Diary of Tom Cruise's Lawyer: 10 Days, 200 Phone Calls and 30 Letters
Bert Fields reveals what went down from the time Katie Holmes filed for divorce until the settlement — and beyond.
This story first appeared in the July 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
While most Americans spent July 4 surrounded by BBQs and beers, Bert Fields was jetting to New York to negotiate Tom Cruise's divorce settlement with Katie Holmes. The trip would kick off a 10-day period that saw the 83-year-old seamlessly handle business for clients James Cameron and The Weinstein Co. while also managing to catch a movie with Dustin Hoffman, cook dinners at home, read poetry to his wife and put out dozens of media fires that erupted from the Cruise divorce.
Wednesday, July 4:
Amid frenzied media coverage of the Holmes divorce filing, Fields secretly flies to New York to meet with her attorneys. "We are letting 'the other side' play the media until they wear everyone out, and then we'll have something to say," he tells the BBC. Negotiations take place July 5 and 6, with an agreement in principal reached Saturday, July 7, says Fields.
Sunday, July 8:
Fields returns to Los Angeles and spends the day working from home at his house on Malibu's Carbon Beach. He says that since negotiations began in New York, he has devoted about 40 percent of his time to the divorce proceeding. "Fortunately, I didn't have any [scheduled] court appearances this week."
Monday, July 9:
The settlement is finalized, leaving Fields to deal with a deluge of media requests. He estimates that about 50 news outlets lodge 200 phone calls to him over the next several days. He and his partners monitor the web and respond to inaccurate claims about the terms of the settlement. "The tabloids -- not only are they crazy and wild, but they are inconsistent with each other." Still, Fields finds time for a lunch meeting with "a favorite client," Mr. Chow restauranteur Michael Chow.
Tuesday, July 10:
Fields researches and writes longhand a legal brief for the estate of The Godfather author Mario Puzo, which Fields is representing in its effort to terminate its original 1969 rights grant to Paramount Pictures. Fields files the brief the next day.
Wednesday, July 11:
Fields fires off a blistering letter to National Enquirer publisher American Media threatening a defamation lawsuit over its cover story, "Inside Tom's House of Horrors!" Fields also gives statements to Radar Online and Huffington Post refuting claims that the Church of Scientology played a role in Cruise's settlement. After editing a brief for client The Weinstein Co., his driver takes him to a screening of Quartet, a film directed by friend and client Dustin Hoffman, at the Landmark Theatres. Afterward, he dines with other attendeees at Westside Tavern.
Thursday, July 12:
Fields continues his war of words with American Media. He estimates he has written about 30 letters asking that media outlets correct inaccuracies in their coverage of the Cruise divorce. "I was denying all the false claims without disclosing what was really in the [settlement]." Fields has a strategic discussion with James Cameron. "He's a favorite client of mine."
Friday, July 13:
Fields spends the day in court and continues to deal with the Enquirer. He says he will urge Cruise to sue but notes that the actor isn't litigious. "I have to sit down with Tom -- he's still shooting Oblivion -- and decide when to file a lawsuit. If we file a lawsuit." Fields tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Cruise has not "said anything to lessen" children Connor or Isabella Cruise's contact with their mother, Nicole Kidman. Fields, an avid chef, returns home to whip up dinner, read poetry (T.S. Eliot and E.E. Cummings) to his wife, Barbara Guggenheim, and work on his book about Elizabeth I. "A fairly normal week," he says.