It goes without question that Tom Cruise will go down in history as one of the biggest stars of our time. His career has spanned nearly forty years, with Cruise jumping from action vehicles to comedy to drama and back again. Like him or not, one cannot deny his commitment to his film roles, his passion for the filmmaking experience, and his versatility with genre. So what went into making those films? What do Tom Cruise’s choice of roles say about him? Did anything interesting happen behind the scenes? Read these facts to find out more!
Tom Cruise Movies Facts
45. Starting Small
Cruise’s first film role was the character of Billy in the 1981 romance film Endless Love. While not a very large part, his character played a crucial role in moving the plot forward.
44. Steady Your Nerves!
Cruise’s desire to perform all his own stunts can be traced all the way back to his early career and the troubled youth film The Outsiders. As the main characters are heading to a fight, Cruise’s character Steve does a standing back tuck off of the top of a truck. Cruise performed the stunt himself, but before that, the young actor felt so nervous and nauseous before attempting it that he had to throw up before filming began.
43. You’ll Never Get That Guy!
While preparing to make Jerry Maguire, director Cameron Crowe’s friends dismissed his hope that Cruise would play the lead role. They insisted that Cruise would “never play a loser.” Meanwhile, Cruise reportedly wept when he first read the screenplay, and he was also gung-ho about playing against type as a character who is genuinely struggling.
42. Close Enough
In Born on the Fourth of July, Cruise plays real-life Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. As the title suggests, Kovic shares his birthday with Independence Day. Cruise, however, is just a day off from Kovic; he was born on July 3.
41. Chasing the Golden Man
As of 2018, Cruise has been nominated for three Academy Awards. The films which garnered him nominations were Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, and Born on the Fourth of July.
40. Climbing the Ladder Fast
Cruise’s second film was Taps, a drama focused around a doomed military academy and its students. Cruise was only 19 years old when he acted in the film and received fifth billing in the credits. That’s pretty impressive, given that it was only his second ever film. Incredibly, he was supposed to be an extra and he actually refused the promotion when they first offered it to him.
39. Let’s Dance!
One of the most famous film scenes from Cruise’s early career has to be the iconic dance scene in Risky Business where he dances to “Old Time Rock and Roll.” It turns out that the dance was entirely improvised, because of course it was.
38. This is a True Story…
As of 2018, Cruise has been involved in three biographical films: Born on the Fourth of July, Valkyrie, and American Made.
37. A New Level of Success
From 1992 to 1996, Cruise starred in A Few Good Men, The Firm, Interview with the Vampire, Mission: Impossible, and Jerry Maguire. All five of these films grossed at least $100 million in the US alone. Cruise became the first actor in film history to star in five successive films which all reached that milestone.
36. Burning Rubber
Before Top Gun, Cruise had never ridden a motorcycle before. He learned specifically for the scenes in that film. Meanwhile, he did know how to play volleyball, as far as we know.
35. Nice Try, Charlie
Before Tom Cruise was cast as Maverick in Top Gun, Charlie Sheen was considered for the role. However, he was determined to be too young, so he wasn’t cast. Later on in his career, Sheen parodied the role of Maverick in the film Hot Shots!
34. Well Played, Sir
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time that Cruise and Charlie Sheen would be rivals for film roles. Cruise had been interested in playing Bud Fox in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, but Stone had already cast Sheen in the role. Later, Stone wavered between casting Sheen or Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July. Stone ultimately chose Cruise, much to Sheen’s chagrin, as he wasn’t told about Stone’s decision until his brother found out about the news.
33. I Give Up
Before it came time to prepare to film Taps, Cruise and the rest of the cast playing students of the military academy were ordered to participate in a 45-day training session alongside real-life students at Valley Forge Military Academy. The actors playing cadets were put through the same rigorous training which they would have gotten if they were actual cadets. Of all the actors, Cruise ended up quitting the training to spend the rest of pre-production at a hotel, despite everyone else getting a lot enjoyment out of the training.
32. Recycling Roles
In Lions for Lambs, Senator Irving (Tom Cruise) has a picture on his desk of himself dressed as a cadet. The picture is a still from Cruise’s performance in Taps.
31. Mind the Cue!
The Color of Money required Cruise’s character to perform a lot of interesting pool shots. Apparently, Cruise was able to perform nearly all of them for the film. The only one which eluded him was a move where his ball had to jump over two others to sink a third ball. Director Martin Scorsese later said that Cruise could have learned the move, but it would have taken two days that the production didn’t have, so pool experts were brought in to perform the “stunt.”
30. Couple’s Collaboration
For 11 years, Cruise was married to Australian actress Nicole Kidman. She and Cruise first met on the set of Days of Thunder and made two more films together during their marriage: Far and Away and Eyes Wide Shut.
