June 10, 2010 -- Les Grossman is going big time.
After reviving the hot-headed, filthy-mouthed, hip-hop-loving movie executive at the MTV Movie Awards, Tom Cruise will reprise his "Tropic Thunder" character in a full-length movie.
Paramount and MTV Films announced late Wednesday that they are developing a movie based on Cruise's role. Cruise will star in and produce it, along with "Tropic Thunder" co-star and director Ben Stiller.
Stiller invoked Grossman's profane proclamations in a statement released Wednesday.
"Les Grossman's life story is an inspiring tale of the human class struggle to achieve greatness against all odds," he said. "He has assured me he plans to quote 'F**king kill the sh*t out of this movie and make Citizen f**king Kane look like a piece of crap home movie by the time we are done.' I am honored to be working with him."
No wonder: Grossman's the man of the moment. At Sunday's MTV Movie Awards, Cruise, in character, shimmied out on to stage, hips jerking, arms waving, looking every bit like the dorky dad at the Bar Mitzvah desperately trying to get down, driving the 13-year-olds off the dance floor in droves.
It was hilarious. And for the first time in a long time, it got people talking not about his beliefs, not about his behavior but about him.
The 47-year-old actor is attempting to re-establish himself as a box-office behemoth and remind audiences that hey, he's not just the weirdo who jumped on Oprah Winfrey's couch, told Matt Lauer "You don't know the history of psychiatry, I do" and claimed Scientology cured his dyslexia. He's dancing with J. Lo at the MTV Movie Awards. He's riding motorcycles and shooting guns with Cameron Diaz. He's a movie star, really!
Convincing audiences of that has been Cruise's real mission impossible. Once Hollywood's go-to action star, Cruise has seen his big screen productions eclipsed over the last few years by grainy Internet videos of him at Scientology ceremonies, accepting the organization's "Freedom Medal of Valor," saluting founder L. Ron Hubbard, and talking about how the religion changed his life. His latest major movie roles in the commercially successful but critically questionable "Valkyrie" and the utter flop "Lions for Lambs" shot him further away from "Top Gun" territory.
"Tom took too much spotlight away from his career as an actor by heavy handedly preaching Scientology, pushing his romance with Katie Holmes down the public's throats, and acting like he knows all the answers," Village Voice columnist Michael Musto said. "Ever since then, he's been faced with the challenge of restoring the focus to the fact that he's a movie star, not a demagogue with a crush."
That may be why he's relying on his most well received role in recent memory, albeit a minor one, to resurrect his reputation. Cruise spent little time on screen as Grossman in 2008's "Tropic Thunder," but grinding to Ludacris' "Get Back" in suspenders, a fat suit and too-tight dress pants garnered him a Golden Globe nomination.
The MTV Movie Awards served as the perfect venue to reintroduce Les Grossman to younger demographic. Now, Cruise wants to extend the spectacled studio exec's five minutes of fame.
Serious Tom Cruise: Hard to Swallow?
"If he wants to continue making cash, making money, that's what he needs to do," E! gossip columnist Marc Malkin said. "His last couple of movies didn't do very well. Some people might blame that on Scientology and the fact that he was acting so kooky, but also, they weren't great movies. It's tough to do a WWII movie about the assassination of Hitler ["Valkyrie"] when we all know what the outcome was."
Milking a two-year-old supporting role for feature film material may seem like a stretch, but if it endears Cruise to new fans, it's worth the reach.
"He has reignited the cool factor he lost by allowing himself to play an unpredictable character. He's replaced the always serious Cruise with the playful Cruise," said Marvet Britto, founder of The Britto Agency, a brand architecture firm. "He's playing to the younger generation. He's saying, 'I can make fun of myself. I can take on a role that's not so serious.' He's opening a gateway to gain a whole new generation of evangelists and supporters."
Next up for Cruise: "Knight & Day," in which he plays a secret agent who corrals Cameron Diaz into a whirlwind, worldwide, somewhat incomprehensible journey to protect a battery that could unlock an infinite power source.
Judging from the trailer, there's a lot of gun shooting, car chasing, motorcycle straddling and "you-must-come-with-me-or-you-will-die"-ing. It's old school Cruise, the kind of guy that dominated adversaries both on screen and at the box office back in the days of "Mission Impossible," the first edition.
If "Knight & Day" opens at No. 1 when it comes out June 23 -- odds are in his favor, since no other wide releases are scheduled that weekend -- perhaps we can proclaim Cruise's career curse cured. That is, of course, assuming he doesn't pontificate his way through the circuit of pre-film press.
"To his credit, he's lightened his tone in public, and teaming with Cameron Diaz could only do him good," Musto said. "So while I don't know all the answers (unlike Tom), there's certainly hope."