This has been on my mind for days now and I can't get a handle on it. By any metric you can come up with, Tom Cruise should be on the Hollywood Mount Rushmore.
- He has be legitimately relevant since 1981.
- He's been nominated for 3 Academy Awards
- He was 2nd billed in a Best Picture winner
- He's 5th on the all time list of highest grossing actors of all time.
- His 39 movies include 35 movies that still hold up and are good to terrific.
- 7 Golden Globe nominations and 3 wins
- He has had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since 1986
I mean the guy is an effing movie star in every sense of the word and has done nothing but crank out hit movie after hit movie after blockbuster and has done this consistently for 35 years! 39 movies in 35 years and very few that are considered bad. Say what you want about Cocktail, that shit is amazing! If you don't find Cocktail watchable still and think it is cheesy and that being a bartender in 1988 wasn't cool, then we could never be friends in real life. Part of me still wants to be Brian Flanagan. Tom Cruise is still relevant, still makes hit movies, is still one of the biggest movie stars now and in history.
So what is the problem?
The problem is, for all of the amazing work the man has done, the first thing he is thought of and remembered for is not movies. It's Scientology and rocky marriages and sexuality and acting like a complete crazy person on talk shows. Tom Cruise the actor/movie star and Tom Cruise the crazy person are two completely separate people. It's like Daniel Day Lewis took on a role to play a Kardashian.....it doesn't make sense. The problem is that there isn't anyone that is a good actor and so troubled in the public eye, so there is no historical president here. Historically there have been actors that were hiding sexual preference from the public eye like Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors. Liberace too, but come on the 50's, you weren't even trying. Those actors weren't as prolific as Cruise and who knows which way Tom Cruise swings. For the record, I could care less, but after divorces and alleged sex tapes with men that he paid to keep out of the public eye, it's part of why he isn't seen as an actor/action star first.
Scientology is fairly new too, so there is no historical presicent there either. I don't know of any A list movie stars that were secretly devil worshipers or hiding something in general. Sure, Bob Crane liked to film himself making homemade porn with women, which was taboo at the time, but would fit right in with the way that industry is now. If Bob Crane were around today, then he would be the new Lindsay Lohan. Think about that the next time you catch a Hogan's Heroes rerun on TVLAND.
So how do we do it?? How to we rate Tom Cruise?? Let's answer that by unanimously agreeing on what his best movie is........
You cannot get several people to agree on his best movie. Rain Man won Best Picture, but is that movie his best? When is the last time you watched it? Exactly. He was nominated for Jerry McGuire, but it that movie better than Top Gun? Even when I sent out the question to try to keep it separated into categories I got different answers from everyone. The question was..
"What is Tom's best movie and what is your favorite movie? Those are different answers for me."
I sent that to 6 different people and got 6 different answers to each question. I asked two people on the same email and each one responded to each others responses with some version of "oh yeah, that is an awesome movie. You can't go wrong there". So that is a legit problem since historically there has never been anyone consistently crazy and nobody that doesn't have a standout role as his or her best. The best way that Tom Cruise can be described is two ways...
1. He was 20 years too early to just be known as a reality personality that is primarily known for being a personality that also has a talent. In this case, acting.
2. He's not a good enough actor that the public personality is overshadowed by his acting ability.
Let's face it, if Daniel Day Lewis freaked out on talk shows and was into some weird religion, everyone would say "maybe he's onto something because damn that guy can really act his balls off". That is why Tom Cruise has transformed himself from an actor to an action star, so he doesn't have to speak about anything deep or personal. He only speaks about action stuff or old stories, but absolutely nothing personal. This also makes him the most qualified action star of all time, which makes the movies so good. He might have won an Oscar (even a career one) at some point, but he walked away from that life to stay with Scientology and away from personal questions. In the last 5 years, all you have seen in talk show interviews is that huge smile, some fun stories from set, and if he's making Top Gun 2. I give him credit, but Tom has created his own spot in history as a reality personality with actual acting talent.
That seriously affects how I see Tom Cruise, but I don't think I'm wrong. How could a personality who is good at acting have that much success? The same way that Kim Kardashian gets amazing ratings, is worth a small country, and is married to one of the best entertainers in history. I am not a fan of Kim K. by any means, but she is crazy rich and famous and you can't say that it's without any skill. Being a public persona on that level for this long takes talent. I don't like her talent, but MILLIONS of people do. The same way that even if you don't like Tom Cruise and his public persona, he is a good enough actor to make up for that. If you don't like his acting ability, then you at least acknowledge that he is a legit movie star. For better or worse, that is how I'll remember TC.
Stephen Balding is the founder of Cinema Soapbox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org