Tom Cruise: The Last Movie Star (2023) Movie Script

In the 1980s,
Tom Cruise emerged
fresh-faced as
the brightest star in Hollywood.
Everything was there,
the smile, the charm,
the physicality.
There is an intensity,
a drive,
and that drive
and that determination
manifested itself on screen.
More often than not,
you went to see
a Tom Cruise movie,
it would be a good movie.
after a staggering run
of box office hits,
at the height of his success,
he suffered
an unexpected fall from grace.
In 2005, 2006,
he basically has kind of
a public image meltdown.
In terms of whether
anyone could have foreseen
that Tom Cruise would manage
to rebuild his career,
I think maybe the only
person who potentially saw it
was Tom Cruise himself.
With his career in jeopardy,
he refined
his onscreen persona
and risked life and limb
to get back to the top.
I think there is an element
of him wanting to
excel at everything he does,
being the consummate,
complete entertainer,
wanting to do it all.
That's what makes him so
interesting as an action star.
The fact
that he's doing something
that's just outrageously
dangerous becomes
part of the appeal
of the films.
There's another layer
of excitement to it,
and there's a certain
morbid fascination
with the fact
that he keeps doing this
and how far
is he going to take it?
This film looks
at Tom Cruise's
unlikely and remarkable
career revival,
one that has seen him regain
his crown
at the pinnacle
of the film industry.
People look at Cruise
and see him as
a movie star
in the classic mold.
There's not a lot of people
out there who
is still building movies
around their persona.
He's Tom Cruise.
He's not just
a big star still.
He's the biggest star,
and I don't know if
anybody's had
that long of a stretch
where they were
the biggest star in
the world when they were 25
and they were the biggest
star in the world
when they were 60.
May, 2022.
Having been delayed
for nearly two years,
"Top Gun: Maverick"
is finally released
into cinemas worldwide.
And all eyes are on its star
and producer, Tom Cruise,
who was launched
into Hollywood's top tier
by the original film,
back in the 1980s.
This sequel brings his
remarkable journey full circle,
and it quickly becomes
a phenomenon.
Audiences starved of entertainment
and spectacle
by the COVID pandemic
now flood back
into theaters,
and within a month,
the film becomes
the highest grossing release
of Cruise's entire career.
Yet, his return to the role
of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell,
after a 35-year break,
was no surefire success.
If I told you
three years ago
that "Top Gun Two"
would not only be
one of
the biggest money makers
of all time, but that
it would be nominated
for Best Picture at
the Oscars,
you'd think I was crazy.
I don't think Maverick's
success was guaranteed
and I don't think that
everyone thought it was going
to be this giant hit.
You have to go back to
"Titanic" to see a movie
that was this big
of a hit
and also endured
as long as it did,
that stayed in theaters,
that was in the top five
consistently for months on end.
People really,
really liked this thing.
I think it hit the right
buttons for a lot of people.
There's sort of
a perfect storm
"Top Gun: Maverick".
By now, Top Gun had been seen
by generations
of movie lovers
and had become
just more and more popular,
and there had been talk
of a sequel for years.
And again, I think
Tom Cruise is very smart.
This was the perfect time
for that.
People were celebrating
going back to theaters.
They were celebrating big,
giant, well-made action movies,
and there's Tom Cruise
right at the center of it.
perhaps more surprising
than "Top Gun: Maverick"'s
at the global box office
was the fact that,
only 15 years beforehand,
Tom Cruise's future
as a headline star
had looked in doubt.
Los Angeles, 2005.
Hitting the red carpet
with new romantic partner,
Katie Holmes, by his side,
Cruise is in town
to promote his latest film,
Steven Spielberg's adaptation
of "War of the Worlds."
He is riding high at
the top of Hollywood's A-list,
but this is simply the calm
before the storm.
He's been one
of the biggest stars
in the planet
between 1992 and 2005, 2006.
He has an incredible run,
where almost every movie
he does
makes around a hundred
million or more, at least,
back when that was
actually a lot of money.
So he's incredibly consistent,
box office-wise.
Having established his career
with a string of dramatic roles,
in the new millennium, he's
reinventing his star persona
and transforming from
a heartthrob
to an action hero.
But while the promotional tour
is in full swing,
a series of PR blunders
risk permanently damaging
his previously impeccable
public image.
He becomes action
over anything else.
He's going full tilt at
this point, really, isn't he?
But then, he also kind
of does that off-screen too,
which culminates
in the terrible year of 2005.
He had the incident
where he's on
"The Oprah Winfrey Show"
and he's jumping
on the couch.
You know Katie once
told "Seventeen" magazine-
Which became one of
the first viral moments,
you know,
early kind of YouTube,
and people just having
so much fun making fun of that.
But then,
it was all the stuff where
where he started talking
really for the first time
about his beliefs.
Also kind of doing it
in quite an aggressive way
and attacking Brooke Shields
for using antidepressants
to deal with her postnatal
depression and all of that.
For the first time, kind of
the public view of him soured.
He was a figure of ridicule
to a certain extent.
He had a huge female fan base.
What happens
after 2005, 2006 is
female audiences start
to turn on him.
And right around this time,
he basically
loses his production deal
with his studio, Paramount.
This was
a serious career crisis.
All of a sudden,
Tom Cruise, who had had nothing
but really positive PR
for the first, what,
20 years of his career,
was becoming a punchline.
That's a problem.
The actor's
fall from grace
was as unexpected
as it was rapid.
Hollywood's most bankable star
had tarnished his reputation,
and many doubted that he would
ever find his way back
to the top again.
And his remarkable
career revival
would be an uphill battle,
compared to his initial
journey to the peak
of the movie industry
in the 1980s,
which had seemed
so swift and steady.
Tom Cruise was 18 years old
when he headed
for the bright lights
of New York City,
determined to become an actor.
The teenager from Syracuse,
born Thomas Cruise Mapother,
quickly signed with an agent
and, within two years,
landed his first
feature film roles.
And although
he received high billing
on romantic drama
"Endless Love"
and comedy "Losin' It",
it was his work on
two ensemble pictures,
"Taps" and "The Outsiders",
that brought him
to wider attention.
I think it was
pretty clear early on
that he had something,
maybe this intangible quality
that's hard to define,
but I think there's
a kind of angry energy
to some of his work,
that's really key to his appeal.
"Taps", he was part
of a group,
and his character
was quite a dark character.
He was an aggressive character,
and it is interesting,
from those early days,
early Cruise,
a lot of people thought
he was kind of like--
he'd be a bad guy,
he'd be the psycho in things.
It's beautiful, man. Beautiful.
But then, that kind of
intense psycho energy
got channeled towards the light,
towards the good side.
Well, I think he was pretty
relentless in his ambition,
his desire,
to sort of get ahead.
It's interesting to see Cruise
in Coppola's "The Outsiders",
because he's not
the Cruise that we know.
But there is a scene,
prior to a fight scene,
where he suddenly does this
sort of back flip off a car.
Apparently, he improvised it,
reminding the director,
the audience, everybody else,
"I may be just one of the
characters in the background.
I'm not the lead,
I'm not Matt Dillon,
but you're going to
look at me."
And with
this desire to be center stage,
in 1983,
he headed to Hollywood.
With producers
recognizing his star potential,
he bagged the lead role
in college football drama,
"All the Right Moves,"
which brought him his first
million dollar paycheck.
Yet, it was the commercial
and critical hit satire,
"Risky Business",
that propelled him to stardom.
