In case you needed one, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is a pretty good reminder of why Tom Cruise is a huge movie star. The 53-year-old actor — who famously still does most of his own stunts, no matter how crazy they seem — is still as charismatic as ever, able to hold a movie together just by virtue of being a ridiculously handsome and charming human being.
This is kind of incredible, because most of the public knows that Tom Cruise isn’t just a movie star — he’s Hollywood’s crazy Scientologist uncle.
The act of separating art from the artist is a fickle one, dependant on countless variables that are nigh-impossible to quantify. All sorts of questions come into consideration: How much do we like the artist’s work? How much do we like the artist? Did they do a bad thing? How bad? Are they still making good work? How good?
And so on.
For nearly thirty years, Tom Cruise was box-office gold, one of the safest bets in Hollywood. Then, in the mid-2000s, things started to fall apart. Cruise’s status as a prominent Scientologist and his wacky demeanour following his engagement to actress Katie Holmes dominated the entire conversation about him. He was lambasted by South Park, jumped on Oprah’s couch, and generally had his personal life turned into the tabloid version of the Olympics.
Here’s the famous moment with Oprah:
And here’s “South Park’s” take:
As ScreenCrush writer Mike Sampson notes, at one point, Paramount really wanted to fire Cruise from the “Mission: Impossible” franchise — the very film series that Cruise aggressively championed from the start. Sampson brings up a quote from Viacom executive Sumner Redstone, publicly scolding Cruise in The Wall Street Journal for committing “creative suicide” and costing the studio revenue they felt his antics had impacted. Sumner wanted Cruise gone.
“If Tom Cruise was in major need of a career rehabilitation, getting fired might have been an unexpected step in the right direction,” writes Sampson. “Tom Cruise, maybe the biggest movie star in the world, was suddenly an underdog.”
This kicked off a bit of a slump for Cruise, where the big-name actor was forced to take lower-profile projects like “Knight and Day” and “Valkyrie”, but also gave us the miracle that was Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder”.
Perhaps humbled, Cruise began to rehabilitate his image and career, emerging triumphant once more with the massive success of 2011’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” — a movie with a contingency plan for Cruise in Jeremy Renner, should the studio deem that Cruise was still a liability.
Following “Ghost Protocol”, Cruise kept a low profile, remaining awfully quiet in the early 2010’s buzzy social media climate. No more evangelizing for Scientology, no more strange and unpredictable behaviour.
The biggest challenge for Cruise, as The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert writes, came with the spring release of Alex Gibney’s Scientology exposé/documentary “Going Clear”, based on the book of the same name. But even in spite of the serious allegations that the film levies at Cruise — who, for all intents and purposes, has ignored the film — the actor seems just fine.
Reviews for “Rogue Nation” seem positive. Cruise is lip-synching with Jimmy Fallon and charming people all over again. No one mentions Scientology. The Tom Cruise who saves the world every summer and the Tom Cruise who isn’t in front of a camera are once again two different people.
In 2015, that’s no small feat.
NOW WATCH: This ‘Mission Impossible’ behind-the-scenes footage of a 53-year-old Tom Cruise hanging off a plane is terrifying
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