It’s unlikely that he would approve of the word but there’s something indisputably comforting about a new Tom Cruise movie. Exciting, check. Thrilling, certainly. Out and out entertaining, most likely. But also – whisper it – reassuring.
For nearly 35 years Tom Cruise has been at the very top of the Hollywood totem pole. For anyone under 40, he has never been far away from the multiplex, a reliable lodestar in a world of fallen Hollywood titans and relentlessly shifting industry tastes.
Put it like this: in 1986, the year Cruise’s megawatt grin first lit up the planet, the young tyro’s major competitors for box-office dollars were Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Douglas. See them heading up any major franchises recently? Cruise has not one but two box office behemoths ready to roll: Mission: Impossible – Fallout, for which, as the internet informs us, he leapt out of a plane at 30,000 feet, and Top Gun: Maverick, a glorious, and gutsy return to the flyboy fantasy that made his name over three decades ago.
Tom Cruise, then, does many things – but most of all, he endures.
He was meant to be a Jesuit priest, but ended up a global brand. Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV in Syracuse, New York in 1962, his early years were, he says, moderately miserable, the chief cause being Thomas Cruise Mapother III, his abusive father (“a bully and a coward” Cruise said later) and the family’s poverty. The Mapothers moved almost constantly, there were 15 schools in as many years, and when acting arrived in his life Cruise was studying for the priesthood. The church, it seems, offered one way of escape, but Hollywood, possibly a slightly more attractive one.