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Heart headache for Hollywood

Los Angeles, June 8 (Reuters): Call it Hollywood’s summer of tough love.

In a season full of expensive action movies, the love lives of celebrities ' Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ' are giving Hollywood executives their biggest headaches and sending the stars headlong into damage control.

The stakes are huge for the studios with $100 million-plus film production costs and the stars who could see millions cut from future paycheques if their careers start to slide.

In an unusual move, Jolie’s attorney asked reporters attending a news conference this week to sign broad agreements saying that her comments would “not be used in a manner that is disparaging, demeaning or derogatory.” The proposed pact threatened legal action for violating its terms.

Jolie stars in the thriller Mr. & Mrs. Smith alongside Brad Pitt with whom she has been romantically linked in numerous news and magazine stories.

The actor has denied intimacy with Pitt, who is in the midst of a divorce with his wife, actor Jennifer Aniston. At the news conference, Jolie did not discuss her relationship with her co-star but did speak out about the publicity. “Certainly, this one has been ridiculous in how much attention has been paid,” she said.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is being released by Twentieth Century Fox at an estimated cost of around $100 million to make. Fox declined to comment about its marketing efforts.

Whether the few public words about their romance helps or hurts Mr. & Mrs. Smith awaits the weekend box office reports, but it may fuel the desire to see the movie because it feeds into the film’s themes. Beyond its gun-toting action, the movie deals with a couple falling in and out of love.

Still, no studio executive, producer or actor wants their film to suffer the fate of 2003 romance Gigli, which bombed at box offices after all the publicity surrounding the romance of its stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

Several Hollywood publicists say Paramount Pictures, which is releasing The War of the Worlds this month starring Tom Cruise, is worried about whether negative stories over Cruise’s manic confession of love for Holmes on The Oprah Winfrey Show will hurt the nearly $130-million film.

During the interview last month with the talk show host, Cruise became giddy when asked about Holmes. He jumped onto Oprah’s couch, then ran backstage to get his girlfriend and bring her out shouting, “I love this woman.”

Likewise, Holmes stars in the June 15 release of Batman Begins, a movie that cost between $120 million and $130 million and is being released by Warner Bros.

Veteran celebrity handlers said the publicity should help Holmes’ star rise, but Cruise had risked a backlash after the publicity-savvy actor uncharacteristically lost his cool on Oprah.

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