Dear Mr. Cruise,
Thank you. No, seriously. Thank you. Why?
You took on that tiny role in that little movie called Tropic Thunder. Amidst Ben Stiller flexing, Jack Black farting, and Robert Downey Jr. simultaneously sending up black people and Russell Crowe, there you were. You were Les Grossman, studio exec extraordinaire. You told some fuckface guy on the phone to go fuck his face, and probably terrified the actor playing him. You'd like some apple-bottom jeans, boots with the fur, and shook the most ass I've seen since Risky Business.
In short, you were absolutely terrific.
Thing is, in the last few years, I thought you were a nutjob who went off his rocker. With your couch-bouncing on "Oprah", picking a fight with Brooke Shields (seriously, Brooke Shields?), and naming your only biological child with an obscure Persian word that might not really exist, you totally disappeared from the hottie I drooled over in Legend or Top Gun. Katie Holmes and your Scientology-related weirdness made me forget you were actually great in Interview With the Vampire and Magnolia.
Hurm. Wait. I can still think you're weird while you can whup Twilight Diggory's teenage heinie, right?
But, that's not important. What's significant is that you're super-guilty of making my eyeballs roll to death with your recent project picks. Aside from Minority Report and Collateral, they've sucked.
Mission Impossible: 3? After watching M.I.:2— a.k.a. To-John-Woo-No-Thanks-For-Everything— I lost interest.
War of the Worlds? It was Buffy's job to save the world, not yours, and I really didn't care if Dakota Fanning survived with one front tooth or both.
Lions for Lambs? If anything had actually happened in it, I might have liked it.
The Last Samurai? On this one, seriously. Did you really expect me to believe you could solve a bunch of Asian people's problems? (Yeah. Visine, please.)
But, that's past. All that was before Tropic Thunder. With your three or four scenes and end credit boogie-down, I realized you had a bigger impact than all the retard jokes flying around. You showed me something you haven't in years, and I'm not talking about the sudden appearance of Burt Reynolds-esque chest hair that would make my little mom swoon, rather strong-looking forearms, or the slightly padded ass you had going. For the first time in years, you set yourself up as the joke, especially while you were trying to seduce Matthew McConaughey.
You let us laugh at you with you, which is a hell of a lot more fun and believable than watching you do your own stunts (again), rescue a girl (yeah, really), and save the world (blah, blah, blah).
So, now that you've probably noticed that people are actually starting to like you again, I hope you learn a few things from your valuable time at Tropic Thunder. Stop carrying on like a godly icon determined to save the world; you and Mel Gibson need to quit being so frickin' serious. Unfortunately, that's wishful thinking since you're hell-bent on preventing Hitler's assassination in Valkyrie, your upcoming movie that carries a very strong possibility of you dynamite fishing for martyr props. But c'mon. Stop picking out movies where you're gonna try to save the world. You've worked that theme so hard that Colin Farrell's art-house movies seem more interesting. (Bored now.)
If there's anything your stint in the Stiller picture should teach you, it's that sending yourself up makes for a happy $11 spent at the movie theater. We're not interested in you being a spy, soldier, or any shade of hero. Noooo. Please, let us laugh at you again. Keep letting us in on whatever little ironic joke is getting down in your noggin. Wink. Impersonate Keith Richards if you want to. (I mean hey, it worked out for Johnny Depp.)
Better yet, go back and headline as an asshole or two. Yeah. Find some project involving gambling, Las Vegas, and a shifty deal. The awesomeness of Rain Man and The Color of Money is wearing thin these days, but I'm willing to bet you could make a whole new audience of Generation Britney fans excited for your movies by pulling off a caper or romantic double-dealing. Front as a rascal. Be a jerk. (I mean hey, it worked out for Hugh Grant.)
Finally, quit making so many epic productions where you're the headline man surrounded by a sea of other actors that will never know a big huge set again after working with you. Seriously. Event movies are up Will Smith's alley, and no longer up yours. Take a part in a bunch of ensemble movies. Remember your Magnolia awesomeness. Look at the Ocean's franchise. Or, repeat what you did in Tropic Thunder, and hit us with the unexpected cameo in a movie nobody expects you to appear in. (Next year, you could share some screen time with Seth Rogen or hang with Kevin Smith.)
Who knows if you're going to come across this little love letter in the sea of congratulatory notes you've gotten for smacking imaginary ass in Tropic Thunder. I doubt you might even notice its impact from numerous heinie smooches of decades past and syndicated adulation. But really, I hope you give serious consideration to everything I've outlined here. Please, just entertain us outside of your hero-gone-stale comfort zone.
But, while you're at it, avoid M. Night Shyamalan at all costs.
Oh, and no Far and Away or Eyes Wide Shut redux. You and relationships? Kinda weird.
And, as Robert Downey Jr. says, don't go full retard.
