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Cruise, Spielberg march into 'War'
from The Hollwood Reporter, August 12, 2004, by Liza Foreman

Paramount Pictures is switching its tentpole pictures for next year. "Mission: Impossible 3," which has been plagued by director problems, is out, and "War of the Worlds," directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, is in.

The studio said Wednesday that instead of beginning production on "M:I-3" this summer, as had been originally planned, Cruise will instead go directly into Spielberg's modern-day adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic about a Martian invasion of Earth. "War," which has been in development for some time, will begin filming in November for a release next year -- the exact date has not yet been decided.

Cruise hasn't abandoned "M:I-3," though. It will now shoot next summer, with J.J. Abrams, creator of the TV series "Felicity" and "Alias," set to make his feature directorial debut.

Paramount had been facing an increasingly difficult situation with "M:I-3." The third "M:I" feature, with Cruise both producing and starring, had originally been penciled in as a release this year, with David Fincher directing. When Fincher bowed out in favor of another project, Joe Carnahan came aboard as director. Carnahan, in turn, exited the project last month, with the studio citing creative differences (HR 7/19).

With the clock ticking, Paramount already had shifted "M:I-3's" release from May 6, 2005, to June 29, 2005; preproduction had begun for filming in Europe later this month; and a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kenneth Branagh and Ving Rhames was in place.

Cruise and his C/W Prods. partner, Paula Wagner, wanted Abrams to take the reins, but Abrams' contractual obligations with ABC/Touchstone Television, for whom he is launching a new drama series, "Lost," as well as readying the fourth season of "Alias," prevented him from taking on the "M:I-3" assignment until next year.

At the same time, Spielberg hit a roadblock with a drama he was readying to shoot about the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. With that project delayed while it undergoes a rewrite by Tony Kushner, Spielberg's schedule opened up.

Taking advantage of Spielberg's availability, Paramount shifted course, and Cruise will first star in "War" and then move into "M:I-3."

"War," which will reteam Spielberg and Cruise, who worked together on "Minority Report," has a script by David Koepp ("Spider-Man," "Panic Room"). It will be a Paramount/DreamWorks production. Kathleen Kennedy and Wagner will serve as producers for Amblin Entertainment and C/W Prods.

"These things don't usually happen with a happy ending," Paramount Motion Picture Group chairman Sherry Lansing said. "I feel overjoyed. The script for 'War' is nothing short of brilliant, and this way Tom will finish 'War' first and get his No. 1 choice for 'M:I-3.' I quite honestly feel blessed. Spielberg has committed to a movie, a Tom Cruise movie, and Cruise is going to follow that up with a second project. We have two major tentpole projects. It all came out better than anyone could have imagined."

Added Wagner: "It is exciting and fortuitous that this all worked out so beautifully, and to reunite these two incredible men (Spielberg and Cruise) is thrilling. I am very excited about J.J. Abrams. It was just an opportunity that arose when we delayed, and it just presented the perfect moment. We have known J.J. for a while, and it's great that it all works out."

Cruise and Spielberg are repped by CAA. Abrams is repped by WMA.

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