Suri Cruise Spotted in Telluride

Meanwhile, Tom tries to patch things up with Steven Spielberg.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Much as we hate even to touch on this question, there are in fact people who have seen baby Suri. Among them: producers Frank Marshall and Kathy Kennedy (they’re married; she produced War of the Worlds). They saw the baby in Telluride, Colo., very recently and told friends that all seemed quite ordinary.

But we’re not here to talk about baby Suri, though she does make a cameo appearance below. The question at hand is the relationship between the director of War of the Worlds (that would be Steven Spielberg) and the baby’s daddy (that would be Tom Cruise).

As many folks in Hollywood and elsewhere know, there was a rift between Spielberg and Cruise that arose last year during and after their collaboration on War of the Worlds. This was in part because Spielberg felt that Cruise’s off-camera antics dinged the film’s grosses. And there was another issue, as reported this week in The New Yorker and previously elsewhere. It seems that after Spielberg (in a conversation with Cruise present) praised a psychiatrist who had helped a family member, representatives from the psychiatrist-loathing Church of Scientology staged a protest at the doctor’s office.

Although Cruise was said to have assured Spielberg that he was not behind this incident, it infuriated the director and (perhaps more important) Kate Capshaw, also known as Mrs. Spielberg. For a time, it seems, the Spielbergs waited in vain for the star to explain how, exactly, those protesters happened to appear at the doctor’s office.

All this may have more than mere gossip value with the prospects for Cruise’s production deal at Paramount looking grim. After the middling performance of Mission: Impossible 3, there is a perception that Paramount may not be keen to ante up millions of dollars in overhead to keep Cruise on the lot. (M:I3 director JJ Abrams just made a rich deal at Paramount, diminishing the likelihood that the studio will shell out for the star.) Spielberg’s company, DreamWorks, is now owned by Paramount, and there is a perception that the DreamWorkers might not be avid supporters of a Cruise deal.

Against this background, Cruise might well want to patch things up with the most powerful player in Hollywood. About a month ago, the gimlet-eyed folks at Defamer.com posted an item saying that Cruise had appeared at Spielberg’s office with the baby for a photo session with the director. Then, last weekend, Cruise “surprised” Spielberg during a tribute at the Chicago International Film Festival. Cruise’s appearance was such a well-kept secret that no one in Spielberg’s camp knew about it, according to Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy.

In fact, Cruise had already shown up in a taped tribute, along with Harrison Ford and other Spielberg alumni and associates, such as David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The only other talent actually present for the event was Roy Scheider. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski was booked to appear but canceled. Cruise filled the void.

Perhaps the organizers of the Chicago event didn’t know about a rift between Spielberg and Cruise. Or maybe they simply couldn’t resist having a giant star turn up. Certainly Spielberg seems to have been surprised. A few in the industry think that photos of the occasion reveal something less than unalloyed joy on his face.

Not so, says Levy. Spielberg thought the Chicago Film Festival tribute was the best ever, other than the one hosted by the American Film Institute. And Spielberg was “excited” that Cruise showed up, Levy says, adding, “I would dispute that the photos made him look uncomfortable.”

But would Spielberg be happy to see Cruise if there is a rift? “I don’t know that one necessarily is exclusive of the other,” says Levy.

Maybe a Cruise and Spielberg rapprochement had already gotten under way, if Spielberg had previously posed for pictures with father and child. Do such pictures exist? Levy says that question will not be answered.

Those who know Spielberg well say he’s nonconfrontational and he’s not one to carry a grudge for all that long. But the wife might be another matter. So, the real story behind the Chicago surprise, as well as the mystery about those pictures with the sought-after infant, may have more to do with the politics of the hearth than the politics of Hollywood.