The Cruiser brought Cannes to a standstill on Wednesday (March 18), where the French premiere of Top Gun: Maverick was preceded by an hour-long “hommage” to its seemingly unstoppable star. In truth, some of the shine had been taken off this festival coup by Paramount’s decision to hold the film’s world premiere in San Diego at the start of the month. Yet the crowds came out en force regardless, making it a Risky Business for those who had booked seats to ensure entry and a Mission: Impossible for those who’d turned up hoping there’d be spares going begging.
A lengthy recap of Tom’s four decades on screen took up much of the early going – so much so that the star would later admit it had felt like watching “his life in 10 minutes”. Small wonder, then, that the soon-to-be-60-year-old was in reflective mood when he sat down to bat back his French interviewer’s softball questions, reflecting on working with screen legend George C. Scott in his early film Taps or setting up a meeting with director Sydney Pollack at the tender age of 19.
As a kid, he explained, he’d wanted “adventure in his life”, saving money he made doing odd jobs on precious visits to the pictures. “I wanted a life where I could travel the world and work in different countries and be part of the cultures and the movies I saw,” he went on. “I was the kid who wrote goals on the wall of what I wanted my life to be, and I would work towards those goals.” If you were after some positive self-affirmation in Cannes that day, the Salon Debussy was definitely the place to be. Ahead of his latest film’s UK premiere on Thursday, though, Monsieur Cruise did have a few titbits to share…
Top Gun: Maverick would “never’ have gone to a streaming platform.
During the pandemic, the prospect of cinemas being closed for an indefinite period saw more than one of the major studios going down the VOD route. As far as Cruise was concerned, though, Top Gun 2 would always have been held back until the cinemas were back open for business. “That was not going to happen,” he declared. “That was NEVER going to happen. You go to the cinema and the people there are serving the popcorn that are making these theatres. And I was calling them saying, ‘I know what you’re going through. Just know, we are making Mission: Impossible  and Top Gun  will be coming out.’”
He goes to the cinema to watch new releases just like regular folks.
He may be a millionaire movie star with the finest teeth known to dentistry, but Tom is happy to stand in line at the multiplex like any other punter. “I always go to movies when they come out,” he insisted. “I’ll put my cap on and I’ll sit in the audience with everyone. I’ll come in and I’ll want to see the trailers. Cinema is my love and it’s my passion.”
He wasn’t ready to another Top Gun back in the 1980s…
When the original Top Gun came out in 1986, it was such a smash that the Paramount top brass were quickly calling for a follow-up. Tom himself, though, was not so sure. “The studio wanted to make a sequel immediately,” he explained. “But I didn’t want to do it. I was like, ‘I need to grow as an artist and I need to know what cinema is.”
…but he’s okay with sequels now thanks to the Mission: Impossibles.
Tom might have wanted to wait 35 years before returning to Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, but he’s certainly not been shy about reprising his Ethan Hunt character a whopping six times. “In doing sequels I’ve learned I can have a dialogue with the audience,” he explained. “I didn’t expect to have that, but there’s this dialogue and investment in the characters.”
He wonders why he gets asked so much about doing his own stunts.
Putting his life and limb on the line has always been part of the Tom Cruise brand. Yet the man himself wonders why it’s such a big deal. “No one asked Gene Kelly ‘why do you dance? Why do you do you own singing and dancing in a musical?’” he pondered. “But when I was doing the first Mission: Impossible I wanted to push the art form. I thought, how can I immerse an audience into a movie with this kind of action? I thought, if I do it myself, I can put a camera right THERE and immerse the audience in this world in a very unique way.”
Success is fun, but it’s OK to fail.
Not every film Tom has starred in has made a mint (Rock Of Ages, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean the experience of making it wasn’t worthwhile. “Even if you fail, on some degree, I’ve always tried to walk away with what I learned,” he said. “It’s always better to go forward and try than to be afraid and not do it.”
And like Pete Mitchell, he won’t be giving up anytime soon.
With the big six-zero heading his way in July, you wouldn’t fault Cruise if he felt like jacking it all in and putting his feet up. As far as he is concerned, though, “there’s always another story” waiting to be told. “I’m thinking of the future always – I’m always thinking, what’s next, what’s next,” he concluded. “I’m not sitting here saying I know everything, but I know certain things that have worked, and I know how we need to set the table to potentially create something that an audience will connect with.”
For more Cannes 2022 coverage read our review of zombie comedy remake Final Cut.