Idol Chatter

tomcruisepic.jpgI was probably going to see “Valkyrie” even before Tom Cruise’s astonishing mea culpa-esque appearance yesterday on the “Today Show.” The cast is a veritable banquet of my favorite British actors–Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, the brilliant Eddie Izzard–and I’m a fan of director Bryan Singer’s work, such as “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men”.
Yet, I felt conflicted about paying to see a Tom Cruise film after all the craziness–the Oprah couch jumping, the tense “Today Show” appearance, the intense proselytizing of Scientology–of the past few years. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all that.
Three years after declaring Lauer “glib” in a discussion about the history of psychiatry, Cruise–a devout Scientologist who, like all practitioners is against the use of psycho-pharmaceuticals–admitted that he “came across as arrogant” and “absolutely could have handled that better.” Sure, Cruise is an actor, but he seemed genuinely contrite and at a loss for words. (If he wasn’t, this man really deserves an Oscar.)

And he looked exhausted, in contrast to his last appearance. Chasing a toddler around can do that to you, but this was clearly a man who was bearing the weight of a three year PR nightmare.
In fact, Cruise has decided to tone down his talk of Scientology while promoting movies.
“I’ve been a Scientologist for 25 years. I think there’s a time and place for it,” he told Lauer. “[But] when people are tuning in to hear about my movie, that’s what I’m here to talk about … I’m here to entertain people. That’s who I am and what I want to do. Certain issues and things have a time and a place in the proper environment.”
Bravo, Tom, bravo!
I’ll listen to Mel Gibson go on about his particular brand of Catholicism while he’s promoting “The Passion of the Christ” or even “Signs,” but I don’t want to hear about it when he’s promoting, say, “Lethal Weapon 8.”
It seems to me that the actor struck the nail on the head: It’s not just that Cruise’s behavior was aberrant, it was arrogant. America doesn’t like an arrogant Tom Cruise. Self-assured and confident? Yes. Arrogant? No.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, before, but I think that Tom Cruise, like Julia Roberts, was America’s cinematic sweetheart, the embodiment of the All-American good guy, and he crossed the cockiness and kookiness line. For better or worse, audiences don’t want to see too much of the real, insecure, crazy, or unpleasant person behind the movie posters.
The great news for Cruise is that audiences also love redemption stories; just look at the smash success of Britney Spears’ new album.
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