It was Cruise's
presence in "Risky Business".
It was his big lead
breakthrough role,
and everything was there,
the smile,
the charm, the physicality.
Just take those old
records off the shelf
It plays on
his image of a hunk,
but there's also something
kind of ridiculous
and adorable about him.
That iconic scene where he's
dancing in his tighty-whities,
it's funny.
He looks ridiculous
and that's kind of
always been Tom Cruise's
He's a little too
but he's also able
to kind of
poke fun at his image.
So how we doing?
Looks like
University of Illinois.
In his early films
in particular,
Cruise had this brashness,
this cockiness,
and I think he just had
that mix of
charm and physicality.
Even though he did make actually
a real variety of films,
he always seemed
quite similar in all of them,
but he was so likable
and so good at doing that
that it didn't really matter.
With all the great Hollywood
stars of the studio period,
the roles are
variations of themselves.
They're not character actors.
They're stars, and Cruise,
from the earliest days,
was a star.
And he was
just waiting for the right time
for that star power
to be unleashed.
Although hopes were high
that his next feature,
Ridley Scott's dark
fantasy epic "Legend"
would propel him
into the A-List,
it was a surprising
box office disappointment.
Yet, the director suggested
him for the lead role
in his brother
Tony Scott's new film.
Produced by the duo behind
breakout hits "Flashdance"
and "Beverly Hills Cop", Don
Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer,
"Top Gun" was looking
for a charismatic actor
to play
Pete "Maverick" Mitchell.
And with
John Travolta, Matthew Modine,
and Rob Lowe having already
passed on the opportunity,
Cruise stepped in.
His presence would prove vital,
both for the film
and his own career,
and "Top Gun"
would become the
highest-grossing blockbuster
of 1986.
I think that
you can really play down
too much
the importance of Cruise
to the success of "Top Gun".
Simpson and Bruckheimer,
when they were prepping,
they wanted someone for Maverick
who would be aggressive,
but in a positive way.
What's your problem,
You're everyone's problem.
That's because every time
you go up in the air,
you're unsafe.
I don't like you,
because you're dangerous.
That's right, Iceman.
I am dangerous.
If there's one thing
Cruise knows how to do,
it's command a movie,
and he certainly commanded
"Top Gun".
I feel the need.
The need for speed.
Even at that young age,
where he only had
a limited star persona,
the notion of Tom Cruise
playing that character,
that way,
in a uniquely Tom Cruise way,
was a huge reason
of why "Top Gun"
was as big of a hit
as it was.
It very much captures the vibe
of the MTV 1980s generation,
and in terms of
its aerial adventure,
it was on a scale
that had never been seen before.
It played as,
and was received as,
an earthbound "Star Wars".
Splash four!
It wasn't made for critics.
It was made for
the mass audience.
It's entertaining as hell,
but it's also really cheesy
and really corny.
But Tom Cruise
fit the role perfectly.
"Top Gun" was the beginning
of Tom Cruise as a movie star.
And as a movie star,
Cruise chose to tread
a very different path
than many
of his contemporaries.
Rather than follow "Top Gun"
with another action blockbuster,
he instead looked to develop
as a dramatic actor,
and he set his sights
on working
with the most talented
professionals in the business.
Even very early in his career,
he made a point to work
with the best directors
he could possibly get.
Even before "Top Gun",
he was working with
Ridley Scott in "Legend",
and then, after "Top Gun",
he would work with
people like Martin Scorsese
in "The Color of Money",
Barry Levinson in "Rain Man",
which was a Best Picture winner
and the biggest grossing
movie of 1988,
which is unthinkable
in this day and age.
Today, that'd be like
a 10-hour streaming miniseries,
and nobody would watch it.
It was Cruise
deliberately putting himself
onto projects or
putting himself into things
that paired him with,
either or both, great actors,
like Paul Newman
and Jack Nicholson later
in "A Few Good Men",
and just great directors.
This is a pattern where
he would absolutely just think,
"Who will bring
the best out of me?
And who can I really,
really learn from?"
Despite this ambition,
he was being viewed with
skepticism by many observers.
In America, under
President Ronald Reagan,
the 1980s was a decade of
excess, materialism,
and conservatism.
And as Cruise continued to play
variations of the same role,
he was seen to be embodying
the yuppie ideal.
The Young Cruise is
the quintessential '80s actor,
that very individualistic
'80s zeitgeist feeling,
that came in Reagan era,
he embodied on screen definitely.
I think, while a number
of Tom Cruise characters
could be described as
stereotypically cocky
in an '80s way,
I do think one thing
that set him apart
from some of his peers
is that his characters
were intelligent enough
to know that they were
mortal and fallible
and they might not win.
Most of those characters
end the film
by being taken down a peg.
If they do start the film as
a stereotypical '80s asshole,
they don't end
the film that way.
And Cruise's
final role of the decade
was a departure from this trend.
He was taken back
to a darker time
in the country's recent past,
one which still haunted
America in the Reagan era.
Again, working with one of
Hollywood's leading directors,
Oliver Stone,
in "Born on the Fourth of July",
he played real-life
Vietnam veteran
turned campaigner Ron Kovic,
who had been confined
to a wheelchair
during the conflict.
With no heavyweight co-stars
from Hollywood's past
alongside him,
for the first time,
Cruise carried
a dramatic picture by himself.
"Born on the Fourth
of July" was very essential,
in terms of, where
even some doubters, not all,
began to see him as
more than just a matinee idol.
"Born on the Fourth of July"
is a huge role for him,
both for his career,
for his critical appreciation,
and for the country in a way.
The beautiful thing about
"Born on the Fourth of July"
is he's still
playing Tom Cruise.
The early scenes of that film,
he's running, he's wrestling,
he's a high school star,
he's confident, he's driven,
he knows what he wants to do.
This is like Tom Cruise,
the Tom Cruise persona
in a nutshell.
And then, he goes to war
and is broken.
Goddamn it.
It's taking that very
Tom Cruise image and then,
just shattering it,
turning it on its head,
and putting that character
through the journey
that Ron Kovic went through,
to become protestor of war.
Cruise goes to
some very dark places
in that film emotionally,
that we've really
never seen him do before.
You tell them all,
tell them all
what they did to me,
what they did to this
whole block, this whole country.
They're going to
call the police this time.
We went to
Vietnam to stop communism.
We shot women and children.
You didn't
shoot women and children.
What are you saying?
The church blessed the war, communism,
the insidious evil.
They told us to go.
Yes, that's what
they told us.
It was
surprising to a lot of people.
A lot of people didn't think
he had it in him,
including Ron Kovic,
who was like,
"Why is this guy
going to play me?
What are you talking about?"
What turned Kovic around
was he was waiting to have
his first meeting with Cruise,
and he looked out the window,
car door opens,
Cruise gets out,
gets straight into a wheelchair,
and that impressed Kovic.
And that's so Cruise.
He's known for commitment,
his absolute 100% commitment.
And the results were
absolutely spectacular.
His wheelchair,
our wheelchairs, this steel,
our steel is
your Memorial Day on wheels.
We are your Yankee Doodle Dandy
come home.
It's an incredible performance.
He got a ton of acclaim for it.
Obviously, he was nominated
for a ton of awards.
I think, today,
it's aged incredibly well.
It's one of
the great films of the 1980s.
Despite an Oscar nomination,
rather than
follow the obvious route,
with more highbrow roles,
Cruise re-teamed
with director Tony Scott
for action drama
"Days of Thunder".
