By Stephanie Zacharek
By Inkoo Kang
By Voice Film Critics
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Aaron Hills
"YouTube changed everything," says Portland, Oregon–based Andy Baio, a writer and coder who would go on to help build Kickstarter. He could upload a video to YouTube's servers and people could watch it on their browsers: no downloads, no long waits, no plug-ins, no bandwidth fears, no cost. "That was mind-blowing," Baio says.
Neither Tom Cruise nor Oprah was likely aware of YouTube when he agreed to tape an episode in early May. The site's first video, "Me at the Zoo," had been uploaded only a few weeks before.
A week later, Baio hosted another funny video he found on a private sharing site, a short mash-up of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Cruise's appearance on Oprah. Dubbed "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah," the clip features the movie star cackling in slow motion as he blasts the talk-show host with a jolt of Jedi lightning. Baio thought the video was "awesome." He put it online and it blew up.
This time, however, it wasn't just the geeks linking to his video — it was MSNBC and USA Today.
"It's hard to imagine now, but six months before I posted that Tom Cruise video, that viral spread was practically impossible," Baio says.
Tom Cruise and Oprah talked on TV for 43 minutes. "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah" lasted all of 15 seconds.
With all context gone, we're judging sound bites of Cruise on a screen. We forget he was experiencing a live, long, and loud interaction, a literal stage performance before a raucous crowd.
Harpo Studios seats 300 audience members. The show's producers try to match up their spectators with their guests. It's a recipe for good TV. "They want the batshit people," Tugman explains. "All those people that were in there were most likely picked because they're Tom Cruise fanatics."
If you track down the full Tom Cruise episode on YouTube — only one user from Spain has bothered to upload it — the room is deafening. Oprah's first words to the live audience are, "OK. Let me just say you all are going to have to calm yourselves." They don't. They're on their feet jumping up and down. She has to ask them to settle down twice more before Cruise even walks onstage, and then the screams get even louder. Oprah starts screaming, too. If you listen closely, you can hear Cruise say, "Wow! Is it like this every day?" "No," Oprah says, shaking her head. After a full minute goes by, Oprah starts to look annoyed. "It's too much," she commands the audience. "Sit down, sit down."
Cruise plays to that screaming room. When a fan in the crowd pumps both his fists in the air, Cruise pumps his back. When kneeling on the floor makes the audience holler, he simply keeps doing it.
Cruise was also playing to the daytime TV viewers at home, predominantly female like the studio audience. He flatters them. He brings up being raised by women, how he loves to treat women right. The women wanted to hear that he was in love, and Cruise — who had just been anointed the Third Greatest Movie Star of All Time by Premiere magazine, beating out Paul Newman at No. 6 — was finally ready to loosen up and tell them.
Oprah was thrilled. Cruise was giving his first unchecked TV interview, well, ever. She ups the energy by getting physical, ruffling his hair with both hands and grabbing his legs and arms as she presses him with personal questions about his public girlfriend of a month: Is it love, will he marry her, has he asked her father, does he want more children? She clutches both of Cruise's hands, pulls her face close to his, and asks if he will propose to Katie Holmes today. Cruise gives a reasonable answer, "I've got to discuss it with her," and Oprah leans back, disappointed.
When Cruise finally stands and grabs her shoulders — the moment that was remixed into "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah" — it's while jokingly begging if they can talk about his new movie, War of the Worlds.
It's a performance reminiscent of his Oscar-nominated role six years earlier as Magnolia's Frank T.J. Mackey. In that film, Mackey gets into a showdown with a pushy interviewer and deflects questions by showboating. When Mackey gets antsy, he does a backflip in his underwear. When Cruise doesn't want to say if he's marrying Holmes, he distracts attention by falling to one knee — a crowd-pleasing move Mackey stole from Elvis.
It wasn't until after the show aired that Tugman realized he'd been a witness to pop-culture history: Tom Cruise scaring Oprah by jumping on a couch. "I heard about it as more of an Internet thing and was like, 'Oh my God, I was there for that,'" he says.
Except Cruise never jumps on a couch.
