Universal launched its new Dark Universe franchise with The Mummy reboot, which boasted the star-power of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in a world where they will bring several iconic monsters and creatures back to life, in present day. The studio didn't quite get the results it was looking for at the domestic box office, with a lackluster debut of $31.3 million, debuting in a distant second place to Wonder Woman ($58.5 million) in its second weekend. The movie was also a dud with critics, with a paltry 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many wondering how a movie with so much talent behind and in front of the camera, could fail so badly. A new report claims that a majority of the blame should be placed on Tom Cruise's shoulders, due to the immense amount of creative control he had on the project.
Variety reports that Tom Cruise had almost complete creative control over every aspect of the movie, in his role as a producer. The actor-producer was, according to this report, "contractually guaranteed" control over most aspects of the production, including script approval, post-production decisions and he even had control over the marketing of the movie and its June release date. While Tom Cruise and his representatives wouldn't comment on this report, Universal Pictures released the following statement, denying that the actor's creative control had any negative impact on the production.
"Tom approaches every project with a level of commitment and dedication that is unmatched by most working in our business today. He has been a true partner and creative collaborator, and his goal with any project he works on is to provide audiences with a truly cinematic moviegoing experience."
The report also claims that Tom Cruise "approved" of director Alex Kurtzman, with this report claiming that the director was merely "in the running" for this project until Tom Cruise gave the final seal of approval. However, we reported in late July 2014 that Alex Kurtzman was in final talks to direct The Mummy, while we didn't hear about Tom Cruise's potential involvement until November 2015. Alex Kurtzman was announced earlier in July 2014 as one of the architects of this Universal monster universe, along with Chris Morgan, more than a year before Tom Cruise's involvement was even hinted at.
This report also calls the decision to tap Alex Kurtzman to direct a big-budget tentpole like this Mummy project a "foolhardy" decision, since he has only directed one other movie before, the 2012 family drama People Like Us. While he has written big-budget tentpoles like Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible III, Transformers, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as a director, Alex Kurtzman reportedly "struggled to adjust to scope of the project," with many sources from the production claiming that Tom Cruise felt like "the real director," overseeing several of The Mummy action scenes and often "micro-managing" the production.
Tom Cruise also reportedly brought in two of his "allies" to rewrite the script, Christopher McQuarrie, who is directing the actor in Mission: Impossible 6, and actor-writer Dylan Kussman, who has had small roles in Jack Reacher and the 1999 version of The Mummy to "beef up" his Nick Morton role, since in the original script, Nick Morton and the title character, played by Sofia Boutella, had equal screen time. The new writers added the twist that made Nick Morton's character possessed, to give him a more dramatic arc. The actor also brought in his longtime editor Andrew Mondshein to cut together the film along with Gina and Paul Hirsch, with the actor said to have spent a lot of time in the editing suite, when many agreed that the movie just wasn't working. Here's what Frank Walsh, the supervising art director, had to say about working with Tom Cruise.
"This is very much a film of two halves: before Tom and after Tom. I have heard the stories about how he drives everything and pushes and pushes, but it was amazing to work with him. The guy is a great filmmaker and knows his craft. He will walk onto a set and tell the director what to do, say 'that's not the right lens,' ask about the sets, and as long as you don't fluff what you're saying to him ... he's easy to work for."
While this Dark Universe adventure is tanking at the domestic box office, The Mummy has fared much better internationally. The movie has earned $38.1 million domestically and $140.7 million internationally for a worldwide tally of $178.9 million. While the publicly-reported production budget is said to be $125 million, this report claims that the budget was actually closer to $190 million, with the studio spending an additional $100 million to market and release the movie. This report also claims that even the marketing push had its issues. Last month, when the studio released the Dark Universe logo, along with a photo of The Mummy stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella and Russell Crowe, along with Javier Bardem (Bride of Frankenstein) and Johnny Depp (The Invisible Man), the studio reportedly couldn't get all of the actors in the same room together, and the image had to be Photoshopped. Regardless of this Mummy failure, Universal has also stated that this won't stop their bigger Dark Universe plans.