29. Tom Cruise the Music Star?
In 2012, the musical Rock of Ages was released, featuring Tom Cruise singing several songs. Determined to meet the challenge of a musical, Cruise trained for four months to get his singing voice ready, practicing as much as five hours a day. This was all done out of anxiety on Cruise’s part and a desire to sound as good as possible for the role. To add further pressure, he filmed his rendition of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” when Def Leppard, the original band behind that song, were in attendance watching him sing. You can decide for yourself whether Cruise succeeded, but regardless of what you think, there’s no denying that he tried.
28. So Where Was Kevin Bacon?
Four men who directed films featuring Tom Cruise have also acted alongside him in other films. Cameron Crowe (who directed Cruise in Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire) and Paul Thomas Anderson (who directed Cruise in Magnolia) both appeared as extras in Minority Report, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, meanwhile, acted alongside Cruise in Austin Powers: Goldmember and Vanilla Sky. Meanwhile, Sydney Pollack directed Cruise in The Firm and co-starred with him in Eyes Wide Shut.
27. Classic Holly
Although Cruise wasn’t Oscar-nominated for his role in the legal drama The Firm, his co-star, Holly Hunter, was. Interestingly, she appeared in the film for less than six minutes. It’s one of the shortest amounts of screen time to get an Oscar nomination. Then again, this is Holly Hunter we’re talking about, so fair enough.
26. This Probably Won’t Break Even…
The film Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, turned out to be a huge hit and one of the most critically acclaimed films of both of their careers. However, despite their dedication during filming, neither Hoffman or Cruise thought much for its chances upon release. Their joke title for the project was “Two Schmucks in a Car.”
25. Support the Troops
In no fewer than ten of his films, Cruise has portrayed a character who is also a soldier: Taps, Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Top Gun, Born on the Fourth of July, Top Gun: Maverick, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Edge of Tomorrow, The Last Samurai, and A Few Good Men. Not only that, amongst those aforementioned roles, Cruise has played a member of every main branch in the US Military except for the Air Force.
24. Fresh-Faced Youth
Cruise was 20 when he played a teenager in Risky Business, so the filmmakers had him go through a physical regimen to appear more boyish. First, Cruise lost ten pounds by exercising, then he gained part of it back with high-fat foods. This gave him a layer of “baby fat” which apparently did the trick.
23. Join Us! Join Us!
Despite pursuing so many people for the lead role of Maverick in Top Gun, the studio had always wanted Cruise to play the lead. However, he initially refused the role on several occasions. It wasn’t until producer Jerry Bruckheimer set up for Cruise to ride with the Blue Angels—did he have them on speed dial or something? To be fair, that wouldn’t surprise us.
22. Bring on the Accolades
Cruise has appeared in four films which were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards: Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire, and A Few Good Men. Of those four, only Rain Man ended up winning the big award.
21. This is Fun! Let’s Make a Movie About it!
One day, Cruise and his former co-star Paul Newman were hanging out while testing race cars owned by Rick Hendrick. It was during this time that Cruise came up with an idea for a film. This turned into the racecar-heavy film Days of Thunder. So you can thank (or blame) Hendrick for that.
20. The World Cannot Know!
For the film Interview with the Vampire, the makeup process to turn Cruise and the other actors into vampires was so lengthy and difficult that Cruise would spend nearly four hours in a makeup chair to do it. In order to keep the makeup process secret before the film came out, Cruise pushed to have tunnels built so the actors could travel to the set in complete privacy.
There was a time when Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise were good friends. They both appeared in The Outsiders, Estevez was Cruise’s best man for his wedding to Mimi Rogers—remember when those two were married?—and the two actors made an uncredited cameo in each other’s films. Cruise appeared in the final gunfight of Estevez’s Western film Young Guns while Estevez appeared in the opening of Mission: Impossible.
18. Dastardly Dude
As of 2018, Cruise has only played a villain twice in his career. Those two films are Interview with the Vampire and Collateral.
17. I Have a Proposition for Your Daughter
While Cruise was filming The Outsiders, he got the script for Risky Business and he approached his co-star Diane Lane to appear in the film alongside him in the role of Lana, a prostitute who becomes the main character’s love interest. However, Lane’s father personally assured Cruise that “there was no way in hell” that Lane would play that role.
16. You Take the Oscar, I Take Your Film Role
The year that Cruise was Oscar-nominated for Born on the Fourth of July, he lost out the award to Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance in My Left Foot. Later on, Cruise would later get his own back by taking the role of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire after Day-Lewis dropped out of the project. The role won Cruise great critical acclaim, including some from an unexpected source (more on that later).
15. From Repressed to Unhinged
Cruise was such a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights that he expressed his interest in working with Anderson on whatever he made next. Anderson subsequently approached Cruise while he was working on Stanley Kubrick’s final project Eyes Wide Shut and offered him the role of Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia. Cruise was nervous about playing such a role—and those who’ve seen the movie will know just how different of a character it is from Cruise’s usual films—but after Eyes Wide Shut, he thought it was a great contrast, so he signed on.
