Reading: How the Internet Destroyed Tom Cruise

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.

And then came Scientology, the Oprah sofa incident…The article is really compelling, and here’s a rebuttal, as well…Are you a big Tom Cruise fan? Had you been?

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!

P.S. Tom Cruise as a little kid, and his awesome sunglasses.

  1. I love him and love all of his movies. He has a very respectable body of work. I could care less about his personal life.

  2. I love the idea of a “What We’re Reading” series,. So love your blog! Just caught up on some amazing posts!

  3. That’s true!
    I feel bad for him and the way he is portrayed. The interview with Matt Lauer didn’t help though.
    I like the idea of this new series.

  4. Sorry to buck the crowd, but that’s nothing new. I happen to like him. He seems like a smart, funny, kind person and a great actor. There is a hilarious clip on Youtube of an appearance on David Letterman where he talks about piloting his own plane. He is talented, good looking and rich and apparently doesn’t give a hoot what people think of him. It’s probably a good thing that he is a Scientologist and jumps on sofas, because it might be pretty hard to find something to criticize otherwise.

  5. a great read, thanks for sharing!

  6. The LA Weekly article was more about how people consume entertainment news then it was about Tom Cruise specifically. He was simply used as an example of that change. I remember noticing at the time, around 2005, that I was able to see more and more personal photos of celebrities. My favorite example is a photo of Chloe Sevigny taking out her trash. Imagine having to worry about someone taking your photo while you’re taking out the garbage and then see it posted all over the internet. Awful! This was a big, sweeping change in celebrity news which has probably made all of us consumers feel closer to these people. It may have made us feel like we know them better giving us apparent license to have more vocal opinions about them.

  7. it seems true – a lot of people brush him off based on these incidents. they’re a part of his private life and what we see in the media and magazines are really just a glimpse. but as an actor, I think he’s one of those who works very hard in every single film.

  8. Very interesting article! I love the idea of a What We’re Reading series. Please continue it!

  9. I’ve never liked him because I’ve always felt he was too creepy and intense, well before the whole Scientology thing. If he’s in a movie, I generally don’t watch it because I can’t bring myself to pay to be creeped out for a couple of hours.

  10. I cannot get enough of the Scientology scam and can’t believe the wield the power they seem to! I shed no tears for Tom Cruise. I TOTALLY agree with the “rebuttal”. Actually, I think rebuttal is a pretty misleading label.

  11. I have a hard time with Tom Cruise. I don’t think he’s crazy or weird. I just think that his beliefs and my beliefs are vastly different. Where Scientology is concerned he seems to believe that if you don’t believe in Scientology than you are less than and less deserving and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.

    Love these kinda posts, get’s people thinking and talking!

  12. Tom Cruise as an actor = fine. I totally agree with the rebuttal though and wonder how any sane person would behave the way he does. Interesting point that Amelia Beamish made about American Psycho being modeled after Cruise.

  13. I think I fell in love with Cruise when I was 8 or 9 and first watched Top Gun.
    After that, I pretty much watched every movie he was in – and deeply appreciated many of them. I don’t think he has a broad range as an actor, but all his work is extremely polished.

    I really don’t care about his religion, or his personal life. I’ve been working in advertising for way too long not to know how everything can be misinterpreted and taken out of context.

    (I really enjoyed the article. Interesting insight on the real lawless realm that is the internet)

  14. I love him and love all of his movies. He has a very respectable body of work. I could care less about his personal life. Looking forward to Edge of Tomorrow.

  15. Love him, always have.

  16. He’s a talented actor but I can’t take him seriously as a person because of how he pals around with David Miscavige, the head of Scientology. No offense to any Scientologists reading this, but David Miscavige and the Sea Org havebn been tied to some very serious abuse, especially of children, and have not answered for it. — Yuck.

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  18. I liked the article for the most part and thought it served as a refreshing counter-point to all the negative media on him, which has never really made sense to me. I always thought the couch thing was blown wayyy out of proportion (does anyone else remember Drew Barrymore standing on David Letterman’s desk and flashing him?).

