Some surprising news broke late Friday night which has had Hollywood abuzz all weekend. No, not another big-budget movie cancellation or high-profile reshoots, but instead a major high-profile bit of recasting. For the past five years, Katie Holmes has been playing the role of Tom Cruise's wife, one of the most widely sought-after parts in Hollywood. Her five-year contract was up, and while a renewal was widely expected, negotiations appear to have fallen apart at the last minute, with Holmes, like previous incumbents Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, exiting the role at the age of 33.
Whether Holmes goes on to Oscar-winning glory like Kidman, or competitive poker-playing like Rogers, remains to be seen, but a more immediate effect is that a casting hunt will get under way the likes of which hasn't been since the search for Lisbeth Salander and Katniss Everdeen. Like the female equivalent of James Bond or Doctor Who, each actress has had different spins on the role — from Kidman's statuesque ice queen to Holmes' faintly-brainwashed pod person — but the requirements remain the same : a love of extreme sports and Xenu, and a propensity for standing at premieres and waving.
Rumors in the comments section of Deadine Hollywood are that top agencies, including WME and CAA, have already received faxed casting breakdowns for the part, with those in contention for the role (screen tests are likely to take place in Iceland, where Cruise is shooting "Oblivion") are expected to sign non-disclosure agreements, before a two-year "girlfriend" trial period, known as the Penelope Cruz Clause. Names of who might be in the running are top secret, but as we've done for many other high-profile parts in the past, we thought we'd run down five possible candidates who we think might have the right stuff for one of the most demanding, yet rewarding, roles available right now.
Why She Could Do It: Marling is already clearly on Cruise's radar, having been courted for roles in both "Jack Reacher" and "Oblivion," and while she ultimately turned both down, could the third time be the charm? Having played the otherworldly leader of a manipulative, secretive sci-fi-tinged cult in "Sound Of My Voice," we can totally see why the actor might think they had something in common.
Why She Might Not: At 28, Marling only has a few years before what's known as "The Awakening" — when previous actresses in the role have become aware of their situation, and run for the hills.
Why She Could Do It: Along with Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone is a media darling, one of the most talked about starlets of the moment, and it would be a good way for Cruise to not skip a beat and get back on the horse. Also, like Holmes, Stone played the female lead in a superhero movie, and would be able to prove her love for Cruise by letting herself be replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal for the sequel. Plus her boyfriend Andrew Garfield, is one of the few actors that Cruise could beat in a fight if it came to it.
Why She Might Not: At 5'6", Stone is actually an inch smaller than Cruise, which could mean that the guy who carries around the box Cruise stands on for photo opportunities might be out of a job. Also, she's quite feisty, which might mean additional levels of re-programming would be required.
Why She Could Do It: While less well-known than some of these names, Mara was in the running to play Catwoman in "The Dark Knight Rises," so has experience with this kind of secretive, high-profile casting run-off. Plus she shares DNA with sister Rooney Mara, who's already won out one of the most competitive races in recent memory, landing the lead in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." Also has roughly the same name as Holmes, which makes it easier for Cruise to remember who he's supposed to namecheck while jumping on sofas.
Why She Might Not: Once dated McG. That's got to be a hard thing for any future boyfriends to come to terms with.
Why She Could Do It: Like Holmes, the star of "The West Wing" and "Mad Men" started in TV, but is making increasing inroads into the movie world. Crucially, she's also already a Scientologist, so is familiar with the religion's quirky customs like not making sounds during during childbirth, and being imprisoned on cruise ships. Peggy Olsen quitting Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may have been an early hint of where Olsen's career was heading.
Why She Might Not: She criticized ex-husband Fred Armisen, saying "He's so great at doing impersonations. But the greatest impersonation he does is that of a normal person." This worryingly suggests an outspoken quality, and also ability to determine when an actor is pretending to be a normal person.
Why He Could Do It: As shown in the gonzo mock-doc "I'm Still Here," he has prior experience of leading a fake life and going into semi-retirement. He recently worked with previous Cruise collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson on "The Master," so an introduction should be easy to arrange, and that film revolves around Scientology, so he should know what he'd be getting into. Also, is a man.
Why He Might Not: Nope, can't really see a problem with this one.
Honorable Mentions: Recent Cruise co-stars include Paula Patton, Julianne Hough, Malin Akerman, Cameron Diaz, Rosamund Pike, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko and Melissa Leo (who is more age-appropriate than others, which persumably rules her out), and any of them might be wooed for a return engagement. Meanwhile Jessica Chastain, Hayley Atwell and Alexa Davalos were all in the running for parts in recent Cruise movies, and Emily Blunt is starring with the actor in "All You Need Is Kill," so she should probably be on her guard.
Scarlett Johansson was in the running for the gig before Katie Holmes got it: the actress seemingly rejected Scientology at the time, but may be more open to these days. Elizabeth Olsen would ordinarily be a good choice, but showed that she's capable of escaping from weird communes in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Oh, and Vanessa Paradis is available these days too. Plus one of the Fannings is legal now, right?
– With thanks to RP, Kevin Jagernauth and Jessica Kiang