And although
the film was dismissed by many
as "Top Gun with cars,"
on set, he began
a romantic relationship
with co-star Nicole Kidman.
And when the pair married
at the end of 1990,
Cruise was transformed from
a movie star into a celebrity.
There's always
been this fascination
with Hollywood power couples.
For better or worse,
there's this renewed interest,
this combined star power,
so Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
And of course, they kind of
looked a little mismatched.
She's Australian,
she's taller than him.
So yeah, it's just
going to increase both
of their star wattage,
when you have two huge stars
who are together.
And although
their first film together
as a couple, "Far and Away",
failed to ignite the box office,
Cruise followed this
with a string of hits.
Legal thrillers
"A Few Good Men" and "The Firm"
further cemented his reputation
as a dramatic leading man,
while his performance
as Lestat
"Interview with the Vampire"
gave him the opportunity
to show greater range.
A new challenge was on
the horizon for Cruise, however,
and it was one that would
involve his longtime associate,
Paula Wagner.
Paula Wagner started off
as a stage actress and then,
became an agent with CAA,
Creative Artists Agency,
one of the biggest
agencies in the world,
and became Tom Cruise's agent.
She started working
with him
when he was relatively unknown
and he just had a presence,
a sort of a charisma, that sort
of struck her immediately.
He was always a great actor,
from the time he did
a picture called "Taps",
and which was the first film
really that he did.
And you could see that he had
amazing talent as an actor.
Great potential.
So Paula Wagner,
he trusted implicitly.
She was his manager
for 12 years,
obviously had guided him
and helped him pick out
some great projects.
Now, they form
a production company,
and this is the first time
where Tom Cruise
gets a lot more freedom.
And in May, 1996,
Cruise/Wagner Production's
first feature film
made its star-studded premier
in Los Angeles.
"Mission: Impossible"
was handpicked by Cruise
as the company's
inaugural project,
reviving a classic TV series,
and reworking it
for the big screen.
With veteran director
Brian De Palma on board
to bring his own
unique style to the film,
it was nevertheless
a Tom Cruise vehicle,
both as its star and, for
the first time in his career,
its very hands-on producer.
And as his first
action film, it was a risk.
This is
actually the biggest movie
I've ever been involved
in, in terms of production.
It's very satisfying.
You come up with an idea,
you bring everyone together,
and you start seeing it
come to life, and, uh...
that level of creativity
was exciting.
"Mission: Impossible"
is really
very surprising to people.
Tom Cruise is
the producer on the project,
and we've heard a ton by
this point
about how Tom Cruise
is the engine
behind this production
and this whole idea
of reviving the "Mission:
Impossible" series.
But Tom Cruise hadn't really
done a ton of action movies.
"Top Gun" is an action movie,
but it's a fighter jet movie.
"Days of Thunder" is
kind of an action movie,
but it's about car racing.
Tom Cruise was not an action
star in a typical sense,
and in fact,
a lot of people wondered
whether this would work.
I am going to venture
that pre-"Mission: Impossible",
of all the major stars
in Hollywood,
he was responsible
for the lowest body count.
But I think the timing
was absolutely right,
in terms of where
action cinema was going,
because we were coming out
of this period
of the one-man-army,
muscle men movies
typified by Schwarzenegger
or Chuck Norris
or Sylvester Stallone,
of course,
and coming into an era
of sort of more...
lithe and wily
action heroes,
and it just felt like
a very natural evolution.
The first
"Mission: Impossible"
is not the best
"Mission: Impossible".
It's a good solid
big budget action film
but it's interesting,
because Hollywood was trying
to make a movie out
of "Mission: Impossible",
the television series,
for decades.
"Mission: Impossible" was about
the Impossible Mission Force,
so it was really
an ensemble piece.
And the first
"Mission: Impossible" movie,
at least they kept
the same names of a lot
of the characters
from the original,
and it was about
the Impossible Mission Force.
But it became clear about
halfway through the film
that this was going to be
the Ethan Hunt storyline.
This is Ethan Hunt.
- They're dead.
- Wait, who's dead?
My team.
My team is dead.
- Jesus.
- The list is gone.
They knew we were coming, man.
They knew we were coming,
and the disk is gone.
I do think it was
unusually savvy of Cruise
to make that play
with "Mission: Impossible".
If you watch "Mission:
Impossible" on TV,
it was a sort
of an ensemble show.
It wasn't about
the glorification of one person
at its center, and
Cruise says, "I can take this,
I can use this
intellectual property
that people are aware of,
and we can sell that.
But at the center of it, it's
really going to be about me."
It gave Tom Cruise the
opportunity to play James Bond,
which he was
never going to play,
because he wasn't right
to play James Bond.
But this was
his James Bond franchise.
And the role
of Ethan Hunt allowed Cruise
to bring his physicality
to the foreground.
Always a part of
his acting arsenal,
from his strutting performance
in "The Color of Money"
to the kinetic chase sequences
of "The Firm",
it was crucial in
"Mission: Impossible",
that he convince
as an action star.
And unlike the majority
of his contemporaries,
he took this to another level
by performing several of
the film's key stunts himself,
its most iconic set piece,
the break in at Langley.
You don't really appreciate it
when you're
watching it at the time.
It's only in retrospect,
knowing what we know now,
that you are looking at
what he's doing there,
holding his entire body
inches off the ground
for a long time, really,
and it's really him doing it.
You have to really kind of stop
and think about it and go,
"No, wait a minute.
That's really difficult.
As a physical exertion,
that's really intense."
That's not really something
that was baked into
the first "Mission: Impossible"
film really.
Even though actually
it was Cruise getting drenched
by the aquarium
and he did insist
on the scene where
he is blasted backwards,
even though obviously
it's not a real explosion,
everything, he did it.
"That's got to be me.
You got to see that that's me."
But I just think it was so new,
it was, at the time,
it wasn't really dwelt upon.
It wasn't really
highlighted that much.
this would become a major part
of the Cruise brand.
But in 1996, the main focus
was seeing whether audiences
would accept him
in an action role,
and "Mission: Impossible"
proved a towering success
at the box office,
Cruise's highest grossing
release to date.
I think it's kind of
amazing that Tom Cruise
was able to transition
from being
sort of a Hollywood
pretty boy
was how he was seen by
a lot of people and
to kind of
seamlessly transition
into being an action star
is kind of remarkable.
I think it just helped
that "Mission: Impossible"
was good
and that people liked it.
His continual pursuit of
action roles
that allowed him to put his
physicality front and center,
made that transition possible.
And while he continued
carving his own unique path
in the movie industry,
Hollywood began frantically
looking for the next Tom Cruise.
Talented young actors
from Matthew McConaughey
to Matt Damon were
being hailed
as the future heirs
to his crown.
Yet, audiences
were clearly happy
with the Tom Cruise
they already had.
His purple patch continued
with romantic comedy
"Jerry Maguire" in 1997,
but then Cruise suddenly disappeared
from both Hollywood
and the limelight
for over two years.
The filming of
Stanley Kubrick's final project,
"Eyes Wide Shut",
opposite his wife,
would take the star
out of the game
at the very height
of his success.
And when it was
eventually released,
it was quickly followed
by another offbeat performance,
as part of an ensemble cast
in "Magnolia"
by up and coming director
Paul Thomas Anderson.
With these
fascinating roles,
Cruise was expanding his range
further than ever before.
Just in those four years
between "Mission: Impossible"
and "Mission: Impossible 2",
he almost completely redefines
himself again as an actor,
just with those three pictures,
"Jerry McGuire", "Eyes
Wide Shut", and "Magnolia".
