Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, that is. He has Irish, German and English ancestry but he has yet to play a character who’s English i.e. having played an Irishman in Far and Away (1992) and a German army colonel in Valkyrie (2008). Tom Cruise wanted to be an actor since the age of 4. As a child, he made his family laugh by doing impersonations of cartoon characters like Woody Woodpecker and Donald Duck. At school, Tom was the class clown. The irony is that comedy is a genre that he never really embraced, instead opting to act in dramas that contain the occasional moment of humour. An even bigger irony is that Tom became the world’s biggest movie star since his upbringing potentially could have encouraged him to be an indie actor. He felt like an outcast because his family constantly moved around with the frequency that one would associate with people who are placed into a witness protection program or the other extreme – criminals. When Tom was 9, he became even more of an outsider when he moved to Canada. He developed a Napoleon complex because bullies picked up on him for being small. His father endured the same thing, so he encouraged Tom to fight the bully after he lost a fight. The advice worked because Tom developed a reputation for being a tough kid.
Like Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise initially didn’t know how to read. When Tom got into acting, he had to get a teacher to read aloud the lines so that he could memorize them. This is no different from how Jackie would approach his English roles for his own Hollywood movies. While Tom’s career may seem calculated to some, I don’t think he would have guessed at a young age that he would become a stuntman (if not in the traditional sense). As a youngster, he was all about being a daredevil whether it be using a hockey net as a safety net so that he could be like the human ape, Tarzan, or aping the motorcycle stunts of Evel Knievel. As a 14-year-old, Tom spent an entire year at a Catholic boarding school where he considered joining the priesthood for a living. He claimed that it was the best year of his academic career. Although he didn’t become a priest, this foreshadowed his foray into being a Scientologist. As a 16-year-old in 1978, Tom told his girlfriend Nancy Armel that he wanted to be an airline pilot. Alas, it was only in 2017 that audiences got to see him play that specific type of plane pilot for a film called American Made. Being a participant in the school choir foreshadowed his role in Rock of Ages (2012). At high school, Tom was on the football squad. This foreshadowed his role in All the Right Moves (1983).
One of Tom’s schoolmates, Lorraine Gauli, was a TV actress but this didn’t foreshadow himself acting in TV shows. In fact, one of the things that made Tom such a legendary and almost mythological figure in the world of screen acting was his staunch refusal to doing sitcoms, soap operas or even TV movies; albeit he did act in a few commercials such as one for the Hershey’s chocolate brand. Good luck in trying to find them online. Tom Cruise may not have predicted the existence of YouTube but he was perceptive enough to realize that someone could embarrass him by showing footage in a chat show or within a documentary, so he got his hands on the footage at all costs…quite literally too. During his early days of trying to make it in New York and Los Angeles, he spent two days trying his luck at the gambling tables of Las Vegas. This experience had informed his performance in Rain Man (1988). One of the reasons why some people have speculated about Tom being gay is that, back in 1980, a set of black-and-white studio photographs of him wearing a gym top and short shorts had found their way into a gay magazine called Parlée. Ex-girlfriend Nancy Armel remembered him inviting her to a gay musical, La Cage aux Folles, but he was supposedly unaware that it was gay, so they exited before the intermission.
By the time that it was 1985, Tom Cruise already had the experience of dating and splitting up with an actress. Despite spending a good part of 1984 working with Ridley Scott on an epic fantasy (Legend), Tom felt inferior to Rebecca De Mornay because she had been in three more notable movies following her partnership with him on Risky Business (1983). In 1985, Tom moved on to dating Cher, who had just split up with Val Kilmer. Making matters awkward was that Tom was currently working with Val on Top Gun. Cher met Tom at Sean Penn’s wedding which took place on his bride’s birthday (Madonna was born on August 16, 1958), and Top Gun was two months away from the final shooting date. Rebecca De Mornay has been more than gracious in explaining why her relationship with Tom ended, but it doesn’t change the fact that her explanation doesn’t account for why Tom continued to date actresses. When talking about why she split up with him, she said: “We were both ambitious and hardworking. I’m afraid the ending was not very amicable. There’s the potential threat of competition, there’s a continual threat of long separations, of major love scenes, of adverse publicity, and the transitory nature of the business itself.”
