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Cruise. The Business

Автор: Kevin Smith
Tom Cruise has been at the centre of the Hollywood vortex for nearly 25 years. Working with Scorsese, Spielberg, De Palma. Stone, Scott, Kubrick, he's been a fighter pilot, lawyer, outlaw, hustler, barman, sports agent, secret agent (twice), soldier and blood-sucking aristo. He's done everything, with everybody. Or at least he thought he had. Then Tom Cruise met Silent Bob...

Humphrey Bogart. Сагу Grant. John Wayne. These are the movie legends of my youth - the giants whose names, synonymous with Hollywood-derived mega-stardom, lived on long after the men who bore them shuffled loose the mortal coil. Like Zeus, Poseidon and Neptune, they are dormant gods who have entered pop culture folklore, forever etched into the consciousness of even modern-day audiences who, like me, probably never saw many - if any - of their films.

Few actors working today can claim that level of recognition while they're still above ground, let alone be guaranteed that kind of immortality once their box-office sun has set and the universe wraps them for good. Few actors working today can be viewed as living history; as larger-than-life marvels who will still be remembered by generations of your descendants who've never even heard your name, let alone know what you did with your life. Time honours few men in such a fashion. So when you're offered a chance to talk to a living legend, you leap at it - if for no other reason than to be able to tell your grandchildren, "I met him once."

But let's be honest - the real reason I'm interviewing this guy is pretty simple: this is the only chance I'll ever get to work with Tom Cruise. Although when I enter the room to meet him, I think perhaps I've underestimated myself. "Silent Bob!" says the man who made lip-synching in your underwear de rigueur for anyone left alone in their parents' house. His arms are outstretched, beckoning an embrace. Suddenly, Top Gun 2:Jay And Silent Bob Buzz Maverick doesn't seem so far-fetched. And as the mighty biceps of Cruise enfold me, I realize a) I'm not going to be able to write anything but a glowing piece about the guy, and b) I'm in love.

Cruise is perhaps the most beautiful man I've ever gazed upon: stunning bone structure, captivating eyes, perfect coif, killer smile and nut an ounce of fat on him at age 41. We're meeting to discuss his latest film, the Ed Zwick-directed epic Japanese period-piece, The Last Samurai. We're sitting in a dojo-like room high atop a Japanese hotel in downtown Los Angeles, complete with sliding paper doors and bound-feet geisha-like hostesses who serve us American substitutes for green tea (water and Diet Coke), then bow as they shuffle backwards, exiting the room. To complete the custom, neither of us are wearing shoes, affording me a look at the feet that hold aloft the box office's golden god. Even they're perfect.

But Cruise, pretty boy though he may be, has never been one to rely solely on his sex as a weapon. His actor's arsenal is well-stocked beyond his locks and looks. The man can act. More than that, the man doesn't really even simply act: he inhabits the characters he plays in such a fashion that you forget Joel Goodson is Charlie Babbitt, who is also Lt Daniel Kaffee, who is also Ron Kovic, who is also Mitch McDeere, who is also Ethan Hunt, who is also Jerry Maguire. He's been in 25 movies since his debut in 1981's Endless Love, not counting a cameo here or there (uncredited in Young Guns, playing himself in Goldmember). By his second film, he distinguished himself as an actor to watch, holding his own against old warhorses Tim Hutton and Sean Penn in Тaps. By his fifth film he was a bona fide movie star, outrunning Guido the Killer Pimp in daddy's Porsche in the instant classic, Ricky Business.

But it was his eighth film, the mega-hit Top Gun, that firmly established Cruise as a movie icon with box-office clout. As Maverick, the headstrong pilot with a penchant for buzzing the tower, TC powered the $15 million jingoistic flag-waver to a sky-high $177million in ticket sales (and mind you, those are 1986 dollars). Since then, he's worked with a who's who of directorial heavyweights that any actor would give their left nut or right ovary to lay claim to: Scorsese, Stone, Levinson, Spielberg, Scott, Howard, Reiner, Pollack, Jordan, De Palma, Woo, Crowe and Kubrick. He's been nominated for Best Actor twice, married as many times, and is the proud father of two. But none of it may have come to pass, had he never left that Franciscan seminary.

