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Tom Cruise’s PR Firm Seeks Extensive TV Restrictions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The publicity machinery surrounding “Eyes Wide Shut” raised the hackles of some television news organizations this week by attempting to place restrictions on TV accounts regarding the film’s star that would ratchet up control over information to a new level.

PMK, the publicity firm that represents Tom Cruise, distributed a waiver at the movie’s press junket asking to see rough cuts in advance of any TV reports featuring interviews with Cruise, providing his representatives the option to veto segments prior to broadcast. The document also states that unused footage from the interview “will be destroyed” and news outlets must “supply evidence of such destruction” if asked to do so.

Sources say the waiver was distributed to programs such as “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood,” local stations, and cable networks covering entertainment news, such as CNN, MSNBC and E! Entertainment Television.

“I’ve never seen something to this degree, and in writing yet,” said a producer associated with one of the programs. “My guess is no one agreed to this.”

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PMK founder Pat Kingsley said the request to see advance footage was a mistake and deleted when called to her attention; however, Kingsley said everyone interviewing Cruise had to sign a revised waiver.

The provisions--which include a pledge that “the interview and the program will not show the artist in a negative or derogatory manner"--underscore the extent to which publicists seek to control depictions of their stars in the press, using as leverage the fact celebrities such as Cruise attract TV audiences and sell magazines. In print, PMK regularly seeks such concessions as approving what writer will conduct an interview in exchange for access to its clients.

Kingsley said setting guidelines is necessary now to prevent news organizations from exploiting a star’s image long after promotion for a particular film has ended. MSNBC, for example, wanted to run a collection of Cruise interviews that have aired over the last several years--a request the agency rejected. “If we hadn’t restricted that, they’d be able to run it every day for the next 10 years,” Kingsley said.

The first broadcast interview with Cruise, conducted by Diane Sawyer, will run today on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “20/20.” The Times was not asked to sign a waiver.

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