“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” starts playing tonight in theaters and opens officially tomorrow. You’d think Johnny Depp would be on the cover of magazines, and all over the talk shows.
But as far as I can tell, Depp will only appear on Jimmy Kimmel tomorrow night, taping today. Kimmel is on ABC, which is owned by Disney, which is releasing “Dead Men.” Kimmel will not be asking Depp about his massive financial problems or his scandalous marriage and divorce with Amber Heard.
In two weeks, Tom Cruise opens in “The Mummy,” from Universal. Last night, on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon asked his audience to write in suggestions for a game show skit he’ll do with Cruise. The Fallon appearance may be the only one we’ll see for Cruise in an uncontrolled situation. The Tonight Show is on NBC, which is owned by Universal, the studio releasing “The Mummy.” Fallon will not ask Cruise about his relationship with his 10 year old daughter, Suri, in or his reported plans to live in Clearwater, Florida to be near his beloved cult religion, Scientology.
The oddest outcome of the NBC-Universal tie for Cruise will be if he turns up on NBC’s “Today” show. Cruise famously fought with Matt Lauer on the show in 2005. He’s appeared since then, but viewers are looking for a rematch. Lauer must feel uneasy about being constrained from asking Cruise real questions. Maybe that will be a day when Lauer is “on assignment.”
This week, in Australia (his favorite place to promote movies), Cruise evaded questions about daughter Suri while working the red carpet. Universal is following the pattern of past Cruise premieres– having them in foreign countries first and avoiding big US splashes where rogue red carpet reporters might ask embarrassing questions. “The Mummy” will have a premiere in Taiwan and a major one in London.
Either way, promoting a movie with problematic stars is getting problematic. For Depp, this is especially dire because “Dead Men” is getting terrible reviews. A box office “disappointment” looms (I won’t say disaster until we see tonight’s numbers).
For Cruise, if “The Mummy” is a moderate hit, he’ll be more than happy. Cruise hasn’t had a real hit outside of the “Mission: Impossible” movies and “Edge of Tomorrow” for some time. If he can launch even a modest new franchise, there will be overall satisfaction.