By 1999, he is known enough
as a guy
that works
with great directors
and makes interesting movies
and only occasionally will make
a stereotypical blockbuster,
like "Days of Thunder"
or "Mission: Impossible",
that I think him working
with Stanley Kubrick
almost feels like,
"Oh, that makes sense."
"Magnolia" is
a little different,
because this is Tom Cruise
not working with
a veteran legendary director.
This is Tom Cruise
calling up some kid
who made one really
well-liked movie,
that got a lot of raves,
and is like,
"Hey, help me help you."
And it's such a wonderful,
generous thing for him to do,
knowing that it wasn't
going to be a big hit.
But in May, 2000,
having disappeared from
the public eye for so long,
Cruise was back
in front of an audience
eager to see him return
to mainstream cinema.
"Mission: Impossible 2"
was a landmark in his career,
as he had previously
resisted making sequels.
Yet, as both star and producer,
he embraced the opportunity
to develop the franchise
as a series.
And for this film, from
the opening sequence onwards,
his remarkable stunt work
took center stage.
"Mission: Impossible 2"
is marketed
with that opening scene
of him free climbing,
and everybody talks about
how he's
doing his own stunts.
This is,
I think, the first time
that this
becomes a thing for him.
It's Cruise clinging to,
I think,
Dead Horse Rock in Utah,
and there's a moment
during that sequence
where he literally
looks directly into the camera.
He's looking directly at
the audience as if to just say,
"Yeah, it's me,
it's Tom Cruise,
I am on the side of a mountain.
I am doing this."
I do think that "Mission:
Impossible 2" is the moment
where the idea that Cruise
was doing his own stunts
in these movies became
part of the press cycle,
became part of
the chatter around them,
and the fact
that he's doing something
that's just outrageously
dangerous becomes part
of the appeal of the films.
Some of the stunts
in that are insane.
In the climax when he almost
gets stabbed in the eye,
they did that.
They tied a rope to
the end of the knife.
They didn't do that digitally.
He was, at
that point in his life, saying,
"I have to do
this stuff myself."
But with Hong Kong
director John Woo on board,
this sequel was
a very different proposition
than Brian De Palma's
first outing.
And not only have
the tone of the film changed,
so too had
Cruise's action persona.
Tom Cruise, prior to
"Mission: Impossible 2",
he not only was not primarily
known as an action hero,
even when he did make films
with action in them,
he wasn't running around
killing people.
This was the first time
we saw Tom Cruise not just
as an action hero,
but as a gun-toting action hero.
He was making something
that you might have seen
from Arnold Schwarzenegger
or Sylvester Stallone.
When you're eight years old
and you're
wearing your leather jacket
and you have sunglasses
and you're pretending
to be an action hero
in your backyard,
"Mission: Impossible 2"
is that movie to a T.
Although its
critical reception was mixed,
the film was a smash hit
with audiences worldwide,
quickly overtaking the original
"Mission: Impossible",
to become Cruise's biggest
success at the box office.
Having returned from three
years away from the limelight
and buoyed by
the film's reception,
now he began planning a string
of blockbuster releases,
keen to cement his reputation
as an action star.
After "Eyes Wide Shut",
he's Hollywood's number one
sort of box office draw,
and he doesn't want
to let his crown slip.
How do you prove you're back?
By making blockbuster after
blockbuster after blockbuster.
You are compensating.
So you've gone off on sabbatical,
you've done your odd thing
in England with Stanley.
Now, it's time to
sort of pay back Hollywood.
Once the "Mission: Impossible"
franchise takes off,
Tom Cruise, I think,
understands to some extent
the limitations of
doing the smaller movies.
he's now a producer as well.
He needs to make films that will
kind of continue to sort
of sustain his star power.
Following one final fling
with more left-field material
in Cameron Crowe's
"Vanilla Sky",
Cruise now launched himself
into action roles,
beginning with
2002's "Minority Report".
The following year,
he would be back
with "The Last Samurai",
while the summer of 2004
saw him play his first villain
since "Taps",
in Michael Mann's propulsive
thriller, "Collateral".
All of these films pushed
his intensely physical presence
to the fore, and his journey
as a serious dramatic actor,
from "Born on the Fourth
of July" to "Magnolia",
was now put on hold.
Certain aspects of
his star persona
kind of fell to the wayside.
He realized that,
as a movie star,
the thing that people
liked from him the most
was this kind of determination,
this kind of steeliness,
this kind of hyper-competence.
"As a movie star,
what my thing is
is I'm just
constantly pressing forward."
It's determination made flesh, basically.
I think Cruise's age
is starting to play into this.
I'm not saying
it's a midlife crisis,
but is a little bit
of "I'm getting older,
but why should I get older?"
And it's almost like
the roles he did
when he was younger
were the kind of roles
you'd expect someone
to do later in their life
and the roles he's doing
later in his life
are the kind of roles
you'd expect people
to do earlier in their life.
a significant factor
in this change of gear
was his divorce
from Nicole Kidman
back in 2001.
Although it was
a very public split,
Cruise took solace
in his fans,
making headlines
when he spent over an hour
signing autographs
and posing for photos
at the premier
of "Minority Report",
and again, when dedicating
over two hours to the crowd
for the release
of "The Last Samurai".
It's fun.
You get out and
have a chat and sign.
It's really nice.
It's nice that they show up,
and I want to let them
know that I appreciate it.
although he was happy
to get up close
and personal with his audience,
they knew very little
about the man himself.
Cruise wasn't somebody
who a lot of people
knew a lot about
his private life.
He was somebody
who they knew mostly
through the flash bulbs
and they saw on magazine covers.
He doesn't do
a ton of interviews.
He'll do appearances,
he'll do premieres,
he'll do red carpets
and things like that,
but there's a very controlled
quality to his public image,
up until this point.
Yet, in 2003,
he began to speak more openly
about his involvement
with the secretive
and controversial
Church of Scientology.
After his publicist,
Pat Kingsley,
who had been by his side
since the early '90s,
tried to dissuade him
from discussing his beliefs
on promotional tours,
he replaced her.
His sister Lee Ann
took over the role,
but without Kingsley's
guiding hand, very quickly,
Cruise's public image
was in free fall.
Pat Kingsley was
the publicist for Tom Cruise
for I think about 14 years.
You think of publicists
as people who get stars
onto TV shows,
into newspapers, onto websites.
Her significance was as much
for keeping him out of trouble.
For two decades,
she was at the center
of Cruise control, famed
for her red carpet tactics,
guiding him round
with military precision.
On her watch,
his interviews were paragons
of marketing virtue, avoiding
the subject of Scientology.
As his sister becomes
his publicist,
I think the fact
that he is a Scientologist
becomes a much bigger part
of who he is on the outside,
as well as who he is
on the inside.
And that does manifest itself
in some media-unfriendly ways.
The reception to
the promotional campaign
in and around
"War of the Worlds",
it wasn't just that he was
associated with Scientology,
it's that some of those interviews
came off as judgmental,
in a negative and
almost hurtful way.
his unprovoked on-air criticism
of his friend Brooke Shields,
his argumentative interviews
with Matt Lauer in the US
and Peter Overton in Australia
and his widely mocked
appearance on Oprah Winfrey,
the wheels had come off
the Cruise machine.
In August, 2005, summing up
the wider public's reaction
to these events, "Vanity Fair"
ran the cover story,
"Has Tom Cruise
lost his marbles?"