When Cher was dating Cruise, he stayed in her Malibu home, and she often stayed at his New York apartment even when he was not present. Her daughter, Chastity, was staying at Tom’s apartment when she made a painful phone call. She confessed to her father, Sonny Bono, about being a lesbian and having an affair with one of Cher’s friends. The significance is that Scientology was founded on homophobic ideology, and Sonny was a Scientologist. Tom later married a woman (Mimi Rogers) who recruited Sonny into the cult. Cher was so furious that she ordered Chastity to leave Tom’s apartment and see a therapist. This echoes another gay connection that was happening around this time. On their 1985 album, Turbo, Judas Priest had recorded a song whose lyrics all too conveniently reflect the subject matter of Top Gun. Titled Reckless and sung by a gay singer (Rob Halford), the song sounds like it was written with the movie in mind. Bizarrely, the official story is that Judas Priest turned down the movie producers because they thought that the movie would flop. A less unconvincing reason is that exclusively contributing to the Top Gun soundtrack would mean that Turbo would only have 8 songs. Reckless was written after Rob Halford stopped using cocaine, unlike the main producer for Top Gun.
Regardless of whether Tom knew about Rob being gay, he needn’t have worried about being seen as an ineffective leading man, although it’s curious that he told the producers about wanting the scenes of male camaraderie to be like a sports movie. According to Andrew Morton’s biography on Tom Cruise, a call went around the squadron for a single guy who would like to be the star’s drinking buddy. Lieutenant Jim Ray accepted. Instructor Dave Baranek recalled that they went to lots of parties. Cruise and his castmates mostly met at the Rusty Pelican, a San Diego seafood restaurant where they would overwhelm the real-life top guns with questions. Despite Tom being self-conscious about the perception of his sexual orientation, it’s curious that it took a test screening to add a love scene that should have been incorporated as soon as Tom demanded to be involved with the script development from day one. The consensus from the first test screening was that Top Gun was gay. It didn’t further Tom’s cause that his favourite productions up to that point in time were ones which involved fraternizing with a group of men i.e. Taps and The Outsiders (1983).
Adding to the eccentricity is that Kelly McGillis came out of the closet during a party to celebrate Tom’s 23rd birthday on July 3, 1985. She invited her girlfriend to come down from L.A. for the weekend despite having participated in liaisons with female sailors. To those who regarded Tom Cruise as a pretty actor who was too much of a soft touch to be an effective action movie lead, Top Gun seemed like a bit of a reach for him. It wasn’t much of a surprise choice, because he loved war movies as a kid. It was inevitable since Taps (1981) established a tradition for him to do a military-themed movie that comes out every few years or so i.e. Top Gun (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and A Few Good Men (1992). The tradition ended for quite some time, but Tom had done enough jingoistic films to have a fairly sizeable patriotic fan-base that heavily outnumbered actors of his generation who were either appealing to young girls or indie intellectuals. In fact, Tom eschewed the indie-minded trappings of `90s cinema until much later into the decade i.e. Magnolia (1999). One particular trapping that he got out of was starring in films beginning with an L i.e. Losin’ It (1983) and Legend (1985) flopped.
The definitive afforded a technicality for The Last Samurai (2003) but this was not heeded with Lions for Lambs (2007) despite the esteemed presence of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Tom’s favourite film is Raging Bull, so it was a blessing that the director of All the Right Moves was the cinematographer of Martin Scorsese’s film – Michael Chapman. Martin had seen All the Right Moves, so he called Tom during the making of Top Gun to secure his services for The Color of Money. It’s a sign of how in demand that Tom was that he completed Scorsese’s film before Top Gun was released. The Color of Money began filming two months after Top Gun had filming finished. Besides The Color of Money being the first time that Tom was directed by an Oscar-nominated director, working with Paul Newman held a special appeal to Tom because one of the few pleasurable memories that he had with his father was watching The Sting. When Tom visited his father in the hospital, he brought a gift in the form of a musical statuette that played tunes from his father’s favourite film. During the making of The Color of Money, Tom not only saw Paul as a surrogate father but Paul saw Tom as a surrogate son since his own son had died in 1978.
