Tom Cruise is generally said to be a swell guy. Scientology screeds aside, his Hollywood collaborators often attest to what a fun oddball he is ― so much so that Vulture just published a list of 19 “unsettlingly nice” anecdotes about Cruise. Yet he is inarguably one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, and that role comes with a certain exacting baggage, for better or worse.
Case in point: the control Cruise reportedly demanded on “The Mummy,” which bombed in North America last weekend despite hefty grosses in foreign markets that still worship Cruise when he’s in action-star mode. (For the record, let’s agree right now that the best Tom Cruise is dogged-charmer Tom Cruise, as in “Risky Business,” “Jerry Maguire” and “The Firm.”)
According to a blunt Variety piece, “The Mummy” is “a textbook case of a movie star run amok.” Cruise reportedly requested a script rewrite that amplified his screentime, supervision over the editing process and input in Universal Pictures’ marketing strategy. Sources also told Variety that Cruise “micro-managed” the set, dictated shots to director Alex Kurtzman and pushed for a June release to coincide with summer blockbuster season. (HuffPost reached out to Cruise’s rep for a response, but we haven’t heard back.)
That’s a lot for an actor without a producing credit on this project. But Cruise hails from a distant era of moviemaking ― you know, the 1980s and ‘90s ― when stars were the guiding force behind most of Hollywood’s business model. Actors and actresses used to drive the film economy (think Cruise, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams); now that’s the duty of superheroes, franchises, reboots and adaptations. With great paychecks came great power, but those days are largely over.
“The Mummy” inaugurates Universal’s Dark Universe ― a lengthy series of monster movies green-lit before the first installment even opened ― but Cruise seems to have turned this film into a standard action vehicle for himself. To be fair, some insiders told Variety that Kurtzman was in over his head, so perhaps Cruise’s know-how was necessary. Whatever happened, the movie’s reviews were scathing.
Cruise clearly wants to remain a moneymaker in a landscape that doesn’t make that as easy as it once was. Maybe that’s why he’s suddenly so keen on a “Top Gun” sequel, 31 years after the original. He had the biggest hit of his career ― “War of the Worlds” ― one month after his image-damaging appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, but his movies have since been spotty at best. Cruise seems uninterested in playing the romantic leads and hard-working everymen that once defined his career, roles that offer a dose of humanity that action spectacles do not. And no matter how excited you are for another “Top Gun” or “Mission: Impossible” installment, there’s no denying that Cruise has sought some sort of higher plane in Hollywood, a look-at-me-go-I’m-an-Operating-Thetan-or-whatever confidence that shortchanges the talent he possesses when not attempting gravity-defying stunts. Even if he is still the nicest guy on the block, it’s hard not to pine for the old Tom.