"Mу parents had just gotten divorced, we didn't have any money. My mom was working three jobs," Cruise explains, poised on the edge of his chair. "It was just a very complicated time. It was tough. My mother had moved from Canada to Kentucky, was raising four kids. I was searching for answers. There was always a side of me that was spiritual. When I was six, seven years old, I was going, 'Okay, what's this about? Is this it? This can't be it!' My father went from Catholic to Episcopalian to atheist; my mother was a spiritual woman. I always had a sense that there was more to life. I believed then that man had a soul, or was a soul. Or was a spiritual being, not just his body. I had difficulties in school trying to pass, and I said, 'Okay, if I really crack down here I can do it.' But towards the last year, I didn't want to go to the graduation and they actually said that if I didn't go I'd be kicked out. And I said okay. My mom was home, and I went down and told her that I didn't want to go to graduation. She said, 'How's everything going?' and I said, "It's fine, yeah." I didn't tell her that I'd just talked to Father Jeremy and he'd kicked me out of the seminary!"

Cruise's affection for his mother is bottled-water clear. When he speaks about her, it's in the enthusiastically reverent tones usually reserved for best friends.

"My mother is an extraordinary woman. She's a woman who will literally go up to someone in a restaurant if they look sad and say, 'Do you want me to sing?' And she'll sing them a song to make them laugh. And it's not a show. It's just a sense of, you know, you have a choice. Your cup is half full, or it's half empty. And I believe my cup is half full. There were times when I was an adventurous kid - as soon as I could walk I'd leave the house. I'd climb to the top of trees and hang off the thin branches as the wind blew back and forth to see if I could hang on. But she never pulled me back, she never said, 'Oh God, you're going to die! Don't climb on that roof!'

"But she had some very simple, powerful things that carried me through. You know, taking me as a little kid and putting me in front of the mirror and saying, Okay, how do you feel about this guy? Because the only one who's going to make him happy is you. And you have to be proud.' And I remember that when I became a parent I turned around and really started recognizing what she's done for me."

Mental note: must drag my kid m front of a mirror when I get home, in an effort to make a Junior Cruise.

"She still has an adventurous spirit. We went skydiving together as a gift. She loved it! She'll fly in my P-51. This summer at Lake Powell we went water-skiing. She snow-skis. She wants to play volleyball. She's Just a person who wants to live life."

Aside from being one of the most exhausted moms I've ever heard of. Mother Cruise has to qualify as Proudest Parent on [he Planet. By now, the pride reserves must be running dangerously low, so over-accomplished is her baby boy.

"She feels a great sense of responsibility for my success. I'm sure you feel this as a father: there's nothing better in life than to teach someone something or to help them and be there and see them win. See them succeed. It's very gratifying. I'm not talking about being self-congratulatory, I'm talking about a sense that they're doing better because of me and that's a great feeling. She feels that all the time.

"I realized early on, even with all the traveling and the fact that 1 was always the new kid, that I couldn't depend upon others to define who I was. I wanted to know who I was, and so I was always searching, always looking. I mean, with my reading {Cruise is dyslexic} I tried many different kinds of reading programmes, but I knew that I wasn't getting the comprehension. We don't get a manual with life. And the answers that I was getting weren't helping me. You know, blaming my parents, or blaming other people for my existence, didn't work for me. 'You are this way because of your chemical make-up, you are this way because your dad kicked your ass when you were a kid." That doesn't help me with my life. I feel more bitter when I go down that road - it's not making me feel better about life."

The young Tom Cruise grew up in a house "with three sisters, a father and a mother. We traveled around every year. Every year we moved into a different house. Father would move from job to job, then my parents got divorced so Mother wanted to move. We came back to Louisville, Kentucky. And then Mother remarried so we went to New Jersey for a year and a half."