After filming The Color of Money, Paul arranged for Tom and Top Gun producer Don Simpson to have five days of automobile race training with his driving partner, Jim Fitzgerald. By the end, Tom was hooked, and he watched Paul take part in numerous events during the summer. This paved the way for Tom to do Days of Thunder (1990). From when The Color of Money finished filming in April `86 to when Tom began filming Cocktail, it was a year and a half. 1987 could have marked the release of a Tom Cruise film in the form of Wall Street, but Charlie Sheen had already been cast (filming for Oliver Stone’s film had lasted from April to July). The only major event to publicize Tom in 1987 was his marriage to Mimi Rogers on May 9. Starting in the summer, Tom, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Ron Bass worked on the script to Rain Man. Steven claimed that he spent five months working on it before he dropped out. In late October `87, Tom began shooting Cocktail. This is where things get murky. He had previously spent a few weeks visiting 34 bars in Manhattan so that he could learn how to be a bartender. In the grand scheme of things, Cocktail seemed like a pointless movie to do.
The only incentive was being paid 3 million dollars in comparison to the 1 million on The Color of Money. Spielberg dropped out of Rain Man because George Lucas needed him to start work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which began filming on May 16 whereas Rain Man began shooting on May 2. There was no reason for Tom Cruise to do Cocktail while Rain Man was in a state of flux, especially since Spielberg supposedly gave his notes to director Barry Levinson. Spielberg’s departure was announced in a November `87 Los Angeles Times article whereas the attachment of Barry to the project happened in early `88, according to production notes in AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) library files. The filming of Cocktail had culminated in late January, and the movie was scheduled for release on July 29. Rain Man had finished shooting on the day before. The difference between Cocktail and Rain Man is that Tom was not only paid 3 million for the latter but he was allowed to own a percentage of the film’s revenue. When Cocktail was released, it was the biggest opening in Disney history (taking in $11.8 million) and it proved that a big name could carry a bad movie. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Disney studios, said: “Congratulations, you are now able to open a movie.”
Like what happened on The Color of Money, Tom Cruise did not get top billing on Rain Man. Playing second fiddle to Dustin Hoffman was demoralizing because Dustin was going through a downward spiral. After the success of Tootsie in 1982, he was blacklisted for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. When he finally got chance the star in Ishtar (1987), it became known as Hollywood’s biggest flop. Dustin needed Tom more than Tom needed him. Back to Barry Levinson joining the Rain Man project in early 1988, this turned out to be somewhere around mid-March. This was after Tom had signed on to play Ron Kovic in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. Tom had met Oliver in a New York restaurant circa January `88, so it seems like Rain Man needed a bit of pre-production buzz in order to get the green light since it was still in the development stage. According to the aforementioned biographer, Mr. Morton, Tom found himself preparing for two demanding roles at the same time. It got to the point where he would meet Dustin and Barry in the morning, then Oliver and Ron in the afternoon. His schedule was so demanding that Paul Newman sent him a six-pack of beer with a note urging him to relax and take a weekend off.
