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Cruise, Holmes will always have Paris

June 18, 2005|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

If "War of the Worlds" is not a box-office smash, it is not Tom Cruise's fault: He has done everything he can to keep the title in the headlines, including proposing to his girlfriend atop the Eiffel Tower and announcing the engagement at a Friday press conference preceding the movie's Paris premiere.

"Today is a magnificent day for me, I'm engaged to a magnificent woman," said Cruise, who will turn 43 next month.

He added: "I haven't slept at all."

Holmes, 26, sat nearby wearing a large diamond ring on her finger, but did not answer reporters' questions Thursday. She just finished her own world tour, for "Batman Begins," which premiered in London last Sunday and opened Wednesday in the U.S. Cruise, meanwhile, is on the third stop of the "War of the Worlds" eight-city publicity tour. In fact, as recently as Berlin (four days ago), he had discounted engagement rumors.

But Paris is Paris, so when reporters asked what has become the inevitable question, this time the answer was "oui." Recounting the moment he popped the question, Cruise turned to Holmes and said, "What did you say, darling? She responded, " 'Yes.' "

Taken in the context of the couple's high-velocity, high-profile and downright odd courtship, neither the venue of the proposal nor the announcement is all that surprising. (What is surprising is that he didn't somehow manage to propose while dangling from the tower in his "Mission: Impossible" suspension harness, thereby doing pre-publicity for "Mission: Impossible 3.")

Their relationship's public unveiling in April, at the David di Donatello Awards in Rome, took many celebrity watchers by surprise. But Cruise's appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," during which he jumped on and off her sofa, declaring, "I love this woman!" made the pair -- christened "TomKat" in the tabloids -- inescapable water cooler conversation.

Neither actor seems bothered by the fact that they are starring in, and promoting, competing blockbuster summer movies. Because, although love may conquer all, nothing trumps publicity. "This is a really exciting time for Tom," said Nancy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for Paramount. "He has a huge movie. He's engaged to be married and we're all very excited for him."

Over at Warner Bros. the reaction is a bit cooler. There has, after all, already been plenty for Warner Bros. publicists to complain about. Just by showing up to smooch his now-intended, Cruise managed to hijack "Batman's" Hollywood press junket and its premiere.

Stacy Ivers, a spokesperson for Warner Bros., said Friday's announcement has no impact whatsoever on the marketing of "Batman Begins" because Holmes finished her publicity tour almost a week ago. "We are in the movie business," Ivers said. "If it had happened when she was on tour, it might have been different. But for now, their personal lives are their personal lives."

Well, maybe. With a blogger's attention to intimate detail, "TomKat" has kept the world apprised of each and every step in their courtship, from the now-famous details of their first date to Holmes' recent announcement that she will be "converting," in this case to the Church of Scientology.

This mainlined media model of courtship leads to some odd moments -- while a more traditional engagement announcement might be followed by maudlin toasts from friends and family, Cruise and Holmes were blessed by 11-year-old Dakota Fanning. "I wish them the happiest marriage that anyone has ever had," said Cruise's "War of the Worlds" costar, who, after all, had to say something; she was sitting right next to Holmes when the bomb was dropped.

Not everyone shares her goodwill, however.

A statement of purpose on the blog, freekatie.net, continues to invite readers to "join the movement to liberate Katie, a young, gifted actress held captive by forces we may never understand."

The website, which features screen shots of Cruise clutching and holding Holmes taken from various TV appearances, has had to double its bandwidth to accommodate user traffic. It also sells a line of T-shirts bearing the slogan "Free Katie."

"Our visitors interpret 'Free Katie' as they see fit -- as freeing her from an older man, from a media frenzy or from a religious choice," said Sheila Cameron, creator of freekatie.net.

Cruise has been married twice: to actress Mimi Rogers, for three years, and Nicole Kidman, with whom he adopted two children, for 10.

Holmes, a star of the prime-time drama "Dawson's Creek," was engaged to actor Chris Klein but broke up with him in March after dating for five years.

George Lucas, who managed to open his summer blockbuster without getting engaged to anybody, was not available for comment.

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