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Tom Cruise shows us how Hollywood could do it right

The Hill logo The Hill 3/9/2023 Christian Toto, opinion contributor
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Tom Cruise would be a perfect fit for Hollywood’s Golden Age.

The “Top Gun: Maverick” star isn’t as suave as Cary Grant, and he lacks Jimmy Stewart’s Everyman aura.

Still, Cruise’s “Let’s put on a show!” ethos, bereft of political posturing, hearkens back to a Tinsel Town era when the audience came first.

It’s a lesson his peers should heed as theaters recover from the double whammy of a global pandemic and the streaming revolution.

But will they?

Cruise did more than lure audiences back to the theater with “Maverick,” which earned an astonishing $718 million stateside, he uncorked an apolitical sequel that united the country, something that’s all but impossible in our tribal times.

Both critics and audiences gave the film a near perfect score at Rotten

He didn’t stop there.

Late last year, Cruise posted a personal thank you on social media to fans who made “Maverick” a roaring success. In grand Cruise style, the actor did so before jumping out of a helicopter on the set of his next “Mission: Impossible” film, “Dead Reckoning,” in South Africa.

“I didn’t want the year to end without thanking you all for coming out to the theaters and thank you for supporting ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ … and (as) always, thank you for allowing us to entertain you. It truly is the honor of a lifetime.”

Is it any wonder the stunt, and the sentiment, went viral?

That’s entertainment, and it’s an increasingly rare humility display in Hollywood circa 2023. When most stars speak, it’s often about societal injustice, climate change, systemic racism, abortion rights or related ills.

Cruise doesn’t publicly obsess over political headlines, nor does he address social issues in his media appearances as he did earlier in his career. Google “Tom Cruise and Matt Lauer,” and you’ll recall a spirited 2005 “Today Show” debate on antidepressants that seems like an entirely different Tom Cruise.

The closest he came to such a stance was when he handed back his three Golden Globe trophies after learning of the group’s lack of Black members. Cruise’s adopted son, Connor Cruise, is Black.

More recently, Cruise gave a passionate acceptance speech accepting the David O. Selznick Achievement Award at the 34th Annual Producers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The actor/producer praised his industry colleagues, cheered their continued success, and thanked the room for letting him live out his movie star dreams.

Humble. Positive. Encouraging. Apolitical. Again.

His final comments may have once seemed innocuous but given the tenor of the times they proved subversive to the core.

“You’ve all enabled me [to have] the adventurous life I wanted, and I’ve been able to travel the world and work and watch films in so many countries to share in their cultures and realize how much we all have in common [emphasis added] and to admire our differences.”

Compare that to Sally Field’s recent speech at the SAG Awards, where she all but apologized for her white skin and told us her celebrated career means little compared to what people of color in Hollywood experience.

“I was a little white girl with a pug-nose born in Pasadena, California … and when I look around this room tonight, I know my fight ― as hard as it was ― was lightweight compared to some of yours. I thank you and I applaud you.”

Spot the difference?

None of this erases Cruise’s off-screen persona. The actor’s embrace of Scientology and his colorful romantic past — complete with couch-jumping hysterics — are ripe for tabloid coverage. It’s how Cruise repositioned his brand in recent years that’s newsworthy.

And, as timing would have it, necessary given the challenges Hollywood faces today. It’s not lost on Cruise, or Hollywood observers, that many Oscar-bait films failed to draw a crowd last year. Even movies with names like “Blanchett,” “Spielberg” and “Chalamet” attached bombed.

The box office is still reeling from the lockdowns and cultural malaise.

In the last four years, theatrical attendance has declined by about 50 percent.

Blame COVID-19, video games, smartphone addiction or the streaming revolution. Don’t forget films that lecture audiences, stars who do the same and movies that fail to, as Cruise put it, show “how much we have in common.”

Cruise’s “Maverick” success and positive posturing mean his next film could continue his red-hot streak. The anticipation for “Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I,” bowing July 1, will be even greater thanks to Cruise’s charm offensive.

Now, if his Hollywood peers took a few notes from the “last movie star’s” populist playbook, reports of the theatrical model’s death may be greatly exaggerated.

Christian Toto is the editor of the conservative entertainment site “, the Right Take on Entertainment,” and host of The Hollywood in Toto Podcast. He is the author of the book “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul.”

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