbled pilots Paula Wagner and Bryan Singer. For Singer's part, he's fine to let the film speak for itself if and/or when it's ever completed and released. But for Wagner, Cruise's UA partner and designated press scold, skeptics like us just! Don't! Get it!

Mr. Cruise, his partners at United Artists and the Valkyrie filmmakers are bracing for what will likely be a nine-month fight to prove their critics wrong. "We will not be daunted," Paula Wagner, chief executive of United Artists, said last week.

During a 90-minute interview at the company's headquarters in a Century City office tower, Ms. Wagner said she and her fellow executives were intent on overcoming negative reactions that she saw as rooted in ignorance of the process of building movie production companies.

"Anybody trying to dismiss us or write us off doesn't understand the business," Ms. Wagner said. She added: "Nothing is going to stop us. We are determined to make this work."

OK, we admit it: We don't understand the business. Like the second release-date shift out of Oscar season and into the dramatic dumping ground of February? That's apparently totally normal. That whole thing about Mary Parent showing up on the scene and reportedly getting a base salary of $5 to $6 million to remake MGM on her own, non-UA terms? Totally coincidental — nothing to do with UA's flailing! MGM chief Harry Sloan's vague defense of UA? A ringing endorsement! That public lunch date between Cruise and Sumner Redstone? Nothing to do with movies! Redstone probably just wanted recommendations for Suri's birthday gift — preferably an action franchise installment under $125 million.

Or maybe we understand the business just enough to know we've seen this before. To paraphrase Paul Sunday in There Will Be Blood, "We'd like it better if you didn't think we were stupid." It's not like we want to see UA fail, but come on. Even Roger Friedman can see this one coming.