An actor whose name has become synonymous with All-American testosterone-driven entertainment, Tom Cruise spent the 1980s as one of Hollywood’s brightest shining Golden Boys. With black hair, blue eyes, and unabashed cockiness, Cruise rode high on such hits as Top Gun and Rain Man. Although his popularity dimmed slightly in the early ’90s, he was able to bounce back with a string of hits that re-established him as both an action hero and, in the case of Jerry Maguire and Magnolia, a talented actor.
Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV on July 3, 1962, in Syracuse, NY, actor Tom Cruise led a peripatetic existence as a child, moving from town to town with his rootless family. A high school wrestler, Cruise went into acting after being sidelined by a knee injury. This new activity served a dual purpose: Performing satiated Cruise’s need for attention, while the memorization aspect of acting helped him come to grips with his dyslexia.
Moving to New York in 1980, Cruise held down odd jobs until getting his first movie break in Endless Love (1981). His first big hit was Risky Business (1982), in which he entered movie-trivia heaven with the scene wherein he celebrates his parents’ absence by dancing around the living room in his underwear. The Hollywood press corps began touting Cruise as one of the "Brat Pack," a group of twenty-something young actors who seemed on the verge of taking over the movie industry in the early ’80s. But Cruise chose not to play the sort of teen-angst roles that the other Bratpackers specialized in — a wise decision, in that he has sustained his stardom while many of his contemporaries have fallen by the wayside or retreated into direct-to-video cheapies.
Top Gun (1985) established Cruise as an action star, but again he refused to be pigeonholed, and followed up Top Gun with a solid characterization of a fledgling pool shark in The Color of Money (1986), the film that earned co-star Paul Newman an Academy Award. In 1988, Cruise took on one of his most challenging assignments as the brother of autistic savant Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. "Old" Hollywood chose to give all the credit for that film’s success to Hoffman, but a closer look at Rain Man reveals that Cruise is the true central character in the film, the one who "grows" in humanity and maturity while Hoffman’s character, though brilliantly portrayed, remains the same.
In 1989, Cruise was finally given an opportunity to carry a major dramatic film without an older established star in tow. As paraplegic Vietnam vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Cruise delivered perhaps his most outstanding performance. Cruise’s bankability faltered a bit with the expensive disappointment Far and Away (1990) (though it did give him a chance to co-star with his-then wife Nicole Kidman), but with A Few Good Men (1992), Cruise was back in form. In 1994, Cruise appeared as the vampire Lestat in the long-delayed film adaptation of the Anne Rice novel -Interview with the Vampire. Although she was violently opposed to Cruise’s casting, Rice reversed her decision upon seeing the actor’s performance.
In 1996, Cruise scored financial success with the big-budget actioner Mission Impossible, but it was with his multilayered, Oscar-nominated performance in Jerry Maguire (also 1996) that Cruise proved once again why he is considered a major Hollywood player. 1999 saw Cruise reunited onscreen with Kidman in a project of a very different sort, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. The film, which was the director’s last, had been the subject of controversy, rumor, and speculation since it began filming. It opened to curious critics and audiences alike across the nation, and was met with a violently mixed response. However, it allowed Cruise to once again take part in film history, further solidifying his position as one of Hollywood’s most well-placed movers and shakers.
Cruise’s enviable position was again solidified later in 1999, when he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as a loathsome "sexual prowess" guru in Paul Thomas Anderson’s, Magnolia. In 2000, he scored again when he reprised his role as international agent Ethan Hunt in John Woo’s MI:2, which proved to be one of the summer’s first big moneymakers. His status as a full-blown star of impressive dramatic range now cemented in the eyes of both longtime fans and detractors, the popular actor next set his sights on reteaming with Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe for a remake of Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar’s (The Others) Abre Los Ojos titled Vanilla Sky. Though Vanilla Sky’s sometimes surreal trappings found the film recieving a mixed reception at the box office, the same could not be said for the following years massively successful sci-fi chase film Minority Report. Based on a short story by science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, Minority Report scored a direct hit at the box office, and Cruise could next be seen gearing up for his role in Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai. Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.