For the first time, the kind
of public view of him soured.
I don't think he was able
to really process that.
Like "Why have people got
a problem with what I'm saying?
Usually, everything's fine."
He was a figure of ridicule
to a certain extent,
and suddenly, he's this weirdo
jumping on couches
and attacking Brooke Shields,
and yeah,
people start to turn on him,
and this is
his audience turning on him.
This isn't just like people
who never liked him
turning on him.
This is the people
who liked him turning on him,
and it puts him in a tough spot.
And this is a huge thing
for all huge stars.
If you don't have somebody
around you to say "no"
or to take you aside and say
"You're going
down the wrong path,"
left to their own devices,
like any of the rest of us,
you're going to make
a lot of big mistakes
and he made huge mistakes.
And although
this crisis erupted
just as he was promoting
his new Spielberg blockbuster,
"War of the Worlds",
it didn't affect that film's
commercial fortunes.
The following year however,
with the shockwaves having
spread across popular culture,
Cruise returned to the big screen
with "Mission: Impossible 3".
And although
it turned a profit,
it was the least successful
film in the franchise so far
and was considered
a disappointment
by its studio, Paramount.
I don't think you
can discount this kind of
souring of opinion on Cruise
having an impact
on "Mission: Impossible 3".
The reviews were strong,
but for whatever reason,
the buzz was muted.
There was certainly
a real world impact
in terms
of Tom Cruise's reception.
Was "Mission: Impossible 3"
an underperformer
because of how it was
associated with the PR stuff?
Maybe. Do I think it killed
the film? No.
But even if
it didn't kill the film itself,
the backlash did kill Cruise's
deal with Paramount Pictures.
The studio had signed an
exclusive distribution agreement
with Cruise/Wagner Productions
back in 1992,
and as the scandal escalated,
this crucial partnership
was terminated.
Sumner Redstone,
who was the head of the company
that owned
Paramount Pictures, saying
"This guy
is hurting our brand."
the number one brand in movies,
all of a sudden,
is considered to be a liability.
So he was in a real
career crisis at the time.
The fall from grace
was complete.
Immediately firing
his sister Lee Ann,
the star was in
crisis management mode.
Looking for a new deal,
Cruise/Wagner Productions
was thrown a lifeline by MGM,
who approached them
to revive the floundering
studio, United Artists.
Yet, their first film
of this new arrangement,
Robert Redford's
"Lions for Lambs",
with Cruise on board as
both producer and co-star,
met with a tepid critical
and commercial response.
And then, in late 2006,
when he appeared
to be running on empty,
he was contacted by
Christopher McQuarrie,
an award-winning writer-director
at a similar low ebb.
It's interesting, you see
these stories in Hollywood,
where people
who have been through the mill
and had a great success
and then,
are kind of on tougher times,
will turn to each other.
Because Christopher McQuarrie
wins the Academy Award
for "The Usual Suspects",
one of the greatest screenplays
of all time.
And now, here's somebody,
it's only 10 years
after he won the Oscar,
and he can't get arrested
in Hollywood.
He had a big success
with "The Usual Suspects",
which he wrote, and
then tried directing himself.
And he made a film,
which I think is brilliant,
called "The Way of the Gun".
It wasn't a hit
for any number of reasons.
It was a very dark picture,
it was very grimy,
but for whatever reason,
he ended up in director's jail.
And it was a very long time
before he made another picture.
The project
McQuarrie brought to Cruise
was "Valkyrie",
an historical thriller
focused on a real-life plot
to assassinate Adolf Hitler
by a group of
rebel Nazi officers.
Cruise agreed to finance
the film through United Artists
and took the lead role
with McQuarrie's "Usual
Suspects" partner, Bryan Singer,
on board as director.
And although early reports
were negative,
upon its release,
"Valkyrie" proved
a minor critical
and commercial success.
I think "Valkyrie" is just
a rock solid studio programmer,
and it kind of reminded people
that, "Oh wait, that's right.
Most Tom Cruise
movies are good."
I think, in a lot of ways,
"Valkyrie" may prove
to be one
of the last gasps, for now,
of Tom Cruise, actor,
as opposed to
Tom Cruise, action star.
- They will wipe you out.
- It doesn't matter.
It only matters
that we act now
before we lose the war.
Otherwise, this will
always be Hitler's Germany.
And we have to show the world
that not all of us
were like him.
That is not enough for me.
There has to be
a chance of success.
Then find a way.
Even though
it didn't do huge business,
it wasn't a complete bomb,
and I think that, in a way,
that was almost good enough,
that it wasn't a complete--
it got mostly good reviews.
It did fairly well.
It did okay,
so I think, because
expectations were so low,
it might have
worked in his favor.
I think the arrival
of Christopher McQuarrie
in the Cruise story
is absolutely huge.
I think Cruise and McQuarrie
is just an amazing partnership.
It really made Cruise turn
a corner from that bad period.
So while "Valkyrie", which
actually is a pretty good film,
while that film wasn't
a particular success, and again,
has been kind of forgotten about
in the Cruise story,
however that film turned out,
I think that that relationship
was established.
And although Cruise
had a key new creative ally,
the road to recovery
would not be simple.
Following the release of
the United Artists deal
fell apart,
and Cruise split
with his long-term partner,
Paula Wagner.
Without his own production company
to launch films
that he could control,
he was now thrown back into
the uncertain acting world,
auditioning for roles
in studio projects,
like "Salt" and "The Tourist".
He eventually took the lead
in "Knight and Day",
alongside Cameron Diaz,
before entering discussions
with Paramount
to return to the "Mission:
Impossible" franchise.
But when the film was released,
it was a commercial
and critical disaster,
and many questioned
whether Cruise would ever
be able to headline
a blockbuster again.
It's interesting
with "Knight and Day",
because on paper, you'd think
this is a surefire hit.
He's reunited with
Cameron Diaz from "Vanilla Sky"
in a very
different kind of movie.
She's so likable and has
done all these great comedies
that were huge hits,
but for some reason--
and it's not a good film--
I think Tom Cruise found out
people either wanted
to see him playing in
a romantic comedy or a drama
or in an action film
with real consequences.
I think the failure
of "Knight and Day",
it certainly upped the ante
in terms
of what he needed to achieve
with "Ghost Protocol",
the fourth "Mission:
Impossible" film,
bearing also in mind
that it's the
"Mission: Impossible" film
that follows
the least successful
"Mission: Impossible"
film as well.
In that sense,
he had to go back
to the series
that he'd set up himself,
had now come to define him.
He has returned to that,
but he had to make it better
than it had ever been before.
And in December, 2011,
"Mission: Impossible -
Ghost Protocol" was released.
At the premier and in
its promotion,
Cruise was front
and center once again.
Yet, ongoing doubts
at Paramount
over its star's popular appeal
had seen initial versions
of the script
sideline his character,
Ethan Hunt,
and the final cut
was a very different film
than the original concept.
It was supposed to
originally be
Ethan Hunt's last appearance
in a "Mission:
Impossible" movie.
So they brought in
Jeremy Renner as somebody
who would step up and
become a new team leader.
If you look back
on that idea now,
it seems completely absurd.
Renner is a terrific actor,
but he doesn't have
the kind of charisma
that Tom Cruise does.
That's what you need in
a "Mission: Impossible" movie.
You need charisma.