New Jersey? I knew there was something I liked about this guy!

"The four of us, me and the three girls, we traveled so much. Yes, there'd be fighting, but you know, we were a tight-knit group. We were best friends. Because wherever we went, we were the new kids. And we had the weird accents, we had the weird clothes. The four of us, because we were so close in age, were going to the same schools together- especially Marian and I. Marian is a year older than me. And Lee Anne is a few years older than my little sister Cass. Bur no one could say anything about my sisters. I could say something about my sisters, but don't anyone else ever, ever say anything. And it was the same with them. We protected each other."

Bur what about when he wasn't watching his sisters' backs? Surely lil' Tom Cruise was knee- deep in chicks! "During that time when I was about 13, 14, 15 years old, I had to work. I was either doing sports or working. Although when I lived in Kentucky, I'd go to the mall. I remember doing that after I had a newspaper route, and we'd go to Krispy Kreme on Sunday  mornings, and we'd go to the Bardstown Mall with our extra cash when we got tips. That was my mall rat period."

He used the term "mall rat". I swear I could marry this man.

Cruise has this power to make you feel like the sun is shining only on you when you're engaged in conversation with him. Some insist this is his Scientology training, but that kind of charm can't be imparted. I think it's a mixture of pure charisma, plain of nice guy-ism, and a touch of Prom Queen Syndrome. This is, after all, the world's biggest movie star -surely people find themselves too intimidated to talk to him? So, like the prettiest girl in school, I'd wager he winds up standing off to the side by himself, more often than not, with people afraid to approach him simply to shoot the shit. This builds up a reservoir of attention that he affords anyone confident enough to chat him up like a normal person.

He's attentive when he speaks to you. He listens carefully, gracefully sharing the floor. And if the constant mantra running through his mind is "I'm Tom Fucking Cruise!" he never lets on. He's as pleasant and chatty as a bartender on a slow night, happy to talk about any subject at all. Like Scientology.

"I'm a Scientologist, been one for 20 years, and there are tools and things that I use in my life to help raise my kids so that they can be themselves. You know, educational tools that I wish I'd had when I was a kid. My kids, they can tell you at age eight and 10 how a four-stroke engine works. And it's given them greater freedom and understanding and puts them in a position where they are more in control of their lives. And when you read the stuff in Scientology you kind of go, 'Well, that makes sense.'

"Scientology has definitely helped me to be the kind of person that I know I am. And it doesn't matter how many millions I make or lose, I feel that way about life. And I've been able tо be a better man. I realise my own responsibility, my own choices in my life, and my own integrity. And in this business that is tough. And life is tough. And I wouldn't be here today without that help, no way.

"When people apply it correctly and they use it, it's something... Someone doesn't apply it to you, you apply it to yourself. Someone says, 'Here's a cool, here's the key, does it start the car?' You cake the key, put it in. It starts the car. And that's a beautiful thing. It's not about being Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim. It's secular. And it was intended that way. And that's the thing, it's not about saying you're this, so you can't be that. You have faith? Good.

"I don't want people to tell me who I am. I don't want people to say, 'You know what I know?' I want to discover it for myself. If you say to your kids, 'You're being like this!' it never works. They know who they are, and they want tо discover it and that's what I dig about Scientology. It's about being able to be more causative in your life. So when I study something, right now I know there's nothing that I can't learn."

There are a few things I'd like to learn myself, so I switch into fan-boy question mode.

Kevin Smith: You're one of the only actors who's worked with Sydney Pollack as both director and co-star. Which one's better: Sydney Pollack the actor or director?

Tom Cruise: Both great. He's riveting onscreen - he's very specific. He started out as an actor and worked with {famous acting coach} Sanford Meisner and I'm sure you know the whole history of how he became a director.

KS: I don't.

