CANNES, France — Tom Cruise is being celebrated at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival for an extraordinary career that has seen him profitably play characters that include a flying ace and a vampire, a rock star and a samurai warrior.
But there was one role the actor/producer couldn’t pull off here Wednesday, despite how hard he tried: humble regular dude.
Dressed in shades of dark grey and looking as lean as a greyhound, Cruise arrived to a hero’s welcome at the Debussy Theatre in the Palais des Festivals, for an event variously billed as a master class, a rendezvous and a tribute. Let’s call it what it really was: a love-in.
A 15-minute sizzle reel of his 41-year movie career was shown, opening with the triumphal strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Scenes flashed by from such Cruise hits as “Risky Business,” “Rain Man,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Interview With the Vampire,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” the “Mission: Impossible” franchise and, of course, “Top Gun” and it’s long-awaited sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which opens in theatres May 27 following its Cannes premiere.
He’s one of the world’s most popular and bankable stars, having garnered three Oscar nominations and earned billions of dollars for Hollywood studios. He’ll turn 60 on July 3 yet he looks to be in his mid-40s, with no trace of grey in his full mane of dark hair.
When Cruise finally sat down to chat with French journalist Didier Allouch, for a rare interview, he was pushing the angle that he’s just an ordinary guy who got lucky and who works very, very hard.
He talked about being “very humble” and “very privileged” to do what he does.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the story,” he insisted, but nobody was buying it. You don’t go to a Tom Cruise movie because of the story.
Cruise took control of the interview. He answered questions at length but only gave out information that’s already well known and unlikely to provoke a troublesome headline or tweet.
No mention was made of such hot-button topics as his leading role in Scientology, his failed marriages to Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes or how he did a profanity-laden rant on a “Mission: Impossible” set last year when he thought COVID safety procedures weren’t being followed.
The omissions were understandable: the audience was there to praise Cruise, not to vex him. Just to be safe, though, there was no audience Q-and-A.
Cruise told the story about how as a kid he was such a fan of action heroes, he jumped off the roof of his family home, narrowly avoiding serious injury because the grass below was wet.
As a teenager he mowed lawns, shovelled snow and sold Christmas cards door-to-door to earn money to help support his family and so he could go and see more movies.
When he landed his first major movie role, as a military cadet in “Taps” in 1981, Cruise decided he would interview everybody involved in the film, from fellow actor to set decorators to writers. He feared it might be the only one he would ever make.
“I went to every single department and I studied every single department.”
Cruise said he remembers every take of every movie he’s ever made and sometimes spends years preparing for a role: “Preparation is everything.”
He always tries to think of what the audience wants in a movie and a character. He often sneaks into films to judge reactions: “I’ll put my cap on and sit in the audience.”
Cruise got into producing because he realized it gave him far more control. And it was while wearing his producer’s cap for “Top Gun: Maverick” that he declared that the film, which was due to be released at the start of the pandemic, wouldn’t be released until movie theatres and moviegoers were fully back.
That was two years ago, and the decision not to sell “Top Gun: Maverick” to a streaming service might have cost studio Paramount a lot of money. Cruise doesn’t care.
“I make movies for the big screen,” he said firmly.
The closest Cruise came to candour was when Allouch pressed him on the topic of why he insists on doing many of his own stunts, despite the risks of injury and the high insurance costs.
Cruise seemed a bit annoyed by this.
“You know, no one asked Gene Kelly, ‘Why do you dance?’” Cruise replied. That’s true, but Gene Kelly didn’t hang from skyscrapers and mountains and jump onto departing aircraft, as Cruise has done for his movies.
Cruise did allow that if he’s in doubt about doing something, “it’s always better to go for it.”
He intends to go for it for a long time to come: “I want to make every kind of film I can … I’m here to learn.”
And with that, he left the stage, to prepare for an elegant evening premiere at the Palais of “Top Gun: Maverick” that included a precision flyover of military jets.
You know, just like humble regular dudes do.
Top Gun: Maverick
Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan DavisandEd Harris. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Opens May 27 at theatres everywhere (plus early previews). 137 minutes.PG-13 (U.S.)
We’re advised in this vein-popping sequel to “Top Gun” that “two consecutive miracles” are needed for the success of a high-risk covert mission by the flyboys (and gals) of America’s elite air school.
A third miracle is achieved from the get-go. Cruise and company bring fresh drama and heart to this followup “Top Gun” tale, directed by Joseph Kosinski. The movie exceeds the 1986 original in ways few people could have predicted after sequel plans were grounded for decades. The bar was admittedly low, since the first “Top Gun” was more of an extended music video than a movie.
There are many callbacks to the original film, but newcomers won’t have trouble keeping up. Cruise is still playing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a fighter pilot of incredible skill and bravery but prone to pissing off his commanding officers, who are played this time by Jon Hamm and Ed Harris.
Maverick’s propensity for troublemaking explains why, 30 years after the original story, he holds the rank of Captain, not Admiral. It’s also why he’s being shipped back to Top Gun to train a new team of pilots to pull off a covert bombing raid on an enemy uranium cache that’s as complicated and as dangerous as Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. The Top Gun pilots have three weeks to get it done, maybe less.
Cruise has aged into the role nicely, but Maverick still lives up to his call name. There’s excellent interplay between him and new characters Rooster (Miles Teller), the angry son of Maverick’s late flying partner, and Penny (Jennifer Connelly), a barkeep who brings levity and love to the story. Maverick also has affecting scenes with Val Kilmer’s Iceman character, a former flying rival and now close friend, who is fighting a serious disease, just as Kilmer is in real life.
But it’s the action that sells the popcorn and this film really delivers on that front, especially when it’s time to put the impossible bombing raid into play.
A reminder of the simple pleasures of 1980s movies, “Top Gun: Maverick” will be hard to beat as the summer’s best blockbuster.
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