Late last month, Tom Cruise appeared to be in a bit of trouble. Knight and Day didn't take the box office by storm, and Paramount executives were concerned that Cruise was no longer a bankable action star. With the script for Mission: Impossible 4 hot off the laser printer, they were debating whether they should slash the budget, add a younger or bankable actor to be Ethan Hunt's partner, or recast the series altogether.

It would appear Cruise is safe for the moment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, there's no doubt there will be a Mission: Impossible 4 and Paramount executives pinky-swear that Cruise will star in it. But doubt remains. The studio is watching the foreign box office for Knight and Day very closely. If the film makes $200 million or more, their fears of Cruise's connection will vanish. If not, a big question mark hovers over the franchise. Studio insiders note that the popularity of Mission: Impossible has little to do with Cruise, and was never intended to be his personal brand. Another source notes the budget given to M:I4 is more consistent with "a first film" than a highly anticipated sequel, which hints they could be thinking of rebooting the entire thing with a new agent.


Meanwhile, Cruise is currently pursuing other roles while he waits Paramount out. Meanwhile, there's a lot of finger-pointing as to why Knight and Day didn't do particularly well. Cruise's representatives fired back at the idea that it had anything to do with their eternally grinning star -- especially since Valkyrie did all right -- and insisted it had everything to do with Fox's micromanaging Tom Rothman. Well, we've heard that before on a number of films, haven't we?

Have audiences cooled on Cruise? Does the Mission: Impossible series depend on his super serious Hunt, or should Paramount cut and run with the franchise?