This morning, I read a fascinating article about how the internet killed Tom Cruise. “The first star to stumble in front of the knives was the biggest actor in the world—and the one who’d tried the hardest not to trip,” wrote Amy Nicholson for LA Weekly.
Tom Cruise had always been edgy around the press. When Risky Business turned him—a 21-year-old kid with three bit parts and one flop on his résumé—into an overnight sensation, he disappeared. “I’m not personally ready to do this,” he told the film’s publicity team. Instead of giving interviews and swanning around Hollywood with his best friends, Sean Penn and Emilio Estevez, Cruise ditched the flash bulbs and escaped to London, where he hid out for two years while filming Ridley Scott’s ill-fated Legend. (Sniffed one British director to The Hollywood Reporter, “Nobody would notice a boy with that little experience anywhere in Europe.”)
By the time Cruise flew back to America, he’d been half-forgotten—a breakout talent who’d been shortlisted as one of 1983’s “Hottest Faces” by the Los Angeles Times, only to vanish. Meanwhile, his buddies had been christened “the Brat Pack,” and Penn was marrying Madonna, exactly the kind of splashy spectacle Cruise wanted to avoid.
To promote Top Gun, Cruise finally agreed to his first round of major interviews in 1986. He wanted to make one thing clear. “I want no part of that or this Brat Pack,” he insisted to Playboy. “Putting me in there is absolutely absurd, and it pisses me off because I work hard and then some guy just slaps me together with everybody else.”
Just 25, Cruise could already sense that quick fame was a curse: for every Robert Downey Jr. who transcended the ’80s, there’d be a Judd Nelson, frozen in time.
He didn’t want to be a trend—he wanted to be a legend. That meant controlling his public image: no drunken nights, no false moves. The attention had to be on his work. After Top Gun became the No. 1 box office hit of 1986, Paramount offered to quintuple his salary if he’d rush into Top Gun 2. He said no.
I thought I’d start a new series called “What We’re Reading” that features interesting articles—on all kinds of topics—that we find during the week. I know most of you are big readers. Hope you like it!