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Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

February 9, 2010 |  6:47 pm

Tom Cruise

In the summer of 2008, Tom Cruise fell out of the big action thriller "Salt," a move that roughly followed him falling out of the big action thriller "28th Amendment" (and that was then followed by his big action thriller "The Matarese Circle" getting backburnered).

At the time it looked like the world's most famous working actor might take a break from the motorcycle-flipping and warehouse-exploding; he was, after all, shooting at about the same time the more prestige-minded (er, attempted prestige-minded?) "Lions for Lambs" and "Valkyrie," and was trying to build an entire boutique label in United Artists to boot.

But the news today, first reported by Deadline Hollywood, that Cruise will next shoot "Mission: Impossible IV" shows that you can take the actor out of the action, but not the action out of the actor. Cruise has migrated from the world of big franchises before. But somehow he always finds his way back.

With each "M:I" film there has been a marked, almost pointed, detour away from those star-showcasing, man-saving-the-world-from-catastrophe crowd pleasers. Hollywood stars routinely alternate between smaller movies and bigger action films. But something different has gone on here. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and other top stars practice (as much as a franchise-hungry studio system  allows) a one-for-us/one-for-them approach. The arc of Cruise's career has had a far more scattershot quality -- a burst of action films, followed by a substantial hiatus (and, judging by his falling out of the action films, a reluctance to star in them in the first place) -- followed by the inevitable return to his action sanctuary.

After the first installment of the Ethan Hunt chronicles nearly 15 years ago, Cruise appeared in three consecutive passion projects ("Jerry Maguire," "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Magnolia") before starring in the second "M:I" film.  Then the cycle repeated itself. After the second "M:I" film, he took an art-house plunge with a Cameron Crowe remake of a quirky Spanish film ("Vanilla Sky") and a Michael Mann mid-budget character piece ("Collateral") -- before going hard back to the action with "War of the Worlds" and the next "M:I" flick. ("Minority Report" was in there too, however you want to categorize that one).

And now, four years later, here we are again -- a man who veers off to be an actor but -- to the detriment of the acting world but the enrichment of studio coffers -- always comes back to being a movie star.

Of course, equally important as the question of how Cruise wants to show himself to audiences is how audiences want to see him (and whether they still will when this next "M:I" picture hits in May 2011). The world views movie stars, and Cruise in particular, a lot differently than they did in 1996, when the first "M:I" movie came out; there's little of the celebrity reverence that once drove people to see and love star-driven movies.

Then again, even in this TMZ-ized world, the worst of that Cruise backlash is over. The actor is not that polarizing a figure anymore, and certainly not the object of the tabloid and late-night target practice. Which means that as Cruise comes back, as he inevitably does, to his crowd pleasers, the crowds could inevitably come back to him. And the cycle continues...

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Tom Cruise. Credit: Paul Buck/EPA

Comments () | Archives (16)

The comments to this entry are closed.

It's highly questionable whether crowds will 'inevitably come back to' Cruise. The man's got a Michael Jackson smell about him, and he may never lose it. That Oprah moment is his Zapruder tape - his career splattering all over the back wall of Ms. Winfrey's set. Cruise's attempts to get people to laugh with him rather than at him - see his overly-crazy and not actually funny turn in Tropic Thunder - have so far fallen on deaf ears. The man has a mountain to climb. There was a time, of course, when the Church would have been able to flatten it for him, but the honeymoon period is over there too...

That assumes of course that it was Cruise who decided he was dropping out of Salt. I heard it was the studio who decided he was dropping out, i.e. fired because of his polarizing persona. Let's not forget of course that MI3 didn't do nearly as well as Paramount hoped, so MI4 is far from a guaranteed ticket back to his former box office glory.

Anyone who has watched Tom Cruise over the years knows he has plenty of passion for acting in action films. He's one actor who's never seemed like he hated doing big budget thrillers or thought it was below his talent.

Looking forward to whatever movie Criuse does. He's a great actor so the "gays" need to, as they say, get over it!

Mr. Tom Cruise doesn't need to escape the image and character of Ethan Hunt
from The Mission Impossible films...his fantastic, he thrives on excitement and
brings alive the urgency of the story. I look forward to seeing him again

And Mr. Cruise for goodness sake! Please, please don't discuss your personal religious views or aliens, I don't want to hear about it ...really, its none of my business. It's just so impolite. And that goes to so called hack reporters.
Sit Down.

Tom Cruise the Actor is fabulous and will have fans support him, his thrilling.
You're a winner Tom..and a Champion to. :)

He's a 9th grade science project gone horribly, horribly wrong!

Cruise dropped out of Salt. The general setup for the main character is too much like the first Mission: Impossible.

What's really funny is when people just quote conjecture they read elsewhere as fact. It's like when people listen to talk radio and just repeat the talking points as if they were their own ideas.

Never understood the appeal of Mr. Cruise. Never will.

Trying to victimize Tom Cruise now? Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods not enough for ya? Need fresh meat to keep the eyeballs clicking on your site?

Only idiots follow the Oprah/Scientology drama. Cruise is a great actor, end of story.

The real joke is on the retards who are "laughing at" Tom Cruise. Actually, we are all laughing at THEM for being poor losers.

I like Tom a lot...his spirit...his quirkiness. And he was funny as hell in Tropic Thunder, whether you want to admit it or not. Sadly, nobody except maybe the president deserves all this attention and analysis. He's just an actor. Get over it.

The real reason that Tommyboy can't escape is that he is too small to climb over the fence. Weird little dude, like the ivory counterpart to Gary Coleman.

Action movies don't have lots of lines to memorize. He's going back to what he knows will sell around the world even if Americans don't buy it. He's yet to find a good film he can "act". He needs to find a good writer who can write a good character for him. But so far, he's just going through the motions . . .

I'll watch anytime. He's good. He is definitely a movie star and knows how to pick his roles, action schmaction or not. I mean, personally, I don't need to know any more about him and I think he's learned his lesson there. We'll have to wait for the unauthorized bio in the next twenty years for all the scoop.

Lisa nails it!

Tom's certainly taken his beating over the past few years, but one thing you can't take away from him is his committment to his fans. I've heard that he is nothing but friendly, gracious, and is happy to take time for autographs and pictures - often taking more time than his handlers want.


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