Despite Paul being a fatherly figure in Tom’s life, Dustin recalled that Tom still desperately needed a family after the filming of Rain Man had reached the finishing line. According to Dustin, a film crew was a makeshift family for Tom. Not that the feeling wasn’t mutual since Dustin recognized himself in Tom since neither of them had nice childhoods. Dustin recalled that it was like they had come out of the same house. Born on the Fourth of July was a throwback to Tom’s earlier movies where his character is part of a team. When it began photography on October 11 in 1988, Rain Man was two months away from being released. What people often don’t realize about film-making is that how much money that you spend on advertising can be justified on what the star is doing currently. Acting in a war saga that takes place over 20 years showed that Tom Cruise was not going to be a star with a preference for doing small movies. In the eyes of critics who saw Top Gun as pro-war, Tom had redeemed himself with the anti-war nature of Born on the Fourth of July. It helped that his birthday is the day before Independence Day. However, it wasn’t entirely written in the cosmic cards for the superstar to be heading Oliver Stone’s war epic.
Tom might not have even looked at the script had he not shared Oliver’s agent i.e. Michael Ovitz: the president of Creative Artists – the biggest agency in Hollywood. It was Michael who suggested Tom play Dustin’s brother in Rain Man not only because he was young and had box-office pedigree, but because Tom and Dustin were his clients. Although shooting had wrapped on Born on the Fourth of July in January `89, it was only eleven months later that Tom stepped in front of the camera for Days of Thunder. Beginning on December 11, the timing was precious for two reasons – Stone’s war biopic was released on the 20th, and Tom was in the middle of a divorce that could tamper with the sympathy vote for the ever-elusive Holy Grail in his career: the almighty Academy Award. Yet Tom continued to play the happily married husband in a series of interviews to promote Born on the Fourth of July. Not that it mattered much in the long run because he had to settle for a Golden Globe while his wife received a settlement of 10 million dollars from the Church of Scientology. Needless to say, Tom owed Scientology a huge debt that would seemingly take forever to repay.
To his credit, Tom Cruise didn’t go on to make adaptations of L. Ron Hubbard books unlike fellow Scientologist John Travolta. As the leader of Scientology, Hubbard referred to a negative person as a merchant of chaos. Merchants of Chaos could easily have been the title of an action movie franchise. Ever since the turn of the century, Tom has more than dabbled in the Sci-Fi genre…yet he never thought of going anywhere near Hubbard’s pulp fiction. Back in 1989, Tom and William Mapother, his cousin, were listed in a Scientology magazine as completing basic training. Before then, Tom was termed a “preclear” as in someone not free of their problems. Dyslexia clearly wasn’t one of Tom’s. Working with an incomplete script for Days of Thunder meant that the cast were being fed pages of new dialogue every day as would be the norm for the golden years of Hong Kong movie-making. Tom was reading lines off the dashboard of his 180-mile-per-hour stock car. Disaster was not long in the making. After Tom was involved in a high-speed crash as he squinted at his script, writer Robert Towne dictated dialogue to him through his headset.
Even Jackie Chan didn’t suffer this years later when he got to play a race car driver in Thunderbolt (1995). Tony Scott, the director of Top Gun, directed Days of Thunder. In fact, the latter was known in early discussions as Top Car. The hope was to do for NASCAR racing what Top Gun had done for the navy. Tony’s brother, Ridley, had directed Tom’s ex-wife in a 1987 film called Someone to Watch Over Me. Co-starring Tom Berenger from Top Gun, it seemed like a tacky attempt for Mimi Rogers to make a name for herself as an actress. Her attempt at riding Cruise’s coattails failed to do for her what 9½ Weeks (1986) did for Kim Basinger. Once Days of Thunder was officially in development, Tom brought in Top Gun scriptwriter Warren Skaaren who quit in exasperation at Cruise’s demands after writing several drafts. Warren was also an associate producer on Top Gun and wrote Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop II. Warren died from Cancer on December 28 in 1990. This was after Days of Thunder was released on June 27. During the early weeks of filming, actress Donna Wilson dated producer Don Simpson then ditched him for Tony, whom she subsequently married.
