For two decades, Cruise had tried to keep the spotlight on his work. Now it was fixated on him. Even the old guard — after years of chafing under his publicity restrictions, and finally freed from the need to appease the powerful Pat Kingsley — happily spun everything to fit the new narrative: Cruise was crazy.

Guided by his sister's inexperienced hand, Cruise could only oblige, proposing to Katie Holmes and then debating the use of antidepressants (which Scientology opposes), specifically by a postpartum Brooke Shields, on The Today Show with Matt Lauer.

Kingsley never would have let the Today footage air. But Kingsley wasn't there. "Afterward, I remember the PR people coming in and saying, 'Well, none of that stuff on Scientology and Brooke Shields, that's not going to be on the air,'" says Jim Bell, who at the time was executive producer of Today. "I started laughing and I said, 'That's probably going to be on a promo in about 30 minutes. It's going to be airing in a loop.'"

Cruise hadn't hurt his box-office draw — his movies continued to be successful. But Hollywood was convinced he was poison, a religious fanatic, and possibly unhinged. Three months later, Paramount boss Sumner Redstone, who had partnered with Cruise's production company for 14 years, succumbed to the bad publicity and ended their professional relationship.

"His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount," Redstone told the press. "It's nothing to do with his acting ability — he's a terrific actor. But we don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot." In the six years before, Cruise's movies had made 32 percent of Paramount's revenue.

The Internet told us Tom Cruise killed Oprah. The truth is the Internet tried to kill him.

Today, when even ABCNews.com runs "5 Things to Know About George Clooney's Fiancée Amal Alamuddin," it's hard to remember that just nine years ago, the worlds of tabloid and legitimate journalism were more sharply defined. In turn, we've become more cynical about click-baiting headlines, even as celebrities have figured out the new rules. After the summer of Cruise and the couch, celebrities go on network TV fully aware that anything they say could go viral. Actors weaned on the web can wield it to their advantage: Think Emma Stone lip-synching on Jimmy Fallon.

Today's Internet-driven media culture isn't necessarily worse than the one run by the big, boring conglomerates Pat Kingsley expertly controlled. Even Cruise has figured out how to navigate the new playing field.

But the lesson came at a cost.

Building up to 2005, Cruise had tackled some of the most challenging dramas of any actor of his generation: Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky. Even his popcorn flicks — Minority Report, Collateral, War of the Worlds — were intriguingly dark. He'd never played it safe or shot a cash-grab. He trusted that if he chose movies he believed in, the audience would follow.

Post-2005, we've lost out on the audacious films that only Hollywood's most powerful and consistent star could have convinced studios to green-light. Cruise was in his mid-forties prime — the same years when Newman made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting — and here he was lying low. Imagine the daring roles he hasn't dared to pursue. Cruise's talent and clout were responsible for an unparalleled string of critical and commercial hits. We gave that up for a GIF.

Like an insistent heart monitor, the box-office numbers continually prove Cruise is alive, but even he seems to have been convinced of his own premature demise. He'd finally opened up and been harshly punished. When Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol was deemed his comeback (not that he'd ever made a flop; even Knight & Day earned its money back), he decided audiences wanted only one version of Tom Cruise: the action hero he'd never wanted to become. He has even said yes to Top Gun 2.

Cruise's present-day, crowd-pleasing action crutch hasn't been bad. He has given every film his all, and some of them have been quite good.

His latest, Edge of Tomorrow, is ambitious fun. Cruise plays Lt. Col. Bill Cage, a smooth-talking, cowardly army recruiter forced to fight on the front lines of mankind's make-or-break battle against alien species the Mimics. No one expects him to live more than a few minutes. And he doesn't.

But Edge of Tomorrow's high-concept twist is that, to his surprise, every time Cruise is killed, time resets and he wakes up the day before the battle, alive and eager to try again until he gets it right. It's an energetic blockbuster that balances Wile E. Coyote cartoon hijinks with his painful, unending martyrdom. It's also a nifty parallel to Cruise himself: the last great screen hero who refuses to die.

It won't earn him an Academy Award, but maybe he still has time. After all, Newman won his Oscar at 61.

Amy Nicholson is the chief film critic at LA Weekly. Her book Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor will be published in July by Cahiers du Cinema/Phaidon Press.

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70 comments
sc1946355
sc1946355

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. 

victoriamcf
victoriamcf

@bimadew Very interesting, thank you. I've always enjoyed Tom Cruise the movie star

cliffsofmoher11
cliffsofmoher11

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.

Tommy
Tommy

Think what you like. But Cruise is filthy rich. Who the idiot now 

venkatesh.tumu
venkatesh.tumu

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.


Barry Braxton
Barry Braxton

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.

Ebony Cereja
Ebony Cereja

The only I filmed I enjoyed him in was Eyes Wide Shut.

Maggie Joyce-Ruppert
Maggie Joyce-Ruppert

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!

Timothy Akers
Timothy Akers

Village Voice, I'm unliking you! Tom Cruise ruined his own career and this acting did it. The only crappy PR is your own!

Isaac Sinn
Isaac Sinn

And how he killed last american sweet heartS.

Aaron Sharpe
Aaron Sharpe

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 ...

Dori Vasquez-Santarsiere
Dori Vasquez-Santarsiere

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.

Steve Renko
Steve Renko

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.

Bonne Kelly
Bonne Kelly

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 ):

Dan Grossman
Dan Grossman

America's last movie star? Really. News to me. Brad Pitt is a movie star and he can actually act.

Isaac Sinn
Isaac Sinn

and how he killed Nicole, the world's last sweet heart.

Ted Cantu
Ted Cantu

I lost interest in this guy after this...... but it was building up for quite a while

Debby GreenDee
Debby GreenDee

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.

Lee Lorenz
Lee Lorenz

Tom Cruise is still making movies and is still the richest movie star. And he's not the last.

Hellskitchen
Hellskitchen

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. 

DM10003
DM10003

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.

skram08
skram08

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.

mrpoizun
mrpoizun

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.

unclesmrgol
unclesmrgol

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.

richardwad2u1
richardwad2u1

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. 

TerryWard
TerryWard

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.)

cruisedirector
cruisedirector

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?

marygannon
marygannon

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.  

jonathan.nyc
jonathan.nyc topcommenter

I wonder how crazy this looked before the editing process. 

 

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