Even the most meticulously laid PR plan for a major movie can be thrown a serious curve.
After Clint Eastwood's address to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention last month, Republicans cheered, Democrats jeered and movie pundits immediately speculated whether the speech would have any effect on his new film, Trouble With the Curve (out Friday).
Eastwood is in good company with other Hollywood stars facing major film releases in the wake of challenging PR conditions. So what's at stake and how will the Hollywood PR machines handle the situation? A breakdown:
Clint Eastwood: Trouble With the Convention
In Eastwood's first starring role since 2008's critically acclaimed Gran Torino, in Curve he portrays a legendary baseball scout trying to prove his worth in the modern world.
Eastwood has not shied away from the empty-chair speech since promoting the film. He gamely took questions on it in interviews and during the film's news conference last Friday.
"I didn't get the response I wanted, because I was hoping they would nominate me," Eastwood joked.
Mike Sitrick, head of the crisis PR company Sitrick and Co.,
Chuck Walton, editor of the movie ticket sale website Fandango.com, says the comments could attract conservative fans.
"If anything, it might galvanize conservatives to go to the movie to support Eastwood," Walton says.
His website hosted a poll that showed a possible "empty-chair speech bump" for the film: 61% of respondents said they were more interested in seeing the movie after seeing the speech on television.
Even those on the political sidelines might be encouraged to attend the movie after the publicity surrounding the speech.
"For some, it might have piqued their interest and reminded them they haven't seen Clint in a movie for a while," Walton says.
Tom Cruise: Readying 'Jack Reacher'
As his infamous Oprah couch antics demonstrated, Cruise has long had an up-and-down off-screen relationship with the movie public. But after a tough period, he displayed true heat with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which bailed out the 2011 holiday box office (it grossed more than $200 million).
But the out-of-the blue divorce from Katie Holmes and a high-profile expose by Vanity Fair on his relationship with the Church of Scientology suddenly has Cruise back in the tabloids as his next star vehicle (and potential franchise) nears -- as a homicide detective in the high-octane thriller Jack Reacher (opening Dec. 21).
Howard Bragman, a Hollywood crisis PR agent and vice president of the website Reputation.com, says Cruise's reputation has historically not coincided with his box-office results (case in point: Cruise's role in the summer box-office flop Rock of Ages came before the latest revelations).
"Tom's success in movies, and his image, have always been on two different paths," Bragman says. "It's always been about the quality of the project and how well it works for Tom as opposed to what's going on in his personal life."
Paramount Pictures, which is putting out Jack Reacher, says it will continue with its full-court Cruise media press for the picture.
According to a Paramount statement: "The film's promotional campaign will have the same level of involvement from Tom as Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol … which will include TV appearances, a U.S. premiere and an international promotional tour."
Though the stakes are high, Hollywood.com box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian says the action audience just may not care about any media fallout.
"If the trailer looks really cool, which it does, dudes just don't care," he says. "And that's the target audience."
Kristen Stewart: Repairing 'Breaking Dawn' fallout
Ironically, the first true confirmation that Twilight screen lovers Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were real lovers came after Stewart was pictured canoodling with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders.
Stewart issued an emotional statement about Pattinson: "I love him, I love him, I am so sorry."
But will her "momentary indiscretion" have any effect on the final chapter of Breaking Dawn: Part 2, due in November?
"I just can't see a teenage girl saying 'I'm not going to go to the final Breaking Dawn because of what Kristen Stewart did to Robert Pattinson,' " Dergarabedian says. "The popularity of this franchise is just so baked in, and this is the last chapter."
Perhaps the worst fallout will be at the film's press days and the film's premiere, where the two stars of the drama will be on display. Uncomfortable, yes.
But Bragman says the stars would be best served just doing what they've always done: talking about Twilight.
"Stick to the movie, stick to the project. Keep your eyes on your prize," Bragman says. "All of these past revelations might be the giant elephant in the room, but you can't pet the elephant."