Earlier than that, Tom Cruise was reading the script for Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Unsure about whether to accept the role, he asked David Miscavige, Scientology leader, for his opinion. Miscavige’s misgiving was that it was too effeminate. Tom turned it down, but mostly because he didn’t like the downer ending. There is an irony about Johnny Depp assuming the role since he had less traumatic experiences than Cruise when it came to being an outcast. The Scientology influence extended to the soundtrack for Days of Thunder. Their engineers had developed an in-house system called Clearsound. As a star on the rise, Tom had been concerned about his voice as well as his height. Despite being established as a heart-throb, he fretted that his voice was too high-pitched. He discussed his concerns with his Scientology mentor before filming started on Days of Thunder. David suggested that he listen to the difference that the Clearsound system might make. Cruise liked the idea enough that he convinced director Ron Howard to use it for Far and Away. When it was used (two films later) on A Few Good Men, executive producer Lindsay Doran said: “All I know is we sound-recorded two different ways. I was told one of the ways was a brand-new process and the way of the future.”
Earlier on, I mentioned about Tom Cruise being superstitious regarding being in films that began with the letter L. This is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals being titled that way because the Golden Harvest studio experienced flops with movies whose titles began with M. This type of titling tactic affected Cruise with the letter F. From 1991 to 1992, he made three films in a row whose titles make them findable in the F section of a video store i.e. Far and Away, A Few Good Men and The Firm respectively. To varying degrees, the films share some of the same crew members when you do different collaboration searches on the IMDB site, but all three films have the same people: Michael Doven worked as Tom’s assistant, Darin Rivetti went from being a stuntman to a production assistant, David Page worked as Tom’s costumer, Richard Dean went from being a general makeup artist to Tom’s artist, and Lyndell Quiyou was always Tom’s hair stylist. As for the letter superstition, Arnold Schwarzenegger may have been an influence since his R-titled movies always flopped whereas his T-titled movies were always hits. Arnie may have rubbed off on Tommy since Twins went into production before Rain Man did. In fact, Twins was released on an earlier Friday than Rain Man (the 9th versus the 16th).
Both films are about a man who finds out that he has a brother who is so unlike him. Both films even share the same clothing gimmick. The comparisons don’t end there – a road trip is the literal driving force of the narrative which results in one brother teaching the other to dance in a hotel room. Like Tom Cruise, the Austrian also got to have a share of the film’s revenue but he took it one step further by giving up his salary. Reading in between the lines of the aforementioned news items, it seems like Tom left Rain Man for good and took up Cocktail as a consolation prize. Once it was revealed that Schwarz was going to do a similar film to Rain Man, Tom went back up on the saddle. The irony is that Tom’s film, the less commercial one, made more money despite having a bigger budget. Both films were remade by Hong Kong film-makers. Rain Man was remade as God of Gamblers (1989) whereas Twins was remade as The Twin Dragons (1992). The latter starred Jackie Chan playing twins but the equivalent to Danny De Vito was the equally diminutive Teddy Robin Kwan. Like with Twins, Jackie’s movie was the less profitable one. In real life, Dustin Hoffman is like a big brother to Tom since he was Tom’s best man at his second wedding.
For his first wedding, Tom’s best man was Emilio Estevez. After Tom divorced Mimi Rogers, he moved out of their home to stay with Emilio for a few days. Tom’s second marriage to Nicole Kidman was still going strong when he made Mission: Impossible, so he had cast Emilio as a way of showing how grateful he was. It’s perverse since Emilio had a relationship with Mimi from 1981 to 1982. Tom is a control freak with his movies as much as he is with women. One example is him choosing to partially film Mission: Impossible II in Australia because that was where Nicole Kidman was going to film Moulin Rouge! in Sydney. It was also rather calculative for Tom’s production to film in Spain since that was a market that Scientologists were looking to exploit after leaving a negative image there, despite being acquitted of local participation in kidnapping, tax fraud and damaging public health. This explains why the next Tom Cruise film, Vanilla Sky, had Penélope Cruz as the love interest. Even more disturbing is that she became Tom’s next lover after Nicole. One of Tom’s favourite strategies in wooing women is bombarding them with flowers, which is why the above image sets up the perfect note for this article to end on.