You need him to be Ethan Hunt.
repaired his relationship
with Paramount kingpin,
Sumner Redstone,
during the production
Cruise drafted in
his new creative partner,
Christopher McQuarrie,
to rework the script and
shift the focus back onto Hunt.
Yet, after five years of
box office returns,
"Ghost Protocol" was still
a pressure project for its star.
But when it opened,
it became the biggest hit
of Cruise's entire career.
"Ghost Protocol" is
because it's the fourth
installment of a franchise.
Usually it's by three
that things really
fall off the edge
with most great franchises.
And here's "Ghost Protocol",
the fourth entry
in the franchise,
and it's the best by far.
If none of the other movies
had been made
and it was just
a standalone film,
it would be considered one
of the great action thrillers
of all time.
If you argue
that "Mission: Impossible 3"
marked the end of Tom Cruise
as an unimpeachable,
matinee idol movie star,
"Mission: Impossible -
Ghost Protocol"
basically saved his career.
And with
"Incredibles" director Brad Bird
at the helm, the focus
of this fourth installment
was action.
And where "Mission: Impossible
3"' had been light on stunts,
with his return
to the franchise,
Cruise pulled out all the stops.
Brad Bird kind of
conceived "Ghost Protocol"
as this set piece machine.
In the series,
I think that is the one
that most acknowledges
that what people love
about these movies is seeing
Cruise and company squirm
out of really
difficult situations.
I think it has some of the
best stunts in the whole series.
I think him climbing
the Burj Khalifa is
really hard to top, actually.
I think he's been
trying to top it since,
and I don't think
there's been a sequence
in the franchise that's
as exciting as that sequence.
Okay, now remember,
it's a rolling off motion
that disengages the bond.
When the meter is blue,
that's full adhesion.
Easy way to remember--
Blue is glue.
- And when it's red?
- Dead.
Here's your cutter, okay?
And your server interface
both going back here.
One, two.
Okay, Ethan,
the hotel server's
11 stories up
and seven units over.
- Com check?
- Yeah, copy.
"Ghost Protocol"
gave Tom Cruise his mojo back
by letting audiences see his
fear and laugh with him again.
None of the gadgets work,
none of their plans work.
They're constantly perplexed
and flustered
and on the brink of death,
because nothing around them
goes right.
He's relatable again.
And I think he transitions
from Tom Cruise
to being almost like
an American Jackie Chan.
at almost 50 years old,
Cruise was still determined
to provide the audience
with a performance of
remarkable physicality.
What's amazing about
"Ghost Protocol" is,
at this point, it is probably
the most physical performance
he's ever given.
It's interesting,
because we don't say,
"You know, that Tom Cruise,
he's got a lot of star power
and energy for his age."
He just does,
and I guarantee
a lot of 30-year old actors
are sitting around going,
"What is it with this guy,
that Energizer Bunny thing?"
We actually believe
he could chase down
the 26-year old bad guy
from behind, because he can.
I think it's absolutely
astonishing that Cruise,
at the age that he was
when he made "Ghost Protocol",
was doing the kind
of things that you would
only expect an actor
in their 30s to do,
that even he wasn't
doing himself in his 30s.
So it just adds to this idea
of him being ageless.
The character of
James Bond is ageless
because they keep recasting
new people as it.
The character of
Ethan Hunt is ageless
because he's Tom Cruise.
With some
of the best reviews
he had ever received
and a worldwide gross
of nearly 700 million dollars,
"Ghost Protocol" provided
Cruise's career
with the shot in the arm
it so desperately needed.
The reaction to his
adrenaline-fueled performance
also provided him with
a roadmap for future success.
Yet, when 2012's "Jack Reacher"
and 2013's "Oblivion"
divided critics and failed
to attract large audiences,
it suggested
that Cruise's career revival
was a work in progress,
rather than a certainty.
In 2014, however,
he returned to the big screen
with the high-concept
science fiction thriller
"Edge of Tomorrow",
and critics instantly
hailed it
as one of the strongest films
he had ever made.
"Edge of Tomorrow"'s
a terrific film,
based on some
great source material.
It's kind of
a "Groundhog Day",
except with much higher stakes.
from the Japanese novel,
"All You Need is Kill",
Christopher McQuarrie
was once again drafted
into the script writing team.
And the film's narrative,
of a cowardly military officer
caught in a time loop
after dying on the battlefield
during an alien invasion,
allowed Cruise to probe
his own onscreen persona.
"Edge of Tomorrow"
in some ways, I think,
is sort of a culmination
of Cruise's career.
That movie is Tom Cruise,
I think, acknowledging
and even playing with
the audience's
love-hate relationship
with him.
At the beginning of the movie,
he's playing this kind of
slimy military big wig
who has been sort of
thoughtlessly propagandizing
for this war that's
causing the death of
thousands of people
every day,
and he is drafted into the war
and dies on the battlefield.
And I think those
early scenes very much play
with the idea
that there probably is a portion
of the audience
that doesn't like Cruise,
that would really
relate to being allowed
to dislike a Cruise character.
The film plays to
multiple aspects of his career
and elements of
his versatility as an actor.
Come on!
The ship is going to explode!
What are you doing?
Find me when you wake up.
Come find me
when you wake up.
It is an interesting way
to do it,
because he's doing it
within the context
of this surreal,
fantastical situation,
where he's
just constantly dying
and having to repeat this day
over and over and over again.
And through that,
he builds up his expertise,
which is also such
a Tom Cruise thing to do.
It is totally like
the young cocky Tom Cruise,
him going from that to the sort
of man-of-action Tom Cruise.
It's all about him sort of
redeeming himself
in a way, that, I think,
as a movie star,
he kind of has over the years,
at least in some people's eyes.
But despite rave reviews
and positive word of mouth,
"Edge of Tomorrow"
was yet another disappointment
at the box office.
"Edge of Tomorrow"
continues to confound me,
in terms of why
it was not more successful.
It's one of his strongest films.
It's a great performance.
It's one of
his funniest performances.
The film's really smart.
It's a great sort of sci-fi
setup, alien invasion film.
And again, Christopher McQuarrie
was involved
in working on the script.
So they've taken it
and spun it and twisted it
and done everything interesting
they can do with it.
He had a great co-star
in Emily Blunt.
So there's all these things,
and yet,
for some reason,
it doesn't add up
to a box office success.
But obviously,
it's become, over time,
appreciated and recognized.
And I guess it's one
of those weird things.
It's a Tom Cruise cult hit.
And although
the film did gain in stature,
its initial struggle
to attract an audience
demonstrated how
the landscape was changing.
When Cruise's career was
revived by "Ghost Protocol",
back in 2011,
the Marvel Cinematic Universe
was only five films
into its unprecedented run
of releases.
By 2015, it was king
of the box office
and soon to be joined by
a raft of remakes, revivals,
rival superhero universes,
and the return of "Star Wars".
Refreshing original
star vehicles
like "Edge of Tomorrow"
stood little chance
of getting noticed
amidst the appeal
of the familiar.
The studios are
trying to find things
that people are
familiar with and then,
just making more and
more and more of them.
This does also
change the star system.
Stardom is defined not
so much as
this actor making
whatever they want,
but it becomes this actor
playing this character.
Mr. Robert Downey Jr.!
The paradigm has shifted
in a really big way,
in terms of Hollywood's
relationship to movie stars.
I do think that audiences
don't necessarily require it
in the same way
they used to,
and it is about
the intellectual property,
it's about the characters.
Now, some of the films
are good,
some of the films are bad,
some of the films
are middling,
but it's almost like
it doesn't matter.
