When I woke up this morning I hadn’t given much thought to the coronavirus protocols on the set of Mission: Impossible 7, but I am now happy to report that they are “the gold standard”. We know this because the film’s star Tom Cruise told us, in the course of a rant at some of the crew.
In audio released by The Sun, Cruise can be heard threatening to fire his errant staff for standing too close to each other, a violation of coronavirus rules. “If I see you doing it again, you’re f****** gone,” he screams. “We are the gold standard. They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. That’s it. No apologies. You can tell it to the people that are losing their f****** homes because our industry is shut down.”
Sources confirmed the audio was genuine. What does “genuine” mean, though, in the context of Tom Cruise? At first glance this is another case of a Hollywood superstar flying off the handle at lower-paid colleagues, as Christian Bale did on the set of Terminator: Salvation, but it’s more polished.
This may be Tom Cruise’s natural state of being, having achieved a level of fame where the difference between acting and not-acting has dissolved. If you’re Tom Cruise, everything is a film set. Or it may be that after a number of years in Hollywood, he has come to accept the presence of recording devices on film sets, and is endlessly on guard. (It’s odd that neither Cruise nor Bale’s rants were filmed. Don’t they have cameras in these places?)
There’s a whiff of hubris to his assertion that Mission: Impossible 7 has an apex role in the global entertainment ecosystem. It’s also ironic to see him so worried about a couple of people standing so close to each other in a film where characters will no doubt be shot, blown up, hurled from buildings and otherwise put in harm’s way. The Mission: Impossible sets are a health and safety minefield, not least for Cruise himself, who insists on doing his own stunts. Last time round he broke his ankle trying to free-run over Blackfriars Bridge, which I’m sure Chris Whitty would discourage.
Other than that, though, his rant is unobjectionable. A cynic might say the whole thing could hardly have gone better if it had been a stunt to raise a bit of early buzz about the film and emphasise how seriously Hollywood productions are taking the pandemic.
Cruise has a history of batty but effective PR moves, if you take the definition of PR to be raising “awareness” of the star and film, whatever it takes, and not minding that the public might be being made aware that the star is a maniac. Cruise Tigger-bouncing on Oprah’s sofa to express his love for Katie Holmes has gone down in Hollywood lore. Promoting War of the Worlds in 2005, he had a pop at Brooke Shields for taking drugs to help her with her postnatal depression. “She doesn’t understand the history of psychiatry,’ Cruise told an interviewer, Matt Bauer. “She does not understand it in the same way you don’t understand it, Matt. You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do.’ Antidepressants merely “mask the problem,” he added, ironic given today’s predicament.
Now he’s apparently an epidemiologist, too. Here is one of the most famous people in the world, highlighting his film’s role in setting an example and boosting the economy. “We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherf*****s,” Cruise yells, giving him an oven-ready slogan for a future presidential run. Zero per cent unemployment? That’s the real mission impossible.
Although he’s an unlikely poster boy for health and safety, Tom does like a mask. He and Nicole Kidman wore Venetian masks for their cloaked orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. For much of Top Gun, Cruise is in his cockpit, face obscured by his oxygen mask. In the Mission: Impossible films he is endlessly peeling the latex impression of another man’s face from his head. Jon Voight, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Simon Pegg. If Cruise’s career has taught us anything, it’s not to set much store by appearances.
We will never know the sincerity of this outburst, just as we may never learn the truth about other aspects of his life, but we are asking the wrong questions. Thanks to the shouting, more of us are thinking about Mission: Impossible 7. With its exhortations to wear face coverings and wash our hands and keep apart, coronavirus has taught us all to be a little more Cruise-ish. It doesn’t matter what's underneath the mask. You just have to act the part.
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