Call it the Tom Cruise Syndrome.
In 2005 alone, Cruise, a) jumped up on Oprah Winfrey's couch out of love for Katie Holmes, b) attacked Brooke Shields for using antidepressants to cope with postpartum depression, and c) bickered with NBC's Matt Lauer over Scientology's view of psychiatry.
Fans began to see the toothy-grinned actor as more loathsome than lovable. Suddenly, the money-in-the-bank star couldn't give away free tickets to his flicks. Mission Impossible III and Lions for Lambs were dead on arrival at the box office.
Diagnosis? The great Tom Cruise was crippled by a near-fatal case of celebrity backlash.
The best cure for Hollywood's most feared affliction: Take two years off and call your agent in the morning. Today's biggest stars ought to try a little preventive medicine before the malady strikes them next. Here are five who should be particularly worried.
Top 5 stars who could be hit with celebrity backlash
1. TINA FEY: How could Tina be in danger? The 30 Rock genius and Sarah Palin impersonator is the toast of Hollywood! Still, her Date Night movie wasn't the big hit everyone expected, despite appearing on the cover of every entertainment magazine this spring. And she was making the talk show rounds so often, we began to see her in our sleep. Tina, pace yourself!
2. KATHERINE HEIGL: Sure, she's a fixture on every "Sexiest Woman Alive" list, but she's probably on a growing number of "Biggest Pains to Work With" lists in Hollywood after her diva behavior during her stint on Grey's Anatomy got Heigl "dis-invited" from future work on the hit TV show. And here's The Ugly Truth about her last big-screen effort: It was unwatchable.
3. ADAM SANDLER: Loved him as Happy Gilmore, tolerated him as The Waterboy, winced in horror when he was Little Nicky. (Can't bring ourselves to watch 2009's Funny People.) In June, Sandler's back with his Saturday Night Live buddies for Grown Ups, a movie that is probably anything but.
4. TAYLOR SWIFT: The 2010 Grammy Awards were to be her coronation. But a couple of wobbly singing performances (including a dreadful duet with Stevie Nicks) had fans reaching for the mute button. When Taylor dropped and broke one of her four trophies while posing for photos backstage, every celeb in the ZIP code was rubbing a rabbit's foot to fight off the bad mojo.
5. MIRANDA COSGROVE: The 16-year-old star of Nickelodeon's iCarly show has been on the radar screen since 2003's School of Rock, where she played the bratty Summer Hathaway. Now she's pursuing a music career. (Her debut album Sparks Fly hits shelves Tuesday.) Can you say Miley Cyrus Part 2?
5 who will never suffer backlash
1. BETTY WHITE: When she hosts Saturday Night Live on May 8, it will the capper on one of the most durable careers in Hollywood.
2. SANDRA BULLOCK: She won a lifetime "Get Out of Backlash Jail" free card when cheatin' hubby Jesse James was busted with a trashy tattoo tart.
3. CONAN O'BRIEN: Enjoy your vacation, Coco. We'll see you in the fall.
4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: He could host a live song-and-dance TV benefit for Nazi World War II veterans and we'd all tune in.
5. EDDIE MURPHY: The publicity shy Murphy sees plenty of green these days thanks to his humble contributions to the Shrek empire.
5 who have already suffered
1. MEL GIBSON: Mad Mel shoots himself in the foot more often than Don Knotts. Fans showed their displeasure by largely ignoring his 2010 film Edge of Darkness.
2. KANYE WEST: He made Taylor Swift the most beloved celebrity in the world by ripping the microphone from her hand during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
3. KATE GOSSELIN: When she was voted off Dancing With The Stars last week, our TV critic here at the Times described it as an end to "the long national nightmare."
4. HEIDI AND SPENCER PRATT: The Hills is kaput after this season, which begins Tuesday. But thanks to Heidi's $300,000 worth of plastic surgery, Spencer will have more than two shoulders to cry on.
5. THE HOGANS: A horrible car wreck, a nasty divorce and a daughter who's always looking to cash in. Hulkamania in Tampa Bay is officially over.