You can count on one hand the number of action stars thriving in Hollywood today. And by that, I mean real action stars. Not good-looking actors who magically turn into CGI action figures during the film’s third-act battle. I mean, actors who make a name off the genre and aren’t afraid to get down and dirty to make their films entertaining. Y’know – like Tom Cruise.
You know – actors who do their own stunts. Back in the ’90s, Hollywood was full of them. Bruce Willis. Chuck Norris. Jackie Chan. Steven Seagal. It’s an era as distinct and culturally significant as the superhero/franchise era we are living through today.
Yet, despite superhero movies currently dominating the Box Office, Tom Cruise still manages to remain as relevant and famous an action star as ever. Although a relic of a bygone cinematic age, Cruise continues to create blockbuster after blockbuster and comes out with that iconic Cruise smile every time.
There’s a multitude of reasons why Tom Cruise remains as popular as ever. However, one significant reason is the actor’s ownership over his movies. The man works undeniably hard and produces all of his modern projects. Cruise, it’s safe to assume, doesn’t audition for other people’s projects. He creates his own jobs – and, by extension, a lot of others in the process.
But, of course, you can produce as many movies as you like. It doesn’t mean they’re inherently good, nor does it guarantee them as Box Office smashes. However, despite the title of his long-running action franchise, Cruise takes on a variety of impossible missions and makes them possible. The key to his mission success is by going ‘bigger’ in each film.
Bigger, in this context, refers to his stunts. The actor makes no effort to conceal the lengths he goes to entertain us. In Ghost Protocol, he climbs the tallest building in the world. In Rogue Nation, the beloved actor hangs perilously off a moving jet plane. And, in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, the actor is literally flying jet planes to legitimize what you see on-screen. He is, as Rotten Tomatoes once declared, “an action star without equal.”
What makes Tom Cruise such a famous rarity in today’s Hollywood landscape is his refusal to rely on special effects. In Top Gun: Maverick, the 59-year-old actor was very reluctant to include any CGI shots. In an interview with Fandango All-Access, the Mission: Impossible star admits that entertaining the audience is constantly on his mind when performing any of his high-profile stunts.
I say ‘high-profile’ because, well, that’s what they are. More often than not, Cruise’s stunts grace news websites many months before a film’s release. In effect, these pre-release on-set shots are part of the marketing. For example, a lot of noise has been made about him hanging off a WWII plane for an upcoming Mission: Impossible film. And the very fact we know Tom Cruise is famously doing the stunts himself – and raising the bar every time – lends his films an air of legitimacy and professionalism absent from the CGI-fests of most modern-day superhero films.
Indeed, one can hardly imagine Marvel literally going into space to shoot Infinity War, for example. Cruise made the news with the announcement he is teaming up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to shoot a film in space. Now, while the aforementioned untitled feature is only partially shot on the International Space Station, it still counts as an ambitious milestone in Hollywood cinema, emblematic of the actor’s commitment to innovation.
Tom Cruise’s Acting Chops
Yet, for all his stunt innovations, there’s another kind of talent for which Tom Cruise isn’t given enough credit – he’s also a great actor. To understand how rare and special it is to be a good stuntman and actor, one need only look at the palette of action stars in modern-day Hollywood. There’s no doubt that Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are physically imposing and talented stuntmen/action stars. However, if we’re being honest, they don’t always serve the best emotional performances.
And, look, that’s by no means a dig. All of the aforementioned actors – and more besides – have given us some of the most entertaining movies in cinematic history. It’s hard to imagine Hollywood without Rocky and Rambo and the Fast & Furious franchise, not to mention Terminator. Like Cruise’s films, both franchises have done their bit to revolutionize stuntwork in Hollywood, particularly in terms of fight choreography and car sequences.
However, unlike the actors mentioned, Tom Cruise has the acting chops to match his stunts. Want proof? See his fiery chemistry with Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. See his transformation in Tropic Thunder. Heck, see his intense performance going against Philip Seymour in Mission Impossible 3. To make it in Hollywood, you don’t need to be a good actor – you just need ‘star power’ and marketability. Tom Cruise has those things and the acting to back it up. That’s rarer than one may think.
It’s amazing to think how Tom Cruise’s career has remained stable for all the decades he’s been in the industry. While other action stars of his ilk – Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal – have come and gone, Cruise’s career trajectory has only been getting stronger.
He produces his own films, is always willing to go the extra mile, and is evidently passionate about his craft. Cruise’s dedication to producing wholly original work and captaining his ships is what sets him apart from the rest of Hollywood.
While Cruise’s naysayers will groan, deride his Scientology links and laugh about him jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, he nonetheless remains Hollywood gold. Cruise constantly ups the bar for entertainment and looks to innovate in every film. He’s the last great action star from an age where the title mattered. Even after thirty years of acting and stunting, Tom Cruise is still cruisin’ and proving himself one of Hollywood’s most famous and ambitious film producers.
What is your favorite Tom Cruise movie? Expect to see the action star reprise his role as Maverick in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, set to release in theaters on 27 May 2022.