    I have close ties to Scientology (my mom has been a member since the mid-90’s) and it is always hard to see the “Scientology is wacky” type comments. It’s not that I don’t get people finding it strange, I mean most religions seem strange in a way to an outsider, but what stings is the lack of sensitivity and tolerance. I wonder if the people that make those comments think that Scientologists (or friends/family of) aren’t going to see them? Well, they do, and it can be pretty hurtful.

  19. Love the idea for this series – I agree with some of the previous posters – his suggestion that ppd was something that could be an easy fix was the tipping point for me.

  20. I had just had my first child and was suffering severe ppd when TC gave his “advice” to Brooke Sheilds regarding her PPD. Post partum depression was truly the worst experience of my life; and I would not wish it upon my worst enemy (if I had any.) I have not since, nor will I ever again, watch another Tom Cruise movie. His ego isn’t worth forgiving.

  21. I am still a fan of Tom Cruise. Maybe it’s that I don’t really follow media/tabloids. It wasn’t until I started reading Jezebel that I became aware that Tom Cruise was supposed to be weird.

    I say a lot of things that sound SO FUNNY in my head. Only to realize that at best they fell flat, at worst they make people cringe.

    It’s hard begin in the business of making everyone think you’re flawless. Then people complain (again, Jezebel) that so and so is so boring and obviously overly crafted. That they are not real. That their sound bites are overly prepared.

    So what if you’re kinda weird? No one really cares because you’re not famous. Unless you’re famous then it’s the end of the world.

    Also, regarding the mistreatment of women….I don’t know…Unless someone obviously hit a spouse or locked them away in a cellar…’s just he said/she said and we won’t EVER know because we were not part of it.

    That’s the thought I always stick with.

    We won’t ever know what really happened with Woody Allen and the allegations of molestation. We won’t know if Katie and Tom were in a abusive relationship. We won’t ever know if Kim Kardashian and the football player just pretended to want to be married just to make a bunch of money off the hooplah and televised event. Or if they really tried and of course reality tv took the worst and most dramatic moments to air out.

  22. I’m definitely a fan of creating a series around articles.

    It’s a shame discussing the life of Tom Cruise, he is a very gifted actor, and his work ethic I greatly admire. Not to bad mouth those who get sucked into the cult that is Scientology, this was his biggest turn off and ultimately his downfall. I still love his 80s and 90s movies. The crap he’s been in lately, all I have to say, Tom Cruise step up your game!!!

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  24. What We are Reading is a great idea!! As for Tom, they forgot to add that he is short! All joking aside, I do believe that Napoleon syndrome can definitely be an issue for men. Scientology makes him feel important! It’s scary to even mention them! I have a friend who grew up near the compound in Southern CA and she recalls them having armed guards outside….what da heck!! Ever since I heard that Scientology freaks me out!

  25. I thought this article was interesting, but I kept holding on to onto a couple things throughout it.One, this isolated incident did not define Tom Cruise in my mind, and two — thinking back of when that happened — I never thought he jumped up and down, but what I read and watched was him jumping ONTO the couch. I didn’t picture him like a kid jumping on the bed, but maybe that’s the point? The people who weren’t old enough to remember the actual 2005 incident remember the story how they heard it told to them. Maybe Tom Cruise was the first person to have this happen to him, but I do not believe this sole action killed his career. On another note, wow, PR is a lot of work!

  26. Love your new series idea!

  27. Tom Cruise was always creepy. The internet just made it more obvious.

  28. I love how the start of the viral video is truly becoming part of American history, since it’s made such a huge impact on our society – both culturally and politically. And while Sarah Palin never said “I can see Russia from my house”, it was immortalized in viral video form by the wonderful Tina Fey so that we think it was something that Ms. Palin actually said, Tom Cruise most definitely DID jump on Oprah’s couch – more than once and contrary to what the author of this article is insinuating. And let’s not forget that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes eventually did break-up (as predicted), which certainly doesn’t help rewrite Tom’s history as a weirdo, like this author is trying to do.