TC: He was an acting coach on one of Burt Lancaster's movies and Burt Lancaster said, "Who is this guy?" He started getting notes from Sydney, and he said, "You should be a director." He sent him over to direct television in Hollywood. And that was the beginning of Sydney Pollack's directing career. He's one of the good guys. He's really just a good man. He doesn't talk about how many people he's helped. He's generous and loyal. He's just... like straight sugar. I've got a lot of respect for him as a man. And you know, he came on to Eyes Wide Shut to shoot for about a week or two weeks, and ended up staying a couple of months! But it was cool because he taught me how to cook.

KS: You've directed once. You did an episode of Fallen Angels for HBO.

TC: Yeah - for Sydney. I did that as a favour for Sydney. He said, "Direct this."

KS: So you've gotten a taste for directing. Are you ever going to direct a feature?

TC: I don't know - I've been offered things and I enjoyed directing. It was fun. You're shooting 35 set-ups a day; I learned a lot. But as a producer and an actor it helped to do that. It really opened my eyes doing that, but I don't know. You know what it's like directing.

KS: Sure. I mean, it's not like acting. When you're an actor, you can have two movies, three movies possibly, come out in a year. You can get a lot more done as an actor than as a director. Directing requires clearing the desk. And I imagine it would be pretty tough for you to clear the desk.

TC: That's two years. You're talking two years. That's why I like producing. Because I like hanging out with directors and writers and I like working with them. And I am a junkie for the process. You know what it's like: you're making a movie, and you get your team together. It's a mad rush and it's a real thrill when you're working on the script, or finding the story or finding a moment in a scene or something is clicking, or even when it's not clicking, how you're going to figure it out. And then the war stories and the adventure of making a picture, it's wonderful. But as a director? Me? Maybe one day I will, and I'm not saying that I won't, but I just don't have anything that I need to say. I would like to do it, but I don't feel, "I am a director, I must direct!" I like the relationship as an actor with the director. I enjoy it as much as the producer/director relationship. That dynamic is a fun relationship, trying to figure out, "What is it this guy wants? What am I looking for here?" You're supporting that vision and learning from it. And challenging each other. Because directors have different tastes when it comes to the performance. You look at Kubrick: his taste in performance is totally different to Sydney's, what Sydney wanted, and the same with Barry Levinson, or you know, Ed [Zwick], what he was looking for and the demands of that character, the demands of that story. I enjoy that process tremendously.

KS: What's your process for reading a script? A script lands on your desk, then what?

TC: The first thing I do is look at the script as an audience, and then I read it again as the actor. The first time, I just experience the movie. It takes me a long time to read a script. I want to understand what the writer/director is interested in. I'm trying to grasp what they want, where they're going, you know, where's this journey going to take me? But I'm not very analytical about it, I'm just experiencing it. The next time, I go through as the actor looking for the character. Sometimes it takes months. I worked Rain Man two years before we started shooting, and The Last Samurai almost a year beforehand. Magnolia was a whole different process. A lot of that was ad-libbed.

KS: Most of your films have what I call "the Cruise Moment": the moment in which the whole performance is crystallised, and I'm always blown away. Now, Magnolia is a film I've gone on record saying I'm not really much of a fan of, although I dug your performance. In that film, you're pretty amped up, until the journalist starts revealing your past to you in the interview, and you give her this cold stare and utter...

TC: "...I'm quietly judging you."

KS: A fantastic moment. The other moment that leaps to mind is in one of my all-time favourites, a movie I dearly love, Jerry Maguire — where you look at the fish in the kid's room and say, "It was a mission statement..."

TC: Both of those moments were ones that the directors talked to me about the first time I went through the script. It was the thing they really wanted - that line, and that moment, you know? Cameron {Crowe} was like: "This moment - you gotta understand what this means." He couldn't wait to shoot that moment!

KS: Do you remember your first day on Endless Love, your first movie?

