The Impossible Mission of Containing Tom Cruise
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you can’t handle the truth about Tom Cruise, but you’re not likely to ever get the chance to do so.
He’s back. Just as many were getting ready to write off 53-year-old Tom Cruise after a series of box office flops, the film icon is back with the latest installment of the Mission Impossible series, and yet another hit — one that took in $56 million in the U.S. in its opening weekend. Cruise’s off-screen image has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent years, and after HBO’s recent Scientology documentary Going Clear took aim at the Church that claims the actor as its most famous adherent, it seemed that at last the gleam might be fading from the flashy grin of America’s ageless wonder boy.
But Thomas Cruise Mapother IV is never down for long before he is up … jumping on the furniture, hanging from a jet and beaming from ear to ear. And for any who had started to lose that loving feeling, he has been lip-syncing with Jimmy Fallon and doing whatever it takes to entice us back into the fold with that endearing, though somewhat creepy, charm. Just don’t ask him about his love life or his church. You really can’t. So we won’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on some of the past tales in the ever-unfolding cosmic mystery that is Tom Cruise.
‘South Park’ Puts Tom Cruise in the Closet
Sometimes life imitates art, which imitates life, which consequently threatens to sue art. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had long poked fun at the imaginative tenets of Scientology, but in an episode titled “Trapped in the Closet,” the show went even further, targeting a phenomenon more difficult for many people to believe than Scientology itself — that Cruise is straight. The superstar has married (and divorced) three women, but questions still abound as to his sexual orientation. Naturally South Park’s approach to the issue was not subtle.
When aspiring Scientologist Stan pronounces the visiting Cruise’s acting just “OK,” Cruise locks himself in the boy’s closet. “Dad, Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet,” Stan calls to his father. And so the farce begins. Cue the threats of litigation, the reprisals against Comedy Central, and Parker and Stone’s facetious press release calling themselves “servants of the dark lord Xenu.”
How Gay is ‘Top Gun’ Really?
If it’s possible for an entire film to be in the closet, then many would nominate Top Gun, Cruise’s 1986 film classic. The movie’s homoeroticism and suggestive undertones have long been noted by conspiracy theorists, most notably Quentin Tarantino. Remember the “Playing with the Boys” beach volleyball scene with Cruise and his fellow airmen? Case closed, right?
Could one movie really be both an unabashed paean to the military and a closeted gay epic? Well, to answer that question requires a razor — and not the sort that airmen apparently use to shave their well-oiled chests. Rather, Occam’s razor, or the principle that the simplest explanation is the best one. As OZY’s Sean Braswell argues, when your film’s formula consists of a carnally inclined filmmaker, a fetishist director, locker room dialogue and a military recruitment wing looking to redirect the aggressions of testosterone-laden teenage viewers, then it’s not surprising that the result is a turbo-charged homoerotic vehicle capable of firing up imaginations.
A Few Good Minds
Jack Nicholson may have the grand soliloquy and the big lines in the 1992 thriller A Few Good Men, but it was a 29-year-old Cruise as the lead JAG lawyer, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, who really holds the film together. The redemption of the smug Kaffee helped Cruise to reassert his own acting credentials by first playing to the cocky, Maverick-type character he had become associated with before exploding it as Kaffee’s true character emerges, including in the epic final courtroom scene.
But to really feel entitled to the truth about the film’s near-mythic final courtroom scene, you need to understand where it came from. From its initial conception to the final cut, the scene passed through an assembly line of brilliant minds: from Aaron Sorkin to Rob Reiner to screenwriting legend William Goldman to, of course, Nicholson and Cruise. The production line, however, starts with a few wadded-up cocktail napkins in the pocket of a 27-year-old bartender …