“No-one asked Gene Kelly, ‘Why do you dance?’”: A rendez-vous with Tom Cruise at Cannes
The day of the Top Gun: Maverick premiere in Cannes, the Upcoming’s onsite reporters have a rendezvous with Tom Cruise – together with about 1000 other select accredited attendees in the jam-packed Théâtre Claude Debussy.
In his introduction, festival director Thierry Frémaux explains that this event was a deliberate choice to include more people than a press conference open only to journalists would do. What follows is a montage played on the cinema’s screen, a “best-of” supercut of Tom Cruise’s film highlights. For most actors, this would amount to a five-minute clip, but with this legend, the video is twice, if not thrice that length.
“Watching your life in ten minutes is trippy,” the actor comments, after coming on stage to standing ovations. He shares that he can still remember shooting every take of what we just saw.
The conversation starts to flow with Mr Cruise professing what got him into film in the first place: unsurprisingly he loved going to the movies. He would take on a wide range of jobs as a teenager (cutting grass, shovelling snow, selling greeting cards door-to-door) so he could spend the money he earned on watching films in the cinema. He liked to stay through the end credits and remembered every name he read, which proved helpful when he finally booked his first acting job. What excited him most about working on Taps was that it allowed him the opportunity to ask both his fellow actors and crew members all kinds of questions about their work. Cruise states that his reasoning at the time was that should this have been a one-off – he wanted to make the most of his experience on set. Obviously his career didn’t stop there, but his curiosity remained.
His goal was to understand every department, every job on a film, so he could try to find ways to help them in his capacity as an actor.
This theme re-emerges at a later stage in the talk, when he is asked about his action stunts. If he is the one doing everything himself, there is a greater number of options for camera placement. The moderator praises his preparation and hard work, then adds, “You’re still risking your life, Monsieur.” The audience laughs. Tom Cruise’s reply gets even louder cheers: “No-one asked Gene Kelly, ‘Why do you dance? Why do you do your own dancing?’“.
As he recounts a childhood anecdote about jumping off the roof of his house with a makeshift parachute made of bedsheets and rope, it becomes apparent that this thirst for adventure and risk-taking is not just mere dedication to his craft as an actor.
What he likes about promoting films and meeting fans is seeing which DVDs they ask him to sign: he is interested to know which of his movies speak to which audiences. He also doesn’t like it if people refer to his work as “his” films – he wants viewers to call it “our” film because their interpretation of what they see is a huge contributing factor. The moderator takes him at his word and presents some very specific questions about what he inferred from Cruise’s physical presence in Magnolia, and his body language in a particular scene in Eyes Wide Shut. They are not typical questions for public discourse such as this but it is a charming demonstration of professionals being fans as well. Equally, Cruise explains that he makes films for an audience because he, too, is an audience. As a tip for other actors who may be hesitant to watch themselves on-screen, he relays what he himself was told early on, to “look at the film like you’re the audience”.
As the conversation circles back to Top Gun: Maverick, the reason for the French festival inviting Cruise back after 30 years, he is asked whether he ever felt pressure to release the film onto an online platform, rather than bring it to movie theatres. The New Yorker shakes his head; nobody seemed to have dared even suggest this. It is the last film to be released after its original publication date was pushed back due to the pandemic. Cruise says every type of format requires its own set of skills, with an obvious respect for his colleagues working in television. But he works solely for the cinema.
Photo: Joachim Tournebize/FDC
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.