  29. Remember how he said Brooke Shields should just exercise to overcome postpartum depression and slammed her for taking an antidepressant? That is what makes me dislike him. But I do have to say as much as I personally dislike him, he has made some good movies.

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  31. Terrific article – thank you for sharing!

    I really love this series idea. I’m so boggled by how much good writing is out there these days, and equally flummoxed about where to find it any given week. This will be great.

  32. I still like him. Who are we to judge him??

  33. Love this feature!
    I read the article and the rebuttal. The rebuttal put into words what I thought – it wasn’t a very good article. It just plain left out that Tom Cruise himself is weird. And puts himself out there as weird. How do you not even mention it? (I’m saying weird, but lets be honest, the guy is often a jerk. Which is strange as he used to be known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood)

  34. I just read the whole article (big surprise for me since I have such a short attention span) and it really changed my perspective on him and the whole couch-jumping incident. Thank you for picking such a great article and I look forward to many more!

  35. Love the idea of a “What I’m reading” type club… I always wanted you to do the “Articles Club” you mentioned a couple of years ago :)

  36. So love your blog! Just caught up on some amazing posts!
    Happy Summer!
    Have a great week! Hugs, Jamie Herzlinger

  37. PS When reading/writing this, I had totally forgotten he was married to Katie Holmes…that all seems so weird now.

    I think both Nicole & Katie had a lucky escape!

  38. It seems like the author crafted this article out of thin air. There are very few quotations from any sources and she appears to be making up her own reasons for Cruise’s movie decisions and publicity moves.

    First of all, Tom Cruise was never a great actor. He has mostly played the same role: manic and charming at once. I remember critics being wowed by his performance in “Magnolia” because it seemed like a real stretch for him–the idea being that he hadn’t strayed from playing himself before that. Second, Tom Cruise became an action movie star when Mission Impossible was released in 1996, way before his supposed “demise.” I don’t think that the world has lost a great deal because he has chosen not to star in interesting movies lately. The trajectory he’s been on, movie-wise, seems predictable for an actor like him.

  39. I can’t stand him!

    I think the way he appeared to dump Nicole Kidman as the clock struck ten years on their marriage did him no favours whatsoever either.

    I do think people either have that likeability factor or they don’t, it’s almost an undefinable quality….Tom Hanks has it in spades, Tom Cruise just doesn’t.

    The whole Scientology thing doesn’t help either.

    Interesting post!

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  41. Just finished Rob Lowe’s two memoirs, which I enjoyed very much. Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both cast in the Outsiders, an important early film for both. Anyway, the books are beautifully humanizing of celebs. I lament how we’ve commoditized these artists, which is probably directly proportional to how much we idolize them and the morally outrageous amount of wealth we bestow. I don’t understand how people don’t feel ashamed of eviscerating and humiliating other people publicly. Another book you might enjoy featuring is Pamela Des Barres “I’m with the Band”, an awesome groupie memoir.

  42. Wow, even your “Fascinating” articles are overblown fluff.

  43. I love the idea of a “What We’re Reading” series, the articles you compile are such compelling, varied reads–they’re one of my favorite parts of your blog. Thank you!

  44. Love articles like this – perfect for a day when I’m not quite ready to get back to work :) Thanks for posting!

  45. I totally agree with the rebuttal. While I was reading the first article I kept thinking … “Yeah, but what about the Scientology?!” When I think of Tom Cruise I always think of Scientology. I NEVER think of the Oprah episode. Cruise ruined his public image all by himself. Thanks for posting these! Super interesting reads.