It is Oprah who seeds the idea that he should stand on it. She thanks Cruise for attending her recent Legends Ball, where she honored Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. "I turned and looked at one point and you were standing in the chair going, 'Yes! Yes!'" she gushes to Cruise. "I loved that enthusiasm." Minutes later, he stands on the couch for a second, and after she and the audience cheer that, he does it again. When she continues pressing him about marrying Holmes, he exhales, "I'm standing on your couch!" as if that's the answer he thought was enough. All told, Cruise on the couch is less than three seconds of airtime.
How are we to celebrate our "over-top" emotions? For example, do we turn the TV station when football player "spike a football in end zone or a basketball player "rocks" the basketball net or one of the golfer "fist pumps" as blood rush to their brain, etc? Do we really take time to "shame" them until they behave. Tom Cruise is one of our greatest actors and he is entitled to his emotions.
@bimadew Very interesting, thank you. I've always enjoyed Tom Cruise the movie star
@AO1379 I hadn't - thanks!
@JohnPowersUS you saw it without us!
@2shy te agradezco
@ianras not necessary a bad thing in that instance ;)
A. Tom Cruise DID jump on the couch. Twice. Anyone can watch this on YouTube. So this article lies.
B. Tom Cruise is seriously NOT the "Last Movie Star." Robert Downey Jr. is a true Movie Star and has been far more popular than Cruise around the world for years now. What about Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Jennifer Lawrence, any number of real stars that everyone recognizes and loves.
Tom cruise is still a ROCKSTAR in India, inspite of the negativity surrounding Scientology and his movies continue to do well at INTERNATIONAL Boxoffice. Just cool it of guys .......
Rest of the world Loves TOM CRUISE period.
He is the third wheel in the unholy trinity of bad actors who never should have acted: Warren Beatty, Richard Gere, and Tom Cruise. Keanu Reeves is like Sir Lawrence Olivier compared to these talentless buffoons.
@lazygarfield U R A PAEN IN D ASS ☺
A somwhat dated rebuttal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4PNpFjKVfY
Unfortunately Tom Cruise is not and never was a good actor! His stick is smile or not smile, that's it! Add to that his overall oddness AND that is why people say what they say!
Village Voice, I'm unliking you! Tom Cruise ruined his own career and this acting did it. The only crappy PR is your own!
I came across this same article a week or two ago and also disagreed with the premise. I've always thought that the disdain some folks seem to have toward Cruise is off base. He's a fine actor, and generally chooses good roles rather than just going for one action movie payday after another. His supporting role in Magnolia is, I think, his best work. And his hilarious turn in Tropic Thunder proved he can be funny as hell too. Of course, there is the Scientology weirdness ...
Seriously?!! I'm pretty sure he did that himself. His attacks on religions other than his own scientology as well as the field of psychology (including very personal attacks on the choices of other stars such as Brooke Shields) did it for many of us. I didn't see those online, I saw those from his own mouth on tv interviews and nobody made him say it. America's last movie star? This might call for an unlike.
His acting skills ruined the "Mission Impossible," movies. If he is no longer relevant as an actor, good. He was too self important and too cute in his movies. He didn't know how to get out of the way. In my own slanted opinion, he was not a great actor. He lost himself in his movies. No loss. The movies are better without him.
Tom Cruise is America's last movie star? He was tolerable in The Color of Money,Rainman,Jerry Mcguire because of the writers & script..Please don't ruin any more families..little boy ):
This bs article again? What ruined him (as it should) is the fact that he is high up in and profits of a cult that has ruined countless' people's life's and is still ruining lives every day. I'll never watch a film with him ever again. He's partly responsibly for all that pain and sadness. Good on Katie Holmes to escape with her daughter before it was too late.
Since the article starts off with Tugman, I kept thinking it would get back to Tugman. When it did, it was a brief mention that he saw Cruise jump on a couch. Or not. Meanwhile, there's a lot of cutting and pasting, secondary interviews with people like Perez Hilton and speculation about how the Internet "killed" Cruise as a movie star. Except that the author several times mentions that he remains a huge box office draw whose name can open a movie.
I admit it. I don't get it.