The best Avengers movie
and the worst Avengers movie
both make a ton of money,
and it doesn't seem to matter
if one is better than the other.
Marvel's success
also happened to coincide
with people no
longer going to the movies
to see regular movies.
So it wasn't just that Marvel
was taking over
the blockbuster ecosystem,
which fine, whatever,
but they were basically
taking over cinema in general,
because the people that
would've seen everything else
stopped going
to the movies.
Now, within this world,
Tom Cruise, I think,
understands that people like
to see him playing Ethan Hunt.
And Cruise returned
in the "Mission: Impossible"
franchise once again,
in the summer of 2015,
with "Rogue Nation".
Upon its release,
it was surrounded
by high-profile
comic book blockbusters.
But unlike
"Edge of Tomorrow",
it didn't struggle
to find an audience.
"Mission: Impossible" had
become one of the most popular
and lucrative franchises
in the entire film industry.
And Cruise's nearly
20-year tenure as Ethan Hunt
was unprecedented.
It took some amount
of foresight
to put himself
in this position,
because he made his first
"Mission: Impossible" movie
in 1996,
and he sticks to it.
Through thick and thin,
he sticks to it, and now,
suddenly, he is essentially
kind of a superhero.
With Christopher
McQuarrie not only scripting,
but also taking the reins
as the film's director,
it proved another critical
and commercial smash hit.
And "Mission: Impossible"
was now more popular
than it had ever been before.
"Rogue Nation" absolutely
built on "Ghost Protocol", 100%.
To be honest,
it's been escalation ever since
with those films.
"Ghost Protocol" was the best
"Mission: Impossible" movie
up to that point, then
"Rogue Nation" comes along,
and it's the best
"Mission: Impossible" movie
up to that point.
That is the film
when you realize that
this franchise has
become an ensemble franchise.
They take this ensemble cast
and turn them
into a surrogate family,
and you want to spend time
with all of them.
It's interesting,
because the first film
is about sort of
killing off the idea
of "Mission: Impossible"
as a group franchise.
It's all about Tom Cruise.
It felt to me like
a process of figuring out
which characters people liked
and kind of getting that perfect
configuration over the years.
And then, at a certain point,
you get a core team
that people really like.
And "Rogue Nation"
wasted no time
in introducing this core team.
The opening scene,
when they're
waiting for the big plane
to take off,
first, you see Simon Pegg.
You're like, "Ah,
I remember that character.
I like him."
Then you see Jeremy Renner,
"Ah, I liked him
in 'Ghost Protocol'.
I'm glad he's back."
And then you see Ving Rhames.
"Ah, Ving,
always happy to see you."
And then, you see Ethan Hunt.
Can you open the door?
- Ethan, where are you?
- I'm by the plane.
Benji, can you open the door?"
And it's a perfect
introduction to the movie.
And then, you have
this crazy ass stunt.
Benji, you open
that door right now!
Yeah, I'm trying.
There's a collaborative
quality to these films,
and really, Tom Cruise is there
to provide some emotional throughline
and also to do like two
or three big stunts.
into this ensemble,
"Rogue Nation" added both
charismatic veteran Alec Baldwin
and an electrifying newcomer,
Rebecca Ferguson,
as British agent Ilsa Faust.
That's probably the first
"Mission: Impossible" movie
where the most interesting
character isn't Ethan Hunt.
Pretty much everybody's
favorite character
in that film
was Rebecca Ferguson.
She's a brilliant character.
She leapt off the screen,
she looked great,
and she was very sexy, but she
wasn't there as a sex object.
She was there because
she was a really capable agent,
almost as impressive as Ethan
Hunt himself, one might say.
Cruise is
smart enough to know,
he's always been
smart enough to know,
if the whole movie is good,
if everyone else in it is good,
it will raise your profile,
it will raise your ship as well.
These films have
helped regain some of his mojo,
by being, again,
willing to step back
and let somebody else
be your favorite character.
But although
"Mission: Impossible"
had now firmly reestablished
its blockbuster credentials,
Cruise's appeal away from the
franchise still looked shaky.
A 2016 sequel to "Jack Reacher"
performed even more poorly
at the box office
and killed off
the franchise,
while the following year's
"The Mummy" opened
to the worst reviews of
the actor's entire career.
So, following a well-received
starring role in the smaller,
more mature feature,
"American Made",
in 2018, it was announced
that Cruise was
due back at movie theaters
once again
as Ethan Hunt in
"Mission: Impossible: Fallout".
And this time, during
the film's promotional campaign,
an injury he sustained
during the production
became a key selling point,
highlighting more than ever
his unique daredevil appeal.
The world we live in now,
I think,
where all of this pre-release
information is out there,
it doesn't surprise me
that they would weaponize
the fact that he hurt himself.
There's a certain morbid
fascination with the fact
that he keeps doing this,
and how far is he going
to take it?
The stunt itself
wasn't that remarkable, really.
It was Cruise jumping from
one rooftop to another rooftop,
but compared with
hanging off the Burj Khalifa
or clinging to
the side of a plane,
it seemed pretty mundane,
relatively speaking.
He did the jump,
and it went a little bit wrong.
He broke his ankle,
and then,
and this is the amazing thing,
pulls himself up,
and ever the pro, he doesn't go,
"Oh, God, I've broken
my ankle, guys. Stop rolling."
He carries on.
He gets up and runs,
so that
they can complete the shot.
And that to me is sort of
the defining attribute
of Tom Cruise's
career in a nutshell,
is that he will break
his leg to entertain you.
Cruise was willing
to go further than that.
With the key ensemble returning
and Christopher McQuarrie
at the helm once again,
"Fallout" featured
a blistering array of stunts
and set pieces, including
a high speed motorbike chase,
a helicopter battle,
and a dangerous
halo parachute jump,
all performed
by Cruise himself.
just for the record, I think,
is an absolutely
astonishing film.
It's almost up there with
"Mad Max: Fury Road" in my mind
as just being
a masterpiece of action cinema.
The film is terrific.
The action sequences
are incredibly creative,
and because they're doing
a lot of this stuff for real,
it has a kind of immediacy
that really translates
to the audience.
When you're watching the film,
you feel the danger.
You feel the danger
for these characters.
I watched "Fallout" convinced
Tom Cruise was going to die.
The idea that he's
this kamikaze daredevil
who's just like you,
but he's willing to do
these crazy things
that you won't do
to make the best movie possible,
that plays very well.
And "Fallout"
did play very well,
both the highest-grossing film
in the franchise,
and in 2018,
the highest-grossing film
of Cruise's entire career.
And when he hit the publicity circuit
with his co-stars
to promote it,
he was already in production
on another blockbuster,
the long awaited sequel
to "Top Gun".
Having resisted a follow up
to the iconic '80s hit
for 30 years,
Cruise had finally signed on
to return
as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell.
But in February, 2020,
the COVID pandemic hit
and everything
ground to a halt.
There are much
huger problems with COVID,
real-life tragedies,
but for the industry,
it was a crisis
that the movie industry
had probably never seen ever.
were paused and theaters closed,
leaving a huge backlog
of unreleased films.
A lot of major studios
and a lot of big films,
they were saying, "Well,
it's better to get it out.
Let's put it on Disney Plus.
Let's put it on Hulu.
Yeah, it was shot
for the big screen,
but we can't just sit
on these movies."
With streaming
services thriving
due to a captive audience,
the fate of the cinema industry
hung in the balance.
