Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


Tom Cruise is a great character actor. The nearer he comes to playing a conventional leading man the duller he is. I loved him in Magnolia, hated him in Minority Report.

For an actor to be a great leading man there has to be someone at home. What we want of a leading man is presence without quirkiness. They are there for us to identify with and project ourselves into. They are our ideal selves (or love objects) and too much eccentricity would repel us and destroy the chemistry. They have to be everyman, but they also have to be someone. Mitchum, Wayne, Eastwood, these are not great actors- they play the same persons in role after role- but these persons they always play are interesting. They have integrity, substance; there is something going on behind the eyes. They get away with doing very little because just by being themselves they light up (or darken) their corner of the screen. But when Cruise does very little you sense that there's only the thinnest of shells separating you from an inner void- and I don't mean void as in sexy and dark but as in null, empty, eternally boring.

Cruise as Cruise- doing interviews, working the crowds at a premiere- is all big teeth and boyish hair. He does a good job, but you learn nothing, probably because there's nothing to learn. There's a projected wholesomeness, a boy scoutishness, that you know is fake because of the way he treated Nicole. And then, of course, he's a Scientologist. No-one who had anything about them could possibly be a Scientologist.

The best Cruise performances are busy, busy, busy. Think Interview With The Vampire. The business disguises the void. The performer he reminds me of most is Peter Sellers. Sellers too was a nowhere man, only truly there when he'd built himself a persona with false hair and a funny voice.

But Cruise is pretty, and this seduces film-makers (including himself) into casting him as the man who saves the world. I don't want to see him in those roles. I don't want to admire his abs and his pecs. And most of all I don't want him to be himself.
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