My memory of that time is that America was catching up to his evasions and began to want him to show genuine mature feelings.
In stead we get a guy who shows little genuine interest in this woman and freaks out when pressed to prove he wants a future with her. Everything seemed so arranged and emotionally disconnected, and we knew a sincere person would have SAT on a couch and professed love, but theatrics were displayed as if they were the true content and we all saw through it.
The author says nothing about his telling Matt Lauer he was "glib" which further exposed Criuse's defensive and false core.
Is the author a Scientologist, by any chance?
TBQH I feel a little sorry for Cruise- I think he's quite a good actor (although he plays a very similar type- the damaged man who is decent underneath all of his brittle defensiveness), but he's out shined by his scientology beliefs.
I sometimes wonder if he is a true believer, or if he is so under the thumb of scientology that he doesn't dare leave or speak ill of it. Either way, scientology has not helped his career in terms of public perception, no matter what he thinks or tells others.
Geez, I hope we're not expected to feel sorry for Tom Cruise. Who knows how many hapless, helpless people have been sucked into the criminal scientology cult because of him? His acting skills count for nothing next to the horrors that have resulted because of his recruiting people into his sick cult.
No, the Internet didn't "kill" Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise "killed" Tom Cruise. It's not cool to be a member of a religion which imprisons its children in a cultic setting (indeed, the religion is a cult -- its rituals are secretive and one can be sued for revealing them), and which has put a rattlesnake in someone's mailbox to kill them, and which forces its members to undergo abortions.
I'm a Catholic and my Church has much to atone for in the realm of priestly abuse. But, by fits and starts, it is doing so. The Church of Scientology, on the other hand, has no intention of opening up to the outside world or purging the evil from its soul. Its practicing members have closed ranks to keep secret what thousands of apostate individuals have said.
While Cruise remains a practicing Scientologist, and their celebrity spokesperson and apologist, he must live, for better or worse, with the abuses of his church firmly attached to himself.
It's a good thing that we have something called MEMORY so that we can discern how inaccurate this Cruise-obsessed article is. The truth is, his movies were bringing in less and less money PRIOR to the Oprah incident. To say that this one Oprah episode sank him is completely false. Yes, we probably made a big deal out of it because there was already a lot of Cruise-fatigue out there, but the article makes it sound like all was going peachy until the mean ol' internet over-blew the Oprah couch thing. Nonsense. Tom Cruise made a personal choice to put his cockamamy, heavy-handed religion front and center. He also made a personal choice to chase down and sue gossip-mongers, unlike any celebrity before him. The public didn't look favorably upon either of these things. He was a big-shot celebrity taking himself WAY too seriously, who began making worse and worse choices for films. The public was souring and the films were no longer bringing in enough to justify his outrageous salary demands. THEN the couch thing happened. Paramount wouldn't have ditched him if he was still the cash cow he had been. To imply, in this article that "the films were still doing fine but Hollywood just didn't like him anymore" is LUDICROUS and FALSE.
all of us who were ~in~ war of the worlds were dismayed at the PR flops:
few tv commercials except one big budget-blowing superbowl ad (while
spiderman III was appearing everywhere --ads and junkfood crossover
promos and crap) and then the oprah fiasco. your article is insightful
in showing how the TC image paradigm shift couldn't have happened just
one year earlier, how youtube and web-gossip and memes upended so much,
and how switching PR people was ruinous. thanks for your history of
media events we saw but did not fully understand at the time.
(from one of the Final 100 and Final Fifty super-late-night die-hard extras who got to sing 'happy birthday' to SS while TC led the singing during the war of the worlds filming.)
I love when "professionals" write articles/books on celebrities that aren't even so much attempts for the writers to get rich and famous themselves as to bring the writers to the attention of the adored subjects and become appreciated by said celebrities. Don't they know that if someone like Tom Cruise wants to feel respected and adored, he only needs to find the appropriate Tumblr tag?
I think it would have been a more interesting story about the lighting technician Jason who burned his tongue and ended up on Oprah/
This is so obviously an attempt to position Tom Cruise for a new public perception.
@savasavasava it all happened so fast!
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