LONDON — The London premiere of Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" turned into a war of words after Tom Cruise was squirted in the face by a man posing as a reporter.
The 42-year-old actor was outside a movie theater in central London's Leicester Square doing press interviews Sunday when a man squirted him with a water pistol disguised as a microphone, London's Metropolitan Police said.
Cruise appeared to laugh but then asked the prankster, "Why would you do that?"
As the man gave a barely audible excuse, Cruise said: "Do you like thinking less of people, is that it?" The prankster tried to walk away, but Cruise reached across the metal barrier, held his arm and said: "Don't run away. That's incredibly rude. I'm here giving you an interview and you do that.... It's incredibly rude."
The actor grew increasingly irritated and told the man, "You're a jerk."
Police detained the man who had squirted Cruise and also arrested three other men who filmed the incident. The four were working on a new comedy show for British TV station Channel 4 in which celebrities are the targets of practical jokes.
When the same stunt was played on Sharon Osbourne last month there was a very different outcome.
The wife of veteran rocker Ozzy Osbourne turned the tables on the prankster when she hurled a bucket of water over him, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.
Channel 4 apologized to Cruise for Sunday's incident.
"The stunt was intended to be lighthearted rather than malicious, and we would apologize to Mr. Cruise for any offense caused," a spokesman said.
Katie Holmes, who became engaged to Cruise last week, was at the premiere but not by Cruise's side when the incident occurred.
In an interview with Newsweek magazine, on newsstands Monday, Spielberg denies that media attention on Cruise and Holmes forced a change in the publicity campaign for "War of the Worlds." The couple went public with their romance in April.
"People say, 'Oh, you didn't put Tom on the poster because of what happened.' No. The poster was designed in January ... and my decision with all my films has been to use iconography on the posters," Spielberg says. "Tom was fine with that. It's the first time Tom has not been on a poster in his career, by the way."