An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.8.08 @ 9:00a
I once spent half a day explaining to my artsy-fartsy film school graduate of a grandgeek how Tom Cruise is a really fine actor. After making him sit down and watch about five of the classic Cruise flicks on videotape, he finally agreed with me.
Know why "Interview with the Vampire" is my favourite movie? BOTH OF THEM ARE IN IT.
9.8.08 @ 10:15a
Wow! What part in "Interview" did your grandgeek play? I can only imagine being an extra or part of the production staff would have been a great experience.
And, as much as I still think he's off his nuts, I don't want to give up on Tom Cruise. He was great in "Tropic Thunder." And in spite of "The Last Samurai" and all his other recent self-important "save the world" picks, he's still a terrific actor. I loved him in "Magnolia", "Interview", and "Collateral."
But, "Valkyrie" looks like another "I'm going to save the world" movie. I wish he would make some interesting choices. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Edward Norton make them all the time. Cruise seems stuck to Being the Hero- and it's too bad, because he's terrific out of that context.
9.8.08 @ 5:01p
I thought I was the only one who loved Tom Cruise when he completely stepped out of himself-- his "I'm Tom Cruise and I'm a superstar" self. The man is awesome when he forgets who he is. He's one of those people who should be a bad guy all the time. I mean, you were almost rooting for him in Interview and Collateral, he was so good and likeable!
He also did the little Austin Powers bit in Gold Member... that was the best part of that entire crap fest.
9.8.08 @ 7:08p
Ha! Yeah, I loved Tom Cruise in "Goldmember" as well. I really, really love him when he gets his head out of Superstar Mode and actually plays different parts. With enough potty humor, maybe he can get rid of his Messiah Complex- but that's entirely wishful thinking. For now, we can anticipate more SuperMovies. Boo.
9.9.08 @ 11:18a
I have come to totally loathe Cruise as an actor and will actively run away from any movie he's in, but love-love-loved! his performance in this film. He's best when he's either A) playing a jerk (Rain Man); or B) in the type of role where it's not all "woooo look at me and what a stud I am!" (ie. Jerry McGuire)
I wish he'd learn that hey, as an actor, it's OKAY to let people laugh at you. Dear Tom Cruise: We *know* you can play epic. Now show us you have some flexibility and range in your acting chops, and play some comedy!
He should take a look at Stallone. When Sly plays movies where he gets too full of himself (Rambo 6, Rocky 37, whatever) it's like okay, please please please let the cash cow die already and move onto something else. I liked him in Demolition Man, where he showed some humor, and Oscar, which was an awful movie but I liked his role.
9.9.08 @ 5:22p
Hi Cheryl! I totally forgot about "Jerry Maguire" (and "Vanilla Sky") while writing. Jerry Maguire wasn't too offensive because prior to being the sweet sappy fantasy of then-unknown Renee Zellwegger's dreams, he was a massive jerk. Redemption wasn't totally embraced until 2/3 of the movie had gone by. It's fun to watch a jerk earn some just rewards, but Cruise is such a good actor that he knew how to make us root for the him. I can't stand it when Cruise sets out to save the world, but I like watching him getting a little comeuppance.
As for "Vanilla Sky", though? Yurgh. Bad attempt at psychological thriller.
9.11.08 @ 10:18p
You know who else needs to do comedy? Val Kilmer. He's terrific at it.
Cruise is starting to fail me as an actor because real life just intrudes too much. And I don't seek out his movies like I would those of, say, Don Cheadle or Chris Cooper or Ed Harris.
9.12.08 @ 4:56p
For me, Val Kilmer is Nick Rivers in Top Secret and Chris Knight from Real Genius. Unfortunately, these days, I think he's drawn to movies with hallucinogenic subject matters involving lodges and shamans.
Cruise's M.O. is all about saving the world, and by Scientology standards. It's bad enough to be arrogant, and worse to see the programming.
9.14.08 @ 12:48p
I'm with Tracey: the fact that I might only appreciate Cruise if he descends into self-parody (I can't say I'll ever rent Tropic Thunder, no matter how much I like RDjr) pretty well cripples any chance he has of being acceptable in a leading/dramatic role. He's made too much of a career out of being Tom Cruise™ that he simply can't disappear the way that any of the stunning actors (Tracey again) listed can. That's a big reason (though hardly the only one) why I didn't like Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds, or Tom Cruise's Collateral, and why I have little intention of seeing Tom Cruise's Valkyrie, despite my fascination with the subject. I don't see a character, I only see Tom Cruise.
9.15.08 @ 8:47a
Russ, you're right that our Cruise missile's made a career of being Tom Cruise™. The thing is, other actors have similar kinds of trademarking going- ie. Johnny Depp being the Offbeat Man- and that in itself is not necessarily bad. Whenever I see a Tim Burton flick there's some Johnny Depp Weird™ going on.
Where the Cruise™ is annoying is that he's got a Messiah complex. Depp, on the other hand, doesn't.