Into The Diaspora: UA To Wander In Hollywood Desert For Another 40 YearsYesterday brought the not-entirely-shocking bombshell that Paula Wagner would abandon her vanity-mini-major Eden—not to mention her decade-and-a-half long producing partnership with Tom Cruise—by resigning from her position as CEO of United Artists, reportedly to strike out on her own. This came after a disastrous 21 months on the job that produced a single stinker release, in what, to our knowledge, is the first studio scandal based entirely upon underspending: The reckless frugality! The gluttonous discretion! How dare she not greenlight a $75 million Will Ferrell-as-loutish-badminton-pro comedy in this depressed economic environment?But, for whatever reasons—and Paula knows what they are—the much ballyhooed $500 million Merrill Lynch credit line went unspent, causing an increasingly nervous MGM chairman/UA remote-overlord Harry Sloan to enact a contingency coup that resulted, directly or indirectly, in a flurry of executive resignations culminating in Wagner's own. The once-moribund UA now returns to the comfortable, ghoststudio stasis in which it stagnates best. But what of the real issue now at hand—and by that we mean What This Means for Tom, and By Extension All of Hollywood, and By Further Extension Every Single One of Us? Cruise's trajectory lately has been, for lack of a better metaphor, not unlike a Tori Spelling dinner party; it started out promising enough—some nice notices for his over-the-top, Scott Rudin-esque (whoever keeps comparing it to Sumner Redstone hasn't seen the movie) turn in Tropic Thunder—but ended with the actor seated squarely on the career crapper, surrounded by yes-men applauding his every movement. You know the beats: The curious case of Edwina A. Salt. The Scientology racketeering lawsuit. The whispers that he personally—personally!—pressed a pillow onto Isaac Hayes's face in his sleep when he found out the singer planned on donating none of his $750 Sunset Junction earnings to the Church. Here's MGM's press release on the split, followed by Wagner's own statement:
"Paula Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of UA, has decided to leave her day-to-day responsibilities and return to her first love, which is producing films. As such, MGM and UA confirmed today that Ms. Wagner will transition to the role of a producer under her own independent production shingle and be attached to UA’s most exciting film properties. In November 2006, United Artists was reborn under a partnership formed between Tom Cruise, Ms. Wagner and MGM. Ms. Wagner will continue to be a part owner of UA and hold a significant stake in UA’s future success. Nothing will change in regard to Mr. Cruise’s involvement with UA and he continues to have a substantial ownership interest in the company. Furthermore, Mr. Cruise and Ms. Wagner will continue to work on film projects together. “I’ve truly relished working with my longtime partner Tom Cruise to revitalize United Artists, and I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the past two years, reinvigorating the brand and developing such a strong slate of films. But I always tell my sons, ‘Follow your passion’ – and I’ve got to follow that advice myself. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time as an executive, I have longed to return to my true love, which is making movies, so that’s what I’ve decided to do. I still believe in our vision for UA, and I am confident that Harry Sloan and our colleagues at MGM will see that vision through to reality.”