Tom Cruise has been a movie star since the early 1980s. Over the decades, there have been stories, some of them on the stranger side, about everything from his personal life to the zeal with which he prepares for his roles. He is known to perform many of the extreme stunts in his films, which often place him in physical danger and occasionally have resulted in injury. And while we may not know him personally, his long wild ride in Hollywood almost makes us feel like we do.
The intense, take-charge, risk-taking, heroic personality that Cruise often displays on screen may not be that far removed from his off-screen self. From his own accounts, he was apparently the same as a child, and according to the stories of others, he has stepped in several times to assist a co-star, friend, or a stranger when they needed help.
Although his behavior may sometimes be a bit perplexing, both on screen and off Cruise has succeeded in holding people's attention for nearly 40 years. Whether or not you're a fan, these stories prove that this maverick has made his mark as a one-of-a-kind movie star of the zeitgeist.
- Photo: Mission: Impossible IV - Ghost Protocol / Paramount Pictures1433 VOTES
When He Insisted There Could Be No Digital Tom Cruise
Joseph Kahn is an award-winning director. In June 2022 he took to Twitter with a story he had heard about Cruise's stubbornness when it came to performing his own stunts, no matter how risky.
On Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol they did an animatic of the Burj Khalifa sequence, explaining how there was going to be a digital Tom to do the stunts. Tom then angrily said "THERE IS NO DIGITAL TOM! JUST TOM!" So they shot it for real.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world; Cruise trained with climber Aaron Tague in preparation for the stunt, which required him to climb on the outside of the 2,717-feet-tall building for a distance of about 60 feet. As Tague told Outside in 2011:
[Cruise] was very willing to learn. He wanted to get into the psyche of climbing, so we watched a lot of old videos… Paramount Studios built a training facility in the back lot. We met there once a day for a month, for one to three hours… Most of the climbing in Ghost Protocol is him. He had lines on him, but he was actually hanging out and climbing 2,000 feet above the ground.
- Photo: Top Gun: Maverick / Paramount Pictures
Miles Teller co-starred with Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. During filming, Teller experienced an outbreak of hives, from a phenomenon that is actually common with pilots. As Teller explained during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Myers:
We landed and I’m just like “Man, I’m not feeling too good,” and I was really hot and I just started itching like crazy. So I get out of the jet and I’m just covered in hives, head to toe… I go to a doctor, I do a blood analysis… My bloodwork comes back and I have flame retardant pesticides and jet fuel in my blood…
While Teller was alarmed at first, he decided it was actually “kind of cool" and went to brag about his hardcore diagnosis to Cruise:
I go to set the next day and Tom‘s like, “How did it go Miles? What did they find?” I was like, “Well, Tom, it turns out I have jet fuel in my blood.” And without even skipping a beat Tom goes, “Yeah, I was born with it, kid.” So that was a very Tom moment for me.
- Photo: Warner Bros.3404 VOTES
When He Was One Of The Only People Working On ‘Interview with the Vampire’ To Actually Read Anne Rice’s Book
Over the years, Cruise has developed a reputation for extreme dedication to his roles, whether that means enduring grueling physical tasks or doing a deep dive into a film's source material. When Cruise was cast as the vampire Lestat in the film adaptation of Anne Rice's gothic horror novel, Interview with the Vampire, it meant both.
During the taxing shoot, which co-star Brad Pitt described as “six months [in London] in the f*cking dark,” Cruise and Pitt had to hang upside down in thirty minute increments to achieve a pale vampiric visage.
Cruise also prepared for the role by reading not only the original novel, but all of its sequels (known collectively as The Vampire Chronicles). Some of his collaborators were not as thorough in their preparation. The film's director, Neil Jordan, was too lazy to read all of the books, while Pitt didn't make it past the first chapter because he found it a waste of time.
Despite his due diligence, fans of the book, led by Rice herself, publicly decried the casting of Cruise as Lestat. At the time, Cruise admitted,
It really hurt my feelings, to be candid about it… You don’t usually start a movie with someone not wanting you to do it. That’s unusual.
However, after Rice first caught a glimpse of Cruise playing Lestat, she quickly did a 180, even taking out ads in Hollywood trade magazines to admit her error in judgment. Doing his homework allowed Cruise deeper insight into his character:
I used the book as a reference for me… You have to read [it]... very carefully to find the clues to who Lestat is… his loneliness and his personal struggle.
- Photo: Mission: Impossible IV - Ghost Protocol / Paramount Pictures
Audiences know all about Tom Cruise, movie action hero. But what about Tom Cruise, real-life action hero? It turns out that the megastar is as cool in a crisis in real life as he is on screen.
In March 1996, Cruise saw a pedestrian named Heloísa Vinhas get struck by a car in a hit-and-run incident. The actor immediately sprang into action, asking another pedestrian to call an ambulance. He then followed the ambulance to the UCLA Medical Center, where Vinhas was treated for a broken leg and bruised ribs. When Cruise learned she didn't have any insurance, he paid her entire $7,000 hospital bill. A grateful Vinhas told People magazine:
If he's not Superman, he can be Batman - Batman doesn't have super powers.
Later in 1996, Cruise and his then-wife Nicole Kidman were sailing off the island of Capri when they realized that a nearby boat had caught fire. Cruise sent his yacht's skiff over to rescue the five people on board just before their boat sank.
And in 2012, when a crew member suffered a presumed spinal injury on the set of the Cruise-starrer Oblivion, the actor quickly arranged for his private pilot to fly the crew member to a spine clinic. He later visited the crew member in the hospital. As an anonymous source told The Daily Mirror:
Tom stayed cool and swept straight into action. He didn’t take a back seat at all and made sure his Gulfstream V jet was ready to go in case it was needed. It was quick thinking. [The crew member] could have suffered permanent spinal injury, so it might have been vital he was flown to hospital.