Tom Cruise is has been running faster than an action hero all over the media for the last few weeks, leaping from interview to interview, scaffolding press ops right and left. He's promoting Knight and Day -- but more than that, he's promoting the New Cruise, the one he wants us to like again. He wants to assure us that those awkward gossip-rag, bizarre-antics years are behind us.
Like loud music blaring from a neighboring theater, Tom has shoved a whirlwind of controversy at us along with his phenomenal success. As a Scientology evangelist, he's pissed off everyone from advocates for mental health to European leaders to 9/11 firefighters. His cocky star (and wacky zealot) behavior has made for immense tabloid drama -- including several lawsuits, ranging from actions against publishers and amateur photographers asserting that they have evidence to he is gay to wrangling URL control from the dude who owned TomCruise.com.
He's been telling us this year that the fun-loving, regular-guy-you-want-to-love Tom is back.
On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno this week, Cruise appeared wearing an untucked Oxford shirt, just begging us to remember him in Risky Business, back when it didn't scare us if he jumped on couches -- or, at least, slid in front of them in his tighty-whities.
Is it safe to love Tom again? The last few years have been like a wild ride on the back of his red Ducati, so let's take a look at where he's been before we decide.Tom's Timeline
July 2, 1962: It's a boy! He's given a big name, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV -- maybe his mama figured he'd grow into it. Crappy dad, parents divorce, eight elementary schools, three high schools. That makes me feel tender toward Tommy. He even tries attending a seminary to become a Catholic priest!Iconic 80s Tom
Scoring a role in Endless Love establishes Cruise as a fresh face to Hollywood. Risky Business sends people running for Ray-Bans, and Top Gun launches Tom to the stratosphere. The Color of Money in '86 makes Tom the mayor of Sexy, and Born on the Fourth of July puts the world on notice that Tom can define a complex character. At the end of the decade, Tom starts to get a bit more complex himself. In '87, he marries Mimi Rogers, who turns him on to the wonders of Scientology.Tom Owns the 90s
The man is still incredibly pretty, landing on People's 50 Most Beautiful lists more than once. At 32, he divorces Mimi Rogers and marries Nicole Kidman, with whom he adopts a daughter and a son. He becomes known for selecting and delivering fantastically successful films -- including A Few Good Men, The Firm, Interview With the Vampire -- and for being a fierce negotiator. Tom and his agent Paula Wagner start to produce, beginning with a little hobby called Mission: Impossible in '95, and following up with Jerry Maguire in '96. It's hard to imagine he found time to sue tabloids or stump for Scientology, but he certainly did, and then as the decade drew to a close, Eyes Wide Shut was a big red flag that interesting times were ahead.Whacked-Out 2000s
Are Tom's 40s his midlife crisis, or is this decade the real Tom emerges? Already on the decline, public opinion of Tom tanks when he and Nicole separate. Soon after the separation, she miscarries their child, and soon after that news breaks that Cruise is linked with Vanilla Sky co-star Penelope Cruz.
The Cruz-Cruise years are crazy: crazy successful (Minority Report, The Last Samurai), but also drama crazy. Tom accepts the Scientology Freedom Medal of Valor with a manic speech. In 2005 he manages to publicly trash Brooke Shields, argue with Matt Lauer, jump on Oprah's couch, and propose to Katie Holmes at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Should be exhausted, right? Nope! In '06 Forbes ranks him the World's Most Powerful Celebrity, Paramount dumps him because of all the controversy, he and Wagner take over United Artists studio, daughter Suri is born, and he makes TomKat official by marrying Katie. No wonder his last few films have been a bit of a wild hand:
Lions for Lambs -- one of his few major flops; Tropic Thunder, Valkyrie Sure, he can still pull off action-adventure, but people start to wonder if audiences will trust Cruise enough to take one of his characters into their hearts again.2010, He's Calm Again. It's Like Knight and Day.
Here we are. Tom says it's all good in the hood and he's not giving up on thinking we could like him, we could really like him again He stole the show at the MTV Awards, and J-Lo slapped his ass. Maybe the easygoing, friendly Tom is back? After Knight and Day, we can look for MI-IV next year, and that's always fun, but what about meatier roles? And is the drama really going to take a backseat? He'll turn 50 in the mythic year of 2012. Coincidence?
He's still incredibly pretty, and when he grins, admit it, he has you for a minute. But is he going to make it past this bend in the road Do you trust him Does his personal life matter to you Is the craziness in a weird way part of his appeal? Or did he ruin it all for you?
Contributing Editor Deb Rox blogs like a butterfly at Deb on the Rocks and stings like a Tweet. She probably still has those Ray-Bans in a drawer somewhere.
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