“He’s crazy!” “He’s a disaster!” “What a nutcase!”
As Heath Ledger’s Joker would say “No, I’m… not(t)” – No I am not crazy for the title of this post and neither is that title’s meaning.
At age 51, closing on 52 – Thomas Cruise Mapother IV is an international cinema icon. Working from a very young age, he had been a movie star since before I was born and has stayed one of our most lasting movie stars since then. His most recent film, “Edge of Tomorrow” was just released to strong reviews but poor domestic box office, debuting at number 3 with $29.1 million. Internationally, his star produced a $111 million opening proving that his popularity in Asia (they have Tom Cruise day in Tokyo) was not tarnished by the couch jump.But here in the US, it feels like we still haven’t forgiven. We love Tom in the 80’s and 90’s, but a couple of bad movies and some bad PR and the man is a pariah. I’m not going to try to defend Tom’s dip in the middle of the 2000’s, but the man has been nominated for THREE ACADEMY AWARDS! He’s shown us for four decades that he’s got range across all genres. His personal life took him away from the flock but he has made it back to the Tom we loved way back when. More importantly, he’s come back to us the fans, so we need to come back to him. This is how I feel.
1.) The Hits of the Old Days
In the Twitter, 24 hour news cycle culture of our decade, I think we all have a weird form of amnesia when it comes to the accomplishments of our heroes. We are a “What have you done for me lately?” society. We are at a high saturation point for what we can expose ourselves too, so our perspective changes over rapidly, with diminishing recollection of how we used to feel. In 2005, former NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt was the most accurate field goal kicker in American football history. He missed one field goal in the playoffs that year and was promptly cut and is currently not working in the NFL at all. So mistakes happen, we all trip and fall. And as the old adage goes, ‘The Bigger They Are, the Harder they Fall’.
Coming to us first as a co-star in ‘Taps’ with Timothy Hutton, he had another fine role in ‘The Outsiders’ with the ‘Who’s Who” of young Hollywood, and ‘All The Right Moves’ before being placed in the iconic Risky Business. While the details of this film may have subsided in our memories, we all know the scene that is burned into pop culture. A scene so famous, they were still making “Rock Band” ad’s about it for the Super Bowl just a few years ago.
He spends two years filming ‘Legend’ with Ridley Scott, and as a result gets firmly planted in front of Ridley’s brother, Tony. Who directed the break out blockbuster, ‘Top Gun‘ Get ready for a running theme folks, because pretty much every film this man made from 1986-1996 are cemented as classic and iconic films. How many times have you quoted ‘Top Gun’ in the last 12 months? For some of you (me) that film came out before you were born. He does a Scorsese film with Paul Newman (don’t make me tell you what it is), and then shows the hard dramatic chops helping Dustin Hoffman win his second Oscar in ‘Rain Main’. The Academy gives him some love with a nomination for “Born on the Fourth of July” and he meets a wife on ‘Days of Thunder‘ the following year. ‘A Few Good Men‘ is another perpetual quotation machine, and so is ‘Jerry Maguire‘. Only one of these films got him his second Oscar nomination (both should of) – and both make me cry. We round out 1996 with the franchise – the only role Tom has returned to – Mission: Impossible. This humongous film has spawned three (and one on the way) sequels worth $2.1 BILLION and it all started with Tom in 1996.
2.) We Wiggle, We Wobble, but we Don’t Fall
After being a box office and critical phenomenon, Tom decided to take a risk professionally, and work with Stanley Kubrick. The risk is not in Kubrick being a bad director, just the opposite. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of directors – a visionary and one of my favorites. The risk comes with Kubrick’s habits as a film maker. He is a perfectionist and his productions take years to complete. These films are almost always worth the wait, but Cruise had rocketed to the top by doing blockbuster after blockbuster, year after year and while filming for ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ started in November 1996, production did not complete until two months before the films release in 1999; Cruise released ZERO films in that time. Both ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ and ‘Magnolia’ were critical successes for Cruise, but he entered the 2000’s without an iconic film until ‘Minority Report’ in 2002. The ‘Mission: Impossible II [HD]
‘ and ‘Vanilla Sky‘ were profitable, but not memorable. They didn’t have anything like “You Can’t Handle The Truth” or “You Had Me At Hello” – ‘Minority Report‘ was a hit, but things were starting to teeter for Cruise off screen.