In the summer of 2020,
when restrictions were being
tentatively lifted,
the release
of Christopher Nolan's "Tenet"
was the first real test
of whether audiences
would return to theaters.
And Cruise,
keen to show his support
for the big screen experience,
issued a video
on his social media.
It's hugely heartening
to have seen Cruise
go out there
and bang the drum.
There was an element
of that kind of caution,
but at the same time,
it's like,
"Well, we can't let
this entertainment form,
this art form, die, can we?"
He's a champion of cinema,
of movie making,
and of the thousands of jobs
behind the scenes
that go with making movies.
And as a producer,
Cruise was acutely aware
of his responsibility to
those working on his films.
He had been keen
to restart shooting
on the next
"Mission: Impossible" film,
in an effort
to keep the industry going,
with the production governed
by strict health guidelines.
But in December that year,
audio was leaked from the set
of Cruise berating crew members
for not
following COVID protocols.
The clip quickly went viral.
You would've
thought, certainly, whatever,
looking back on what
happened in 2005
or looking back
on other incidents, like,
for example, Christian Bale.
Again, he was someone
that got caught ranting
at a crew member.
Those things,
they don't really come out well.
People quite rightly say
"You shouldn't be like that.",
But what's really
interesting with Cruise
in this instance,
he came out of it pretty well.
I think the vast majority
of people out there were like,
"He's looking out
for the safety of people.
He's trying to keep this production
from being shut down,"
which happened with
a lot of major movies.
He's saying what other people
probably wanted to say
on that set and couldn't say,
he could get away with it.
So I think it actually
worked in his favor.
After his
reputation had been so damaged
in the early 2000s,
this response was evidence
that Cruise
had turned a corner and
that public opinion
was back on his side.
And his standing
was further enhanced
when he continued to
resist the opportunity
to sell "Top Gun: Maverick"
to streaming,
holding out for
a theatrical release.
As the producer
and the star that he is,
he had the heft
to prevent
that from coming out
and just going straight
to streaming.
Cruise knows that his
particular kind of entertainment
that he offers plays better
on the big screen.
The Burj Khalifa scene
in "Ghost Protocol",
that's not going to play
the same on your TV at home.
At a time that cinema
is endangered,
when the streamers have
eaten away so significantly
into global cinema box office,
Cruise's insistence
on keeping "Top Gun"
and not releasing it
until there was
an opportune moment,
it was sort of a case
of Cruise to the rescue.
And Cruise's
instincts were right.
Having held back for two years,
when "Top Gun: Maverick"
was released
exclusively to cinemas
in May, 2022,
it went ballistic.
I was absolutely
blown away by it
as a theatrical experience.
It's spectacular.
Visually, it's spectacular.
It's also a very good movie.
It made perfect financial sense.
It made perfect artistic sense.
It made perfect
showmanship sense
to hold off on the release
of that film
until you knew people
could go into theaters safely.
"Maverick" is a really slick
legacy sequel
that's trading on people's
affection for an old movie,
but it's doing it with
this kind of romantic sincerity
that a lot of them don't have.
It's a very canny
piece of nostalgia.
When you see him first
in the beginning of the movie,
this really rousing
main theme that comes up
and whips off that tarp
and the old motorcycle is there
and he's zipping around,
and it got to me.
He took the IP and
the nostalgia as a challenge
to say, "Okay,
we already have this.
Can we still
make a good movie?"
And for
the first time in his career,
Cruise's return to
the role of Maverick
in his late 50s would
specifically focus on his age.
We're definitely
getting a more mature Cruise.
In "Maverick", he's gone
from being the cocky upstart
character to being the mentor.
What the enemy
doesn't know
is your limits.
I intend to find them,
test them, push beyond.
Today, we'll start
with what
you only think you know.
Show me what you're made of.
One of the things
that it does with Tom Cruise,
it acknowledges that he's
an older man
than he was in the '80s,
while at the same time
defying that.
- Break right!
- Breaking right!
just saved your life, fellas,
but it's going to cost him.
Not this time, old man.
"Top Gun: Maverick", everybody
knew was going to do well.
Everybody figured would probably
get fairly good reviews,
but it exceeded
all expectations.
Now, here's this guy.
First of all, he looks--
people see him and go,
"Jesus Christ.
How does he look like that?"
We believe him
on the motorcycle.
We believe him in the cockpit.
Even though we had
already known
that this guy
is a huge movie star,
it's like, "Wait a minute,
he's not just a big star still.
He's the biggest star."
And that was confirmed
when "Maverick" pulled in
a staggering $1.5 billion worldwide,
becoming one of the highest
grossing films of all time.
At 59 years old,
Cruise had achieved
his biggest hit to date,
but the shockwaves
of the film's success
sent ripples across
the entire industry itself.
The figure who had stood
through COVID
as an ambassador
for the cinematic experience
now stood at the forefront
of its revival.
While other franchises
appeared to be running on empty,
Cruise's relentless work
ethic was the driving force
behind his film's
remarkable popularity.
One of the reasons
I think the Marvel movies have,
the more recent ones, have been
a little bit less successful
is that they've
operated under the assumption
that they don't
need to be as good,
that people will show up
no matter what they are,
and that's kind of
the anti-Tom Cruise perspective.
Cruise is,
whatever you think of him,
Cruise is very much like
"We have to give
110% to everything."
The whole, "I have to
be up there in the jet,"
I think, is
an extension of that idea,
is that truly entertaining
people is about
giving all that you have
to give to them.
And as
the industry tried to process
just how "Maverick" had managed
to become such a phenomenon,
Cruise himself was reevaluated.
Having been written off by
many only a decade beforehand,
he had won back his audience
and risen to new heights.
Headlines and
articles were emphatic,
declaring that not only
had Tom Cruise saved cinema,
but that he was
also the last movie star.
And as he embarked
on completing
the next two
"Mission: Impossible" films,
it was announced that, afterwards,
he would be retiring
from the role of Ethan Hunt.
It'll bring his historic involvement
in the franchise to a close,
the longest consecutive run
that any actor has played
a single character on screen,
and complete another stage
of his remarkable career.
And whatever Cruise does next,
despite his age,
he is certain to bring
the same dedication and daring
that has made him
the most distinctive movie star
in the world.
Part of me thinks
that Cruise won't stop.
He does not seem like
a person who is capable
of turning this off.
A part of his appeal as
a star is a mania about him.
It's why I've always said
that the Tom Cruise
jumping on the couch,
that Tom Cruise
is not that different
than the Tom Cruise we see
in the "Mission:
Impossible" films.
That level of enthusiasm
and that mania
in his performances too.
He's been going for five decades,
but what's remarkable
is the level of success
that he's had during that time.
There's been a lot
of talk through the years,
who's the last movie star?
I think, with Tom Cruise,
it's a much more apt label,
because of the way
the business has changed.
Even though there are tons
of great young actors
and actresses in
their 20s and 30s,
there's almost no way
they're going to have the career
Tom Cruise has had.
There's so much emphasis
on these huge franchise movies
that there's not that much
room for the star system.
So in a lot of ways,
Tom Cruise probably
is the last movie star.
I don't think Tom Cruise
is the last movie star,
but I do think that Tom Cruise
is the last of his kind.
And I think a lot of the big
stars that came in his wake,
like Matt Damon and DiCaprio,
followed the Tom Cruise playbook
of being an actor first
and a movie star second.
And I think, once he retires,
I don't think we're ever going
to see another like him.
He's such a unique
and singular figure
in the industry that I don't
think he's replaceable.