Tom Cruise Moving Away From Action Movies Could Be Great News

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The last American movie star. The savior of cinema. Maverick. There are plenty of superlatives thrown around Tom Cruise these days—including by us—and for good reason. In an era where audiences increasingly only venture to the theater for familiar intellectual property (if at all), Tom Cruise remains one of the last old school marquee names people turn out for in order to watch the actor.

And more often than not, they’re justified in that trust, because Cruise has spent his middle-age proving that like his most popular alter-ego—Navy pilot Pete Mitchell—he has no intention of turning in his wings. It’s a common observation to even note that the Mission: Impossible movies Cruise made in his 50s were better than the ones he made in his 30s, and his dedication to in-camera stunts in those films, as well as Top Gun: Maverick, have increasingly resembled the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Harold Lloyd: silent film stars who risked life and limb for your paying entertainment.

Still, even the man who would be Ethan Hunt is mortal, and the signs have been in place for a while that Cruise is looking to pivot his career again. While it remains unconfirmed, rumors have long suggested that next year’s upcoming (and now untitled) eighth Mission: Impossible film will be the last installment. Cruise will also be barely a month away from his 63rd birthday when it is released. More noticeably, after treating the Paramount Pictures lot as his unofficial home for nearly 40 years, the actor/producer just moved shop to Warner Bros. Pictures, marking an obvious feather in the caps of Warner Bros. Picture Group chiefs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy.

The news may not coincidentally come as reports continue to swirl that Paramount Global is looking for a buyer—there have even been talks of possibly merging with Warner Bros. Discovery. Whatever the case might be, the tea leaves suggest Cruise is at a turning point, which a new story in Variety emphasized again Wednesday when it was reported Cruise is looking to pivot back to working with prestige auteurs “like Paul Thomas Anderson.”

It’s worth noting the last time Cruise received an Oscar nomination was in Anderson’s Magnolia, which was released more than 20 years ago in 1999. Furthermore, according to the trade, De Luca and Abdy are attempting to set Cruise up with Quentin Tarantino, whose alleged last film, The Movie Critic, is still shopping for a studio. Whether WB can lure Tarantino away from Sony Pictures, which released Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, or if there is even a role in The Movie Critic for Cruise remains to be determined (the film’s titular critic is already confirmed to be played by Paul Walter Hauser). However, it is curious when one remembers Tarantino considered Cruise for the role of Cliff Booth in the aforementioned Hollywood before getting his first choice in Brad Pitt.

Be that as it may, Cruise moving away from action franchises like Mission: Impossible and Top Gun could be a good thing. For as great as Cruise is in those roles—and he’s tremendous—time waits for no man, and beyond inching ever closer to collecting an AARP card, Cruise also happens to be a pretty strong actor in the right role. And he hasn’t been able to explore that side of his talent for a while now.

This, in retrospect, is ironic since so much of Cruise’s rise to global movie stardom in the 1980s and ‘90s was predicated on the canny choices he made while shifting between surething moneymakers and auteur-driven projects where he’d often lend his popularity and marquee good looks to artists he admired. His first Oscar nomination came when he played a Vietnam veteran in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July three years after doing Top Gun. At the time, he also swore he had no interest in making a sequel to the latter film.

Around the same time, Cruise alternated between Top Gun clones like Days of Thunder and, strangely enough, Cocktail, with opportunities to work with heroes like Paul Newman and Martin Scorsese in The Color of Money, or a little later opposite Jack Nicholson in Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men. In the ‘90s and early 2000s he also worked with Sydney Pollack (The Firm), Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire), Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky), Steven Spielberg (Minority Report), Michael Mann (Collateral), and perhaps most infamously, Stanley Kubrick on the revered director’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut.

Many of these films subverted Cruise’s charisma and good looks, turning them into tools or weapons used by narcissistic self-help gurus, hitmen, and even a literal vampire. However, after Cruise almost lost the Mission: Impossible franchise in 2006 due to the underperformance of M:I-III (as well as the actor’s off-screen antics and disastrous interviews during the War of the Worlds publicity tour), Cruise took a hard pivot. He became more guarded in his press, and more focused on not only keeping the action roles studio moguls like Sumner Redstone tried to take away from him, but also doing them better than anyone else—including himself 20 or even 30 years prior.

Love or hate the actor, it’s been an impressive second act. Still, it’s been a long time since the performer who committed years of his life to Kubrick has similarly appeared so vulnerable or challenged on the screen. In fact, the last time Cruise may have really sunk his teeth into a part is arguably the Les Grossman character in Ben Stiller’s dark comedy classic, Tropic Thunder. That was more than 15 years ago.

Cruise might just be the last movie star, but his talent is so much more than the stardom. It’s time he reminds folks of that.

The post Tom Cruise Moving Away From Action Movies Could Be Great News appeared first on Den of Geek.

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