Interviews


Tom Cruise


Occupation: Actor, Director, Producer
Date of Birth: July 3, 1962
Place of Birth: Syracuse, N.Y., USA
Sign: Sun in Cancer, Moon in Leo
Relations: Wife: Nicole Kidman (actress); ex-wife: Mimi Rogers (actress); kids: Isabella, Connor Anthony (both adopted); father: Thomas Cruise Mapother III (electrical engineer; deceased); mother: Mary Lee Mapother; siblings: Lee Anne Mapother (publicist), Marian Mapother (teacher), Cass Mapother (restaurateur)
Education: High school

 

TOM CRUISE'S career provides a phenomenal example of defying the odds by dint of sheer determination. For starters, there was that "Brat Pack" stigma to sidestep. Though never officially a member of that once-promising crop of film stars  Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, and Demi Moore  Cruise was tainted by proximity. In the end, only he and Moore graduated from acting out high school and post-college trials and tribulations to score adult roles and achieve significant, bankable star power. Cruise alone has racked up well over a billion dollars in box-office receipts during his career  and he's just getting warmed up. Easily outdistancing his horny-boy characterizations in such coming-of-age flicks as Risky Business, Cruise went on to cement his reputation as a serious actor by helming the escapist action films Top Gun and Days of Thunder, and by holding his own in teamings with larger-than-screen screen legends Paul Newman (in The Color of Money), Dustin Hoffman(in Rain Man), and Jack Nicholson (in A Few Good Men). For his sterling portrayal of paralyzed Vietnam vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Cruise took home a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

That Cruise even surmounted the stumbling blocks of his difficult childhood to make any sort of positive contribution to the world is a credit to his steely resolve and his mile-wide competitive streak. He endured a peripatetic childhood, as his electrical-engineer father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, dragged Cruise, his mother, and his three sisters with him to at least a dozen different towns looking for work. Constantly adapting himself to an ever-changing environment, Cruise developed his athletic prowess as a means of fitting in. Academics were another matter entirely: he was hampered by a form of dyslexia, and, bouncing from school to school, he was hard-pressed to develop or sustain any learning skills. His parents divorced in the mid-'70s, and Cruise became the "man" of the house, as his father dropped off the scene.

After a knee injury derailed Cruise's chances for a professional wrestling career, and after a year spent studying at a Franciscan monastery failed to provide answers to his future, Cruise awakened to the calling of acting, when he co-starred in high school productions of Guys and Dolls and Godspell. Ever his own demanding taskmaster, Cruise set a ten-year deadline for himself to build an acting career. Abandoning school, he headed off to New York, where he struggled through auditions and night classes, and lived off hot dogs and rice  "like an animal in the jungle," he has said. Shot down on audition after audition because he wasn't "pretty" enough for television and because he generally came across as far too intense, Cruise nonetheless trekked west to read for a part in a situation comedy. The casting agent's version of a "thanks, but no thanks" was to tell him to get a tan, since he had bothered travelling so far for the reading. But Cruise was not about to give up, and he succeeded in landing a fleeting appearance as an arson-prone teenager in the deplorable Brooke Shields film Endless Love. Without a dollar to his name, Cruise hitchhiked back to New Jersey after fulfilling his day's work on the film. He arrived back home to learn that he had landed a minor role in Taps. He was subsequently bumped up in the credits on that film when he inherited a more prominent role, as a trigger-happy cadet, from another actor who didn't make the grade. Finally, his marked intensity had found an appropriate channel of expression, and the clean-cut young hopeful was on his way. To be sure, his next project, the puerile buddy flick Losin' It, ended up being a creatively stifling and dreadful experience, but Cruise was not about to become just another disposable teen star. His career decisions from then on were marked by a disciplined, confident, and self-flagellating commitment to excellence.

That's not to imply that there haven't been other missteps on his climb to the top of the Hollywood heap, but Cruise has proven time and again that his name alone can sell anything, no matter how sorry the project. Still, despite having consistently acquitted himself admirably as an actor, despite having tested his mettle and exhibited professionalism since day one, there remain a number of skeptics who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge him as anything more than a one-note actor. In 1994, Interview With the Vampire author Anne Rice made headlines by publicly denouncing the casting of Cruise as the dangerously seductive vampire Lestat in the film version of the book. After screening the movie, though, she did an astonishing about-face, and amended her harsh criticism by taking out a full-page ad in Variety to gush about his performance. Rice later remarked, "I like to believe Tom's Lestat will be remembered the way Olivier's Hamlet is remembered."

By virtue of his squeaky-clean, All-American looks and cocksure, thousand-watt smile, Cruise's earnest demeanor has become his signature. Consequently, it has been easy for critics to dismiss him as just a good-luck story  an emblem of the disappointing state of American filmmaking in this era of blockbusters without conscience, intelligence, or maturity. Cruise's career and personal life, after all, seem steeped in movie-idol perfection. He's got a beautiful actress wife in the person of Nicole Kidman, two adorable adopted children, the spiritual support of the powerful and mysterious Church of Scientology, and the unending bounty of his membership in Hollywood's $20-million club.

And Cruise will no doubt continue to write his own ticket for decades to come. Now in his mid-thirties, he has already taken his first confident steps down the career path of actor-turned-directors Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson with his impressive producer-actor double duty in 1996's $64-million blockbuster Mission: Impossible. From an acting point of view, he stands in line to inherit the sophisticated-action-hero niche from Harrison Ford,and his critically lauded turn as a sports agent who suffers a life-changing crisis of integrity in Cameron Crowe's witty 1996 romantic comedy Jerry Maguire proved him equally up to the challenges of lighter dramatic fare. 1999 unveiled projects of a more dramatic pedigree, as Cruise co-starred opposite Kidman in the late Stanley Kubrick's long-anticipated erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut, and closed out the year with an Oscar-nominated turn as an infomercial sex guru in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. Summer 2000 witnessed the release of the surefire sequel Mission: Impossible 2, directed by action auteur John Woo.

As for projects from his own production company (which inhabits a cushy suite of offices once occupied by movie mogul Howard Hughes), Cruise has tackled Robert Towne's screenplay about runner Steve Prefontaine, Without Limits, and is set to produce an adaptation of the Evan Hunter novel Criminal Conversation.

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