TC: I'll never forget it. First movie. I didn't know anything. Being there, in the school yard, it was the first day and someone says, "I want you to go over and hit that mark." I didn't know anything about marks. "A mark? Hit Mark? You want me to go hit Mark? I'll hit Mark harder than anybody's ever hit this guy!"
I'd screen tested and I did the monologue from Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie? I just got a call one day and I got this small role in this movie. So I remember I was living in New York, and I flew into Chicago. I'd just turned 18. And I go in there and Brooke Shields was there - she was beautiful. And I kind of didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know about hitting the marks, the lines, and... {snaps fingers} it was over. And I remember they wanted me to ad-lib something and we did it and the scene never made it into the movie. And I just sat there on the set and I was like, "Who's doing what here?" I remember every person that came up to me I quietly said, "What do you do? What are you doing?"

KS: When did you know it was going to have to be acting?

TC: I went to so many different schools, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wasn't going to go to college - I'd saved money and I was actually going to travel through Europe on a bicycle. I was just going to take off by myself. And I ended up borrowing $900 from my mother and stepfather and said, "I'm going to New York. I'm going to try this." And my mom was very supportive. Very supportive. But I knew that's what I wanted to do.

KS: Do you remember much about Taps?

TC: I remember hitchhiking back to my mom's in Jersey to get something to eat that weekend, after the audition. I had no money. I used to hitchhike sometimes when I went back home so I could save money, and I walked all over New York. And then they called and said I got the role. So I went to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, with [producer] Stanley Jaffe and [co-stars] Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. And I realised it was a whole different world. Where you see the kind of talent that Penn had, and Hutton, and George С Scott of course - I'd seen Patton many, many times.
I wasn't actually cast as David Shawn at the beginning. I had about three lines in the movie. And we had four weeks. They put us through military training. And in those four weeks, I had the opportunity to see Sean and Tim rehearse and [director] Harold Becker and Stanley create an environment for the young actors, where we started doing workshops. And I learned more in those four weeks. I mean really. It was a whole different ball game in terms of what I thought. I thought this is what I wanted to do. Then it turned out Harold Becker wasn't pleased with the guy who was cast as David Shawn. After a couple of weeks they called me into the office and said, "Listen, we want you to play this character, David Shawn." It was a supporting role. And I said, "Jeez, no, I can't do that. I like this guy. I'm not going to take his cote." And Harold said, "Well, kid, if you don't take his role, we're still going tо fire him and we're going to go to New York and we're going to get someone else because he's nor going to play it. I'm offering you an opportunity here. We think you're right for it. It's nor your fault. It's just that we're going to do this." So we switched characters.
I had long hair, so I went into a military barber in town. And I said, "Shave my hair off!" So he shaved it all oft, and I showed up back on the parade ground with a cap on, and I remember Harold saying, "Cruise! Come over here!" I said, "Yes sir." And he said,  What'cha got under there?" I pulled my hat off and 1 showed him and he said, "Oh my God..." Harold wasn't pleased with me for 12 hours.

KS: So is that when you headed to Hollywood?

TC: Well, right after that I signed up with Paula Wagner as my agent [Paula Wagner is now Cruise's producing partner]. She was at CAA [Creative Artists Agency]. I remember Sean Penn invited me out to LA. He picked me up in a Firebird or a Camaro and I slept in his guesthouse, and met Emilio Estevez. We drove past Hoffman's house, Nicholson's house and Brando's house. And we sat outside, thinking maybe we should knock on the door now...

KS: Did you ever tell any of them that?

TC: I told Hoffman. I don't know if I told Jack.

KS: You've worked with a buddy of mine: Jason Lee.

TC: Jason Lee is good, man! He's so talented. Huge! The work you guys did together! He's totally unique. You just watch him, going, "Man I would never have thought to make that choice!" But it just comes out of him, you know? He's interesting, man. He's great to watch. I love working with him.

KS: Before I came here, I told the folks at my website that I was going to interview you, and let them throw out a few questions. So here we go: "What's it like being one of the top actors for three decades, Eighties, Nineties and Two Thousands? And how do you plan on doing it for the next decade?"

TC: That's a cool thing to say.

