| Tom Cruise: In control
Los Angeles, Aug. 6: Tom Cruise has played a fighter pilot, a spy, a sports agent, a disabled Vietnam vet, and even a samurai. And with each incarnation, fans have stuck with the boyish star whose films have earned a combined $2.2 billion at the domestic box office.
Even as the bloodthirsty Lestat in Interview With A Vampire and as a tortured playboy who may have killed his girlfriend in Vanilla Sky, Cruise wasn’t really perceived as a villain.
In Collateral, Cruise’s gray-haired character is unquestionably a bad guy: a contract killer who forces a cab driver played by Jamie Foxx to drive him around Los Angeles as he knocks off witnesses set to testify in a drug-trafficking trial.
The taut thriller from DreamWorks Pictures will put to the test Cruise’s streak of $100 million-grossing domestic hits and number one opening weekends. The run dates back four years and comprises The Last Samurai, Minority Report, Vanilla Sky and Mission Impossible 2.
“Usually when these actors go against type like Mel Gibson did in Payback and Denzel Washington in Training Day, the results can be stunning,” said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. “But whether or not they are very big at the box office, that remains to be seen.”
DreamWorks marketing head Terry Press acknowledged that playing an assassin is a departure for the 42-year-old Cruise.
“He looks different in the movie but the character he is playing, even though he’s a killer, is every bit as charming as other characters Tom Cruise has played. The (character) is funny and charming and women find him very sexy. He just happens to have not a very heroic occupation.”
Cruise, nominated for three Academy Awards (Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia), said maintaining his movie-star image was not a consideration when taking on the part.
“When I’m creating a role, I’m not thinking of, ‘How are people going to accept me'’ It’s, what is going to work for this character, and committing totally to those choices,” Cruise said while promoting the movie this week. “When you’re working on something, you just hope it works.”
Still, to ensure big opening weekend grosses, the usual Cruise publicity machine has kicked into high gear.
This week alone, the actor has appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, and on the syndicated programmes Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and Extra.
“Tom Cruise is at a point in his career where he can pick and choose his projects and work with whoever he wants, and he does,” Dergarabedian said. “The reason I believe he’s still so successful is because of his hands-on approach to every aspect of his career. This guy leaves nothing to chance.”