3.) I Think Psychiatry Should Be Banned
The middle part of the last decade were not kind to Tom Cruise. It is his own fault for the most part, but his career fell on rough times. It started with the divisive ‘The Last Samurai.’ This film was received well, but the public revolted against the idea that short and white Tom Cruise was any iteration of any kind of the last samurai. He rebounded with ‘Collateral‘ which is one of my favorite Michael Mann films, but then the string of ‘War of the Worlds‘, ‘Lions for Lambs‘, and ‘Valkyrie‘ only served to mirror the craze and lackluster box office draw with the public for Cruise. (How many times has “Scary Movie” made fun of ‘War of the Worlds’?) In 2004, Cruise’s publicist of 14 years, resigned, and was replaced by a Scientologist. We don’t need to rehash every manic and idiotic thing that came out of Cruise’s mouth over the next half decade, but we can trace it back to this event. The outrageous perception of Tom’s religion made him such box office poison that Paramount (the studio for almost all of the hits of the past) – removed him from their brand like a rapper gets dropped from their label. In this period we got the couch jump, and bad movies. We got a star who had made a name for himself being loose and fun that wouldn’t smile and was self-serious to the point of litigation with anyone who would speak out again him or his beliefs. I remember feeling like it was over for him. At least for a while. But then come-back started quicker than I had thought it would.
4.) Les Grossman and the Loss of Vanity
‘Tropic Thunder‘ is a film I love. It’s a film I had a lot of hype for, it starred actors I liked and had a creative team I looked forward to. I had no idea that I would graced with one of the most ingenious career moves I’ve ever seen. Without being credited in the film, in a bald cap, latex, and fat suit Tom Cruise gave us another iconic moment. Les Grossman, while not only being a spot on satire of Hollywood producers, it is distilled proof of Tom Cruise’s heart, to endear us to him again. He would reprise the role for the 2010 MTV movie award, in an opening number with J-Lo that is still one of my favorites. After another run at Ethan Hunt, he took his shirt off for the small musical, ‘Rock Of Ages‘ playing another off-type character. This is where I stopped trying to control my drive, and reset my film experience throttle back to ‘Cruise’ control.
5.) Making Movies For The Fans
In recent interview, Cruise has stated that his whole purpose in film making is about making entertaining thrill rides for fans. You cannot argue that ‘Jack Reacher‘, ‘Oblivion‘, and ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘ aren’t fan fun movies made with an eye to entertain. But they haven’t provided the huge blockbuster, mind blowing response from movie goers and I have to feel like it may be due to baggage from the early part of the 2000’s. But he has left all of that behind. As of spring 2013, the ink on his divorce with Katie Holmes is dry, and free and clear Tom has been a lot of fun. You know that interview I mentioned? It was on a podcast. The moderator for the San Diego Comic-Con panel for ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ last year asked Tom to come on his podcast to do an interview. On the spot, he said yes. It took a year, but Cruise kept his word and appeared on his first podcast and gave one of the most powerful and engaging interviews I’ve ever heard from him.
He WANTS us to love him again. We can all relate to making mistakes and making bad decisions. But should all of our successes be negated for a few years of bad press? The man’s filmography has sixteen of my personal top 100 movies on it. His list of collaborators are Oscar winners and some of the best film makers in cinema history. The Tom we are getting now is ‘Top Gun’ Tom. Maverick. The one we all loved. Our society doesn’t allow for classic ‘movie stars’ anymore. We all stand in reverence of Humphrey Bogart and Carey Grant, but would they have any better chance against the internet and the wide variety of films available today? Our stars aren’t any lesser, it is simply there is a bigger pool and it is easier to ‘swim’ now than it ever has been. There are rolls of celluloid that depict Mr. Cruise proving he is one of the most versatile actors we have, and his is a movie star in the vein of those older names. We need to start treating him that way again and love him.
Follow Bob on twitter @Bobholt58
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