KS: Well, it's true. Three separate decades, man.

TC: I don't know. Just keep hammering. I remember when I was doing Taps, I would lose sleep. "They're firing guys on this movie, I could be gone tomorrow! They're shooting guys next to me! I shaved my head, he's pissed! What am I going to do!?" But now? I don't know, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and make the movies, and seize the opportunities of adventure and story. And keep pushing myself to see what's next. Next, I'm doing this film Collateral with Michael Mann.

KS: "Do you ever want to write a screenplay?"

TC: I've worked on stories and I like working with writers. But man, sitting down there, I don't know how you guys do it. The hours. I enjoy the communication with the writers, you know when you work on scenes, and you talk about scenes, but that's a whole different art form. I don't know if that's my gig. I like ad-libbing and contributing and working and challenging in that way, but sitting down and writing a screenplay? I talk with Cameron Crowe. Cameron just gets off on sitting down and writing. You're probably the same way though, you know what I mean? It's like you sit down and the monologue just comes out. The dialogue makes me go, "How did he think of that?" I don't know if I'm that guy. I can take the screenwriter's stuff and understand his stuff and contribute to it. Complement it. But I don't know if I'm that guy, the one who does that. Maybe one day.

KS: "Has your celebrity prevented you from making different types of films that perhaps you might be interested in making? Like a back-up or secondary role in a film that might have caught your eye without having the stigma of the next Tom Cruise film' attached to it?"

TC: I felt that when I did Magnolia. But I don't feel that [being Tom Fucking Cruise] as a stigma at all. I feel that as a privilege. I feel that I have the opportunity to do things. I've never felt limited by it; I've never said, 'Well, okay, I can't do this because..." But it's also a huge investment for me when I act in a movie. It's not, "Oh, I'm lust gonna show up!"  I mean, I could do something fun. I liked doing Austin Powers. I went in for four hours, had a laugh. I showed up in Young Guns. And then Magnolia. But I take a lot of pride in what I do, and when I do something I can't just go, yeah, read the script, yeah, I'm going to go play. That would be me taking advantage of celebrity. Any role that I commit to, it's an investment. It's an emotional, physical investment into that character. With Magnolia, even though I only worked about a week and a half, I spent four months prepping that character. These are great questions by the way, I gotta tell ya.

KS: "You've never done a flat-out comedy. Risky Business is funny, but not slapstick or farce. Will you ever do one?"

TC: I love comedy. Bui when I look at guys like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Adam Sandier, Mike Myers - those guys are really funny. They're off the wall in terms of what they do. But I like comedy with drama. One of my favourite scenes in Born On Тhe Fourth Of July is where the two guys are arguing over who's killed more babies.

KS: That's some pretty dark comedy.

TC: I remember the first time an audience saw Rain Мan, they didn't know it was funny. They didn't think it was funny. There I am grabbing Hoffman by the back of his neck saying, "Stop acting like a fucking retard!" And I remember the audience was like, "Whoa!" It was really wild. They didn't quite get that it was okay to laugh in the rest of the film.

KS: And last question. This one's my favorite. "What do you think Joel Goodson [Risky Business] would be doing with his life today?" TC: (Laughs; thinks) He went on to college and became one of those corporate guys that probably got trashed in the Internet fall.

And with that, I say my goodbyes and let Tom Cruise walkout of my life. I remember reading a quote from Renee Zellweger, who said something to the effect that, after Jerry Maguire, it took her months to get over Tom Cruise, so convincing was his performance. I was starting to feel a bit of separation anxiety myself as I went down to the Front of the hotel and waited for my car. And then it happened.

Cruise exits the building, heading for a waiting car. He's on his cellphone, earpiece in. I offer him a wave, and he beelines towards me, removing the earpiece. He shakes my hand again, firmly, and says, "That was a really great interview, man. Thanks for that. It was a great way to end a long day of press."

He smiles, puts his earpiece back in, gets into his car, and drives off. And suddenly, the sun's not shining on me anymore.
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