The A-List: Tom Cruise
Originally, I set out to make a list of the current crop of a-list actors. I was going to write up arguments for and against the inclusion of certain actors on the list. But I quickly realized that this was unwieldy. Not only was it time consuming, it made for very scatter-shot reading. Instead, I have decided to handle this subject in a series of one-offs.
For my first subject, I have selected Tom Cruise. Cruise’s career has always been a fascinating one to watch. His reign atop the A-list in almost unprecedented. After gaining acclaim in films like Risky Business, Cruise became an international box office super star with Top Gun. And for 20 years after that, Cruise was the consummate Hollywood super star.
We all remember the infamous couch jumping incident and the fall-out that followed. Here was a guy we all felt like he knew. He was arguably the most famous actor in the world. And while he was plagued by some tabloid rumors about his sexuality and his religion, his personal life had never really played out in the public view. Even his celebrity divorce from Nicole Kidman was civil. And now, it looked like the guy was imploding in the messiest way possible.
To make matters worse, Cruise just kept opening his mouth. He had a public battle with Brooke Shields over depression medicine which led to a painful spat with Matt Lauer. Cruise came across as argumentative as he accused the affable Lauer (repeatedly) of being “glib”. The melt-down continued.
Then there was this little number.
If you’ve never seen this leaked Scientology video, you owe it to yourself to watch it! This is Tom Cruise with the public facade pulled back. And, man, is he ever crazy! That shit on Oprah’s couch does not even compare to Cruise preaching the virtues of Scientology like he’s saving the world single-handedly. (And with the Mission: Impossible soundtrack playing on a non-stop loop in the background).
At the end of the day, none of this would have mattered. But Cruise’s career stumbled. I doubt many would argue that Cruise’s strange behavior was at least partially to blame for his failing box office. Reportedly, Stephen Spielberg was pissed at Cruise for the somewhat disappointing box office of War of the Worlds which he blamed on Cruise’s public image spiral.
In 2006, Mission Impossible 3 was a big budget disappointment that seemed to spell the end for Cruise’s personal action movie franchise. Many took this as a sign that Cruise was done. Paramount ended a long-running relationship with Cruise very publicly after the failure of MI:3. It seemed like the end of an era.
The next test of Cruise’s box office status was 2006’s Valkyrie. Valkyrie failed to gross 100 million. This was once unthinkable for a Tom Cruise movie. However, it did recoup its costs and even made a small profit. It was not the bomb many made it out to be.
The same can not be said for 2010’s Knight & Day. Knight & Day was the kind of assembly-line action/comedy Cruise usually wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. And not surprisingly, it bombed. The press was only too happy to announce Cruise’s failure. After a couple of soft performers and one legitimate bomb, many were writing Cruise’s Hollywood obituary.
But they were being premature. This holiday season, Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has been a run-away hit. The press has been declaring that Cruise is back from the dead. Most prognosticators expected the Sherlock Holmes sequel to be a big hit while Mission Impossible died a slow death. But they weren’t paying attention.
The only thing that surprised me about the succes of MI4 is how surprised everyone in Hollywood seems to be by it. Word of mouth on MI4 was great. And, it’s the kind of movie audiences want to like.
Cruise has been on his best behavior in recent years and really, most of us don’t care what the guy is like behind closed doors. We just want our box office golden boy back. As long as Cruise doesn’t rub his eccentricities in America’s face, most of us are willing to ignore the fact he refers to us in Scientology weird Scientology jargon and laughs about reading about us in the history books.
Many are proclaiming that Cruise is back on the A-list. And I agree that he is. But I would argue that despite a few missteps, he never really left. True, it was touch and go for a little while there. I wondered if I might be writing “What the Hell Happened to Tom Cruise” in the not too distant future. But for the time being, Cruise’s place on the A-list remains secure.