According to Vulture, the fading-to-a-near-invisible-point onetime box office draw will be paid SAG minimum wages to act in Mission Impossible 4: The Fourth Time Around It's Probably Pretty Possible. That's basically the death of clout right there.

OK, sure, Cruise will still have a back-end deal that secures him a chunk of profits once Paramount recoups its investment, but still. Tom Cruise is working for scale! Apparently studios just don't trust his selling potential anymore, probably looking at his latest disappointment, this summer's blink-and-you-missed-it Knight & Day, as confirmation of his diminished bankability.

Probably the real conversation everyone should be having is if Mission Impossible 4 should be happening at all. That Pixar genius Brad Bird is attached to direct is intriguing, and J.J. Abrams' third installment was actually quite good, but the picture will need a lot more than the rusty ol' Cruise razmataz to get it off the ground. (He may, in fact, be hurting its chances of success at this point.) Obviously Paramount knows that, so they're gonna give Cruise his ducats only after they get theirs, sort of like he's a sleazy, TV ad ambulance chaser lawyer. The presence of pouty little lord fauntleroy David Ellison, a Hollywood wannabe heir to a vast fortune who produced and acted in the dreadful bomb Flyboys, as a co-financier proves that Paramount is being extra cautious about this whole thing. It's a difficult mission indeed.

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