Tom Cruise: Apolitical Movie Star
Quick, what political party does Tom Cruise support? Cruise has been in the public eye for decades, and while we're all aware of his marital woes, couch jumping antics and religious affiliation we know precious little about his voting preferences.
The actor expressed generic support for newly elected President Barack Obama while doing press for his film Valkyrie, but his political sermons are relatively rare and hardly divisive.
Cruise wasn't one of the famous faces in last year's "Demand a Plan" gun control video, nor does he push us to embrace global warming dictums while he lives it up in his million dollar mansion.
How refreshing. And is it any wonder he remains one of our most enduring stars, an A-lister who looks a decade shy of his 50 years and still captures the public's imagination?
Other actors, like Sean Penn, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, Chris Rock and Ben Affleck, use their celebrity to magnify their political beliefs. Stars have every right to express their points of view, but doing so risks the unspoken bond between audience and actor. We'll believe you when you're cast as a poet, a rock star, a superhero or a sinner--just don't break the spell by your off-screen behavior.
Cruise follows a different path, one that focuses like a laser on entertainment, not division.
Cruise's strong belief in Scientology, however, has threatened his bond with his audience. He's taken a public stand against psychiatry, and his ties to a faith founded by science fiction scribe L. Ron Hubbard have hurt his image as an All-American screen icon.
When audiences push aside their reservations regarding Cruise's faith they usually get first-class entertainment. Even films like Knight and Day, which underperformed by Cruise's lofty standards, offer better thrills than most mainstream movies.
Cruise participated in a streaming Q&A April 15 in support of his latest film, Oblivion, opening April 19. The futuristic yarn casts Cruise as a repair man hired to keep drones functional on an earth where war has left most of the planet uninhabitable. The star proved his affable self, gamely answering repetitive questions about the project while giving director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) credit for the film's sumptuous visuals and original premise.
Cruise did let down his guard a bit when he shared his take on his celebrated career. He said he wanted to be an actor since the age of four, and simply being on a movie set, any set, remains a pleasure.
"I love telling stories. I've never taken it for granted. I have a real joy in what I do," he said.
Audiences can tell, and that hasn't changed since he streaked across movie screens to the tune of Old Time Rock 'n' Roll in Risky Business roughly 30 years ago.