The massively entertaining looking Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation finally opens this weekend and the fifth installment of the franchise has Tom Cruise making the publicity rounds. And while he may not ever be in the news just for his work – the most recent rumors make the rounds is that he’s preparing to leave Scientology – these publicity tours remind even the most skeptical and unaffected of Tom Cruise fans that the man is anything but dull. These tours also remind us skeptics that when he’s not being a bizarre powder-keg of a human being, Cruise can be surprisingly good-humored and incredibly charming. I must admit, even this skeptic had trouble watching that Tonight Show lip-sync battle fewer than three times. So for you fellow skeptics, here are some Tom Cruise moments that might have you questioning your judgement.
The Tonight Show Lip-Sync Battle
Its good to see that despite the over-produced spin-off show hosted by LL Cool J, that the lip-sync battle can still be seen in the venue that suits it best: on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Its only in these game segments of the famous talk show that big stars like Cruise can have some good-natured fun. I don’t know why, but I am always surprised by the quality of Cruise’s humor and his willingness to participate in bits like these. And believe me when I say, this is the best lip-sync battle since the original Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Stephen Merchant battle. Cruise takes the stage and steals the show, proving that he actually is a compelling performer but with a bite of competitive edge.
The Graham Norton Show
If you want to see celebrities having fun together, there’s no better talk show than The Graham Norton Show. Hosted by Irishman Graham Norton, its a fittingly cheeky British talk show where the guests drink wine and can tell NSFW stories. Tom Cruise has been on the show more than once with various guests and he’s always a pleasant surprise. He’s just so TC. One of the best is how pleased he is to be on the show with Seth MacFarlane and how utterly captivated he is by MacFarlane’s voice talents. Cruise takes the opportunity to reveal he can do a pretty spot on impression of Donald Duck – unfortunately I find men who do Donald Duck impressions a little creepy, so it really doesn’t do him any favors.
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Steven Spielberg is making a movie about Austin Powers’ life featuring an all star cast. If you don’t remember this surprise intro to the least beloved Austin Powers film, it has Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny DeVito as Mini Me, Gwenyth Paltrow as Dixie Normous, and Tom Cruise as Austin Powers. While this is obviously a joke about Hollywood power casting, this probably isn’t far off from what the perfect Austin Powers cast would be if you were doing a straight spin-off. And who would you get to play the greatest spy in the world but the biggest movie star in the world? I wonder if that’s how the cameo was pitched to Cruise. Then again, this was at a time when Cruise’s likability was beginning to veer as he became deeper entrenched in Scientology. Either way, it was a fun little guest appearance.
This is my absolute favorite Tom Cruise role, as the balding, over-weight, foul-mouthed, Hollywood movie executive Les Grossman. You very rarely see Cruise in a role that obscures his natural good looks and recognizability. After all, you can market entire movies using only his face. You never don’t know you’re watching Tom Cruise. So it was interesting to see him hiding in plain sight – not only disguising him, but undermining his handsomeness – in a movie that didn’t advertise his involvement at all. I remember watching Tropic Thunder for the first time, knowing I recognized the actor underneath the prosthetics and make-up but unable to make the connection, and then finally having a startling moment of clarity. Half way through the movie I was finally able to see through the disguise and was dumbfounded to find I had been watching Cruise the whole time.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
I find the most recent interview with Stewart to be interesting on a lot of different levels. The interview itself is not that great – in fact it’s slightly off-putting in some ways – but highlights a couple different things that are rather striking. First, the fact that the first Mission Impossible came out nineteen years ago is honestly mind-blowing to realize. I was nine years old when this crazy franchise started, and not only is Rogue Nation apparently the best installment yet, but they’re already working on the next one. Second was the fact that Tom Cruise is older than Jon Stewart, which Stewart himself found unbelievable. Third was Stewart’s fixation on Cruise’s fitness regime, which is more usually a shallow interview topic that women find themselves fielding. Cruise seemed slightly perplexed by it, probably because as a man the questions he receives are more often about his career than his diet. I found Stewart’s questions a refreshing change of pace and Cruise’s reaction to them incredibly telling.
Anything Where Other Actors Talk About Him
There are so many different accounts of different actors working with Tom Cruise and all of them have something interesting to offer about the kind of man he is. From most accounts he’s an extraordinary man with limitless energy and optimism and a great deal of kindness. True, he went through a strange patch a while back where he seemed unreasonable and extra excitable and slightly delusional, which might account for my distrust of him since all this went on while I was at an impressionable age. He seems to have gotten past that though and its almost as fun listening to people tell stories about him as it is actually listening to him. Simon Pegg obviously has quite a few stories by now, having been in three Mission Impossible movies with Cruise. His recent interviews with Jimmy Fallon and Graham Norton are especially entertaining.