What Gets a Star Most? For Tom Cruise, It’s Control.

“In purchase to do my occupation,” Ben Stiller, as Tom Cruise’s stunt double Tom Crooze, muses in a video clip created for the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, “I have to inquire myself: Who is Tom Cruise? What is Tom Cruise? Why is Tom … Cruise?”

This is a tough line of questioning.

Onscreen, Cruise is unmistakably our biggest movie star, as the New York Occasions reporter Nicole Sperling recently stated — the very last legitimate exponent of a century-old studio procedure that has been steadily eroded by the rising forces of franchise filmmaking and streaming. His potent charisma and daredevil stunt get the job done have combined, still all over again, in his most up-to-date strike, “Top Gun: Maverick,” bringing it previous the $1 billion mark.

Offscreen, Cruise is elusive. He is the regular general public mouthpiece for a cryptic, controversial faith that looks more durable to understand the much more he talks about it. He is intensely secretive about the details of his private daily life. Even when he helps make the occasional effort and hard work to seem to be like an regular, relatable male, he winds up sounding like an A.I. approximation of just one. Requested by Moviebill journal to explain his most memorable filmgoing working experience, Cruise couldn’t identify a person. (“I enjoy flicks,” he mentioned, really commonly.) When asked which staff he was rooting for at a Giants-Dodgers game he attended very last slide, he replied, “I’m a supporter of baseball.”

It can be difficult to reconcile these disparate sides. So it is well worth looking at the problem: Who is Tom Cruise?

Significantly of his early success as an actor, via the ’80s and ’90s, was predicated on a certain down-to-earth allure. The sexed-up, troublemaking youthful Cruise of “Risky Business” the guileless, endearingly naïve Cruise of “Cocktail” and the tenacious, morally principled Cruise of “Jerry Maguire” every relied on his means to convincingly embody the American Everyman, the sympathetic heartthrob the audience could drive or root for. All over the flip of the century, he complicated that graphic by showing up in extra complicated, much less obtainable movies, like “Eyes Vast Shut” and “Magnolia.” Auteurs like Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson assisted showcase Cruise as a major actor, capable of offering refined, nuanced performances.

He has moved absent from romance, drama and the impartial art house. Over the previous decade-as well as, he has come to be a lot more firmly entrenched in the action-journey genre, perfecting the summertime tentpole blockbuster. His performances have a tendency to emphasize his straightforward charisma and potent athleticism, but Cruise however delivers to these roles a contact of the same fragile attraction and actorly nuance of his spectacular fare. You see it in the breezy, naturalistic chemistry he shares with Jennifer Connelly in “Maverick,” and in the jaded, planet-weary depth he has carried via the past few of “Mission: Impossible” sequels. My preferred current Cruise performance was from the underrated “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), in which he performs a cowardly, sniveling politician forced to relive the exact fatal struggle around and around again — a playful sci-fi consider on “Groundhog Day” that observed the actor enjoying from variety to pleasant influence.

But that’s just component of the story. A single of the defining features of the previous 10 years of his profession is a stage of high-quality management for which he himself is chiefly accountable. It is not that he is incapable of creating a negative film: “The Mummy” (2017), Universal’s unsuccessful attempt to kick off an overall “Dark Universe” of major-spending budget creature attributes, designed that distinct. But latest Cruise movies have in popular a degree of ambition and enthusiasm that is exceptional in today’s blockbuster landscape, and when almost everything works, that effort pays off enormously. You will not see Cruise phoning in a functionality. You get the sense that he treats each motion picture he does these times as if it had been the most important 1 he has ever accomplished.

The outcomes of this commitment have a way of emotion virtually miraculous. How could anybody have anticipated “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a 35-calendar year-outdated action motion picture with a somewhat interesting critical name, to be not only considerably excellent to the primary film, but also one particular of the best motion films in several yrs? But then you study about Cruise’s dogged insistence on holding everything as genuine as feasible — demanding a bare minimum of laptop-created results, forcing himself via arduous flight education, encouraging his co-stars to bear G-pressure speeds until eventually they practically threw up. Some of Cruise’s co-stars in excess of the many years have characterised his obsessiveness as intense to the position of what seems like cinematic despotism, and it’s true that it would possibly be less difficult, and less costly, to do a lot of this in entrance of a inexperienced display screen. But that is not Cruise. When it arrives to this things, he cares much too significantly.

“Mission: Impossible” was a slick espionage movie, directed by Brian De Palma, based mostly on a Tv set sequence from the 1960s. How is it possible that it yielded 5 sequels, and how is it conceivable that the sequels maintain receiving better, culminating in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” (2018), which is pretty a great deal an unqualified masterpiece? (The remaining two installments, “Dead Reckoning Element One” and “Dead Reckoning Element Two,” are owing in 2023 and 2024.) Again, the credit history must go generally to Cruise, who, for the sake of our enjoyment, will fortunately climb the world’s tallest setting up, maintain his breath for 6 and a half minutes, or bounce out of an plane with the cameraman.

But Cruise’s devotion to the videos operates further, if which is doable. It is a devotion to the Motion pictures with a money M. As A-checklist expertise flocks to deep-pocketed streamers with blockbuster ambitions, Cruise has remained adamant that he will not make a film for the likes of Netflix or Amazon Key Video clip, refusing to negotiate on the risk of a V.O.D. premiere for “Maverick” before in the pandemic. (“I make movies for the major screen,” he defined.) His fascination in preserving that regular cinematic practical experience shines by in the colossal scale of the productions on their own, so that when Cruise is looming above you in huge, Imax proportions, he feels just about every little bit as major as the impression. It is a reminder that so substantially of what we observe is personalized to the streaming era — a mass of “content” designed to participate in as well on a telephone as on the big display. For those of us who however care deeply about the cinema and dread for its future, Cruise’s initiatives experience invaluable.

It’s also a reminder of why we go to the theater to see Tom Cruise motion pictures — to see Tom Cruise himself. We can nonetheless be tempted to the cinema by the names on the marquee, but as franchises have come to be the dominant power in the business enterprise, the persuasive energy of people names has declined. The supremacy of tested, bankable intellectual property currently above the regular star technique has intended that we are a lot more probable to find out Spider-Person, Thor and Captain The usa than Tom Holland, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans the actor in the cape is a lot more interchangeable than ever. With Cruise videos, that marriage is inverted. Does everyone particularly treatment about the adventures of Ethan Hunt? (That’s the name of his character in “Mission: Impossible,” in scenario you forgot.) Hunt is just a further identify for the person we genuinely treatment about: Cruise, plain and straightforward.

Cruise has all of the traits you want in a motion picture star and none of the traits you expect of a human staying. As a display presence, he is singular as a particular person, he is inscrutable. But it’s his inscrutability that has permitted him to achieve a type of clarified, immaculate superstardom, a person that exists practically totally in the flicks, uncontaminated by mundane fears. Cruise the star burns as brilliant as any of his contemporaries, and significantly brighter than any who have arrive up given that, in section for the reason that he continues to toss more and much more of himself into his do the job and give up a lot less and less of himself in all places else. Who is he? You have to search to the flicks to locate out.