Last weekend, Brahms: The Boy II, a sequel to the surprise 2016 horror hit, opened in North American theaters with a first-week domestic gross of just under $6 million. For a February film with mediocre reviews and a reported budget of $10 million, that’s solid stuff, and as with many horror franchise titles of its kind, we can easily expect this one to make its budget back and yield a small profit for STXFilms. The Boy wasn’t exactly an A-List project. Its biggest star was the guy who played Bishop Brennan in Father Ted. Franchises like this, made on the cheap with minimal expectations, don’t really require the pull of a major actor. Perhaps that’s why it’s still kind of strange to see Brahms: The Boy II headlined by Katie Holmes.
Holmes, who has been in the business since she was 19-years-old, is, for all intents and purposes, a star. You know who she is. You’ve definitely seen some of her movies. The chances are that you’ve seen her face on many a celebrity magazine. To this day, she’s still a tabloid regular, although nowhere near as much as she was during those heady days of her marriage to that one guy, and she is featured regularly in glossy photoshoots with fluffy accompanying interviews. Holmes still attracts a lot of attention, even though her career is, to put it bluntly, pretty awful these days. There are bright spots and underrated moments, but it speaks volumes that Holmes’s 2020 is defined by a sequel to a horror film she wasn’t in, a minor drama that barely received a release and an adaptation of the infamous self-help book The Secret. This is B-List work, verging on C-List. Holmes is essentially a working actress, taking roles as they come and doing just fine as a result. She probably isn’t going to win an Oscar but she could easily land a Golden Globe nomination with the right role. Frankly, it’s probably the career best suited to her skills. She isn’t a bad actress but there’s a reason the big breakout of Dawson’s Creek was Michelle Williams.
Holmes is now kind of boring, and paradoxically, that’s only made me even more fascinated with her. It’s all too easy to forget just how catastrophically famous Katie Holmes was for many years as one half of a major Hollywood power couple. We still live in the shadow of TomKat.
By 2005, Katie Holmes was in her late 20s and two years on from the end of Dawson’s Creek, the show that had made her a teen star. The roles that followed were mixed, with her appearing in a couple of flops and a few indie darlings, from Pieces of April to Thank You for Smoking and The Singing Detective. Even in movies that the critics liked, Holmes was often singled out as a weak link among the cast, a criticism that became particularly prevalent when she appeared in Batman Begins as Rachel Dawes. She excelled in smaller projects with sharper writing, like Pieces of April, but said parts seemed few and far between for someone best known as a teen soap opera star. She was often billed as an America’s sweetheart type but seldom given the roles to show off those qualities. As with all celebrities who start life as teen idols, the great questions surrounding their work is always rooted in unfulfilled potential, even for the ones who succeed: How else could things have gone? With Holmes, those questions become ever-more tantalizing because the thing that hindered her artistic progress is now the stuff of Hollywood history.
I doubt that I need to sum up the history of the relationship between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise here. The chances are that you already know the basics, from the couch-jumping to the lavish proposal to the wedding photo featuring Holmes kneeling just enough to make her new husband look taller. We all know the conspiracies, the rumors, the jokes, the Scientology lore, and the sheer glut of oddities that made TomKat so alluring from a gossip perspective. They were characterized as a power couple akin to the Beckhams or Brangelina, but the rhetoric was entirely different. ‘Power couple’ implies a balanced dynamic and nobody ever believed that about Tom and Katie.
I remember seeing multiple people wearing ‘Free Katie’ t-shirts both on- and offline. When Holmes disappeared from the public eye for months following the birth of Suri, the press ran rampant with speculation over her whereabouts and her possible lack of freedoms. Everyone seemingly became a body-language expert, dissecting every glance or smirk she gave as proof that she was trying to blink out S.O.S. in Morse code or reveal L. Ron Hubbard’s secret plans for world domination. As with all things surrounding Scientology, no theory seemed too outlandish. It didn’t help matters that Holmes, whenever she was on Cruise’s arm at a public event, seemed subdued and older than her years, now Kate and not Katie. The public and gossip narrative positioned her either as a brainwashed follower of an insidious cult or one of its captives, and neither option offered her much in terms of autonomy, even as she continued working on film, TV, and the stage.
That changed dramatically when she filed for divorce and it was revealed just how savvy she could be. Holmes famously moved to New York just long enough to qualify for residency so that her legal details could be hidden from the press. The state also offered a stronger opportunity for Holmes to file for sole custody of her daughter than California. This part proved especially juicy to the press as stories swirled that Holmes had chosen to leave Cruise over fears of Suri being raised as a Scientologist against her will. The divorce filing was swift, unexpected, and caught everyone off-guard, including, reportedly, the Church of Scientology. Suddenly, Katie Holmes went from being the trapped housewife to the glorious escapee who bamboozled the scariest cult in Hollywood. Holmes has never talked about Scientology on the record or the role it possibly played in her split from Cruise. She has avoided tell-all interviews, trash talk, or anything remotely revealing, which has just made her all the more fascinating.
The ex-Mrs. Cruise saw tabloid interest wane as she returned to the kind of career and level of fame she had before the marriage, but her new brand of secrecy continued to intrigue. The new rumor was that Holmes had been dating fellow actor Jamie Foxx secretly for months, which soon turned to years. Only one or two very fuzzy images of the pair together existed for the longest time, and when the pair did go public, it remained a very covert operation. After five whole years of a reported relationship, Holmes and Foxx were suddenly photographed holding hands on the beach and attending industry parties together. This lined up with another popular theory surrounding the divorce that Cruise had stipulated that Holmes could not publicly date anyone for the first five years following the split. Once again, even the most ludicrous gossip sounds plausible when Scientology enters the equation. It’s no wonder Holmes would want to keep her romance with Foxx secret, even without David Miscavige’s alleged meddling. She was one half of a mega-famous celebrity couple but one where she was never an equal player in the dynamic. This time around, she happily embraced becoming boring to the masses in a way that made her new relationship possible. Of course, she still remained fascinating because of this. It was a move that further emphasized that Katie Holmes was not a figure to underestimate or write off as a passive sidekick to anyone else’s narrative.
Nowadays, Holmes is firmly B-List and seemingly loving it. She runs a sweet but pretty mundane Instagram page where she’s living her best life. Her acting work is steady if unremarkable. She’s simultaneously easy to root for and rather forgettable. It’s a fate that, frankly, befalls most actors. Very few figures ascend to the level of manic fame that Holmes experienced for a few years. Katie Holmes went through the entire cycle and came out unscathed. She’s now drama-free in a way that defies belief given what she must have gone through as wife number three of the most famous man and Scientologist on the planet. No matter how dull she gets, that will forever fascinate me.
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