  46. I was actually watching Oprah that day during the couch incident… I had just had my 1st baby and was just sitting on the couch all the time every day breastfeeding! I watched tons of daytime TV and I’d never watched daytime TV before! haha. Anyway, I was never a big TC fan, but the couch thing didn’t strike me a weird at all, just silly and he seemed goofily happy about his (then) new girlfriend. In the context of the whole show, it didn’t seem outrageously weird at all. Then later everyone in media were all “OMG guess what he did!”. Well, anyway, everytime I see a photo or footage of it, I have memories of first time mom-dom and learning how to BF! :)

  47. Aw. Makes me kind of sad- I had no idea how hard he tried to not become a spectacle.
    Love makes people crazy?
    :) Dakota

  48. He may have initially avoided the press at the beginning of his career but he courted and manipulated the press once his fame took off. Eventually the women who swooned over him became turned off by his super sized ego & his (mis)treatment of women. He is responsible for his plummet from his his carefully staged pedestal, not the press.

  49. Aw. Makes me kind of sad- I had no idea how hard he tried to not become a spectacle.
    Love makes people crazy?
    :) Dakota

  50. I read this the other day, and definitely had conflicting feelings. There’s some truth to it, though I feel like the couch incident would have eventually faded or been viewed as a “haha, that one time” sort of thing, but with replacing his PR person with his sister… This might have started the slide, but he then threw himself over the edge.

  51. I have always felt Tom Cruise got a bad wrap. Although the scientology stuff is wacky. Love the idea of sharing reading. I just started East of Eden and wowza, not what I expected.

    I’ve also been thinking of you daily as I use my spinning air brush after reading about it on your blog! Seriously, changed my life. Or, at least that of my hair!

    Hope you had a great weekend.

  52. I think he is slightly strange, but I don’t think he deserves the majority of the flack he’s gotten. We are all against bullying, but the minute a public personality does or says something we don’t like we try to publicly destroy their reputation and rake them through the coals. He has said some things I don’t agree with, but I am able to disagree with someone on a few points without totally disregarding them as a person. Why are we so against Tom Cruise, who doesn’t believe in using certain medications, but say nothing about Woody Allen, who seduced his underage step daughter? I enjoy a lot of his movies–The Last Samurai is the best!

  53. I had read that article, but not the rebuttal, which had a lot of interesting things to say. What I took away from the LA Weekly article was that things are not always the way the internet makes them seem. I think the author was going for a “Tom Cruise is not a Cuckoo Bird” thesis though and that wasn’t very convincing!

    Yesterday I pulled my copy of Flannery O’Connor’s book of short stories A Good Man is Hard to Find off the shelf. I’m excited to dive back into them, even if people think I’m reading a self-help dating book (it isn’t!).

  54. Hata has some interesting ideas…I’ve personally wondering if Joanna would ever write a book (probably after the diaper years, there’s one coming!) Tom Cruise was never my favorite and the whole Nicole Kidman/Katie Holmes thing was just very sad mistreatment of women. Nicole had infertility problems and a surprise breakup, he insisted on calling Katie “Kate” all the time – it just doesn’t seem that he’s the empathic partner.

  55. Great feature. Whenever I think of celebrities like Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Kristen Stewart, etc. I feel so much empathy. As an introvert in the art field, I can’t imagine that level of success and exposure – I would probably come off pretty damn weird and awkward as well! You really have to have a knack for the spotlight for the whole package to work.

    But what about those that just love the craft without wanting all of that fame? Ugh…pop culture is a dangerous little realm.

  56. Very true!
    I feel bad for him and the way he is portrayed. The interview with Matt Lauer didn’t help though.
    I like the idea of this new series.
    Would you consider doing something about blogging? Your blogging process? A more in depth on line class maybe?
    Just a few ideas.
    Love your site.

  57. I would totally love to see “What We’re Reading” posts! Sometimes the articles and videos you share are so interesting that I feel compelled to share them with my students. Let’s do it!

  58. Tom Cruise is just the creepiest. I’d rather read an article about paint drying! ;)

    I love the idea of the article series though! Looking forward to the next one!!

  59. So true. I think he had a hand in it too.

    Hope you had a wonderful and restful weekend.