14. No CGI, Empty the Square!
In an incredibly ambitious move to get a shot, the production of Vanilla Sky actually did shut down Times Square in New York City to provide a memorable scene of Cruise’s character running through it in complete isolation.
13. Who’s Beneath the Mask?
Aside from the obvious joke that Cruise runs in every one of his films, a less frequent theme which comes up in Cruise’s films is a situation where his character wears a mask. He frequently does so in the Mission Impossible franchise, and there’s also the masks in Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky. Not only that, but he deliberately disfigures his features in Minority Report to disguise himself.
12. Instantly Recognizable
While preparing to play a high school football player in the 1983 drama All the Right Moves, Cruise was urged to go back to high school undercover in order to get a refresher on what it was like. Even then, in the early stages of his career, Cruise was recognized just a day into his undercover operation. He was recognized based on his performance in Taps, which was only his second film.
11. Hi Honey
For everyone apart from those 12 of you who remember the period piece Far and Away, there is a scene in that film where Cruise’s character is lying naked on a bed, injured, with a bowl covering his manhood. Meanwhile, while he’s asleep, Nicole Kidman’s character lifts the bowl to take a curious peek. After several takes of not getting the reaction he wanted from Kidman, director Ron Howard apparently told Cruise—her offscreen husband—to genuinely get naked without telling Kidman. Her reaction to this discovery is in the final film.
10. Let’s Get Silly
Cruise’s surprise supporting role in Tropic Thunder as the foul-mouthed, opportunistic producer Les Grossman was apparently constructed entirely by Tom Cruise himself, from his dancing to virtually his whole appearance. Cruise chose to be hidden under layers of makeup and prosthetic hands. Some of you might remember that he became hailed as one of the funniest parts of the entire movie.
9. Acknowledging a Hero
Cruise produced and starred in Valkyrie, a WWII film about German military leader Claus Von Stauffenberg and his involvement in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler and end the war. Out of respect for Stauffenberg’s memory, the cast and crew of the project began every night of filming with a moment of silence.
8. Hello, Stranger
Given that he has spent virtually his entire career being one of the most recognizable actors in the US, it was suggested to Cruise that he needed to take a lesson in anonymity when playing a professional hitman in Collateral. As a result, Cruise went hardcore to prepare for the role. How you might ask? He went undercover as a FedEx worker. Amazingly, even though he barely did anything to change his appearance, nobody recognized him for who he was! Strangers would have conversations with this courier without realizing they were talking to one of the biggest actors in Hollywood.
7. The Worst of Times, the Best of Times
Cruise holds the distinction of being the only actor to star in a film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and another film which won the Razzie Award for Worst Picture in the same year. That year was 1988, the year that Rain Man was Best Picture and Cocktail was Worst Picture.
6. Method in Our Madness
While filming his part as a paraplegic war veteran in Born on the Fourth of July, Cruise would stay in a wheelchair as often as possible off-camera. In fact, he and director Oliver Stone seriously considered using some kind of “nerve agent” to genuinely paralyze Cruise’s legs for authenticity. However, they abandoned the idea because they couldn’t find a way to do it without risking permanent damage to Cruise’s body.
5. Action Junkie
It’s become a standard fact that Cruise loves to perform all his own stunts, whether as a pilot or as a driver or an action star. We could have filled half this list with examples of Cruise performing crazy stunts himself, but we’ll sum it up with a stunt from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. In a scene involving the Burj Khalifa Tower, the tallest building in the world, Cruise himself dangled more than 1,700 feet in the air during filming!
4. He Won Me Over
Cruise’s casting in Interview with the Vampire initially infuriated Anne Rice, the woman whose novel inspired the movie. Rice vocally expressed her disgust and fury at the casting of Cruise as Lestat, calling it “the worst crime in the name of casting since The Bonfire of the Vanities.” After removing herself from the production, Rice refused to even watch the film until one of the producers sent her a copy and urged her to give it a chance. Incredibly, Rice was so amazed by Cruise’s performance that she sent him a personal letter apologizing for ever doubting him. She became the movie’s biggest fan, even paying for ads in magazines to praise the film!
3. Boys Will Be Boys
In keeping with the fact that the young cast of The Outsiders were playing troubled youths, the actors committed a series of pranks against each other at the hotel where they were staying. Years later, one of the people who had worked at the hotel at the time was introduced to Cruise. When Cruise found out who he was, the first thing he said was “I’m sorry.”
2. Art and Life
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Cruise plays an extreme pick-up artist who is deeply estranged from his father. When he finally does return to his dying father’s side, Cruise gives arguably one of the best performances of his entire career. His monologue at his father’s side wasn’t just improvised, it came from an incredibly real place, however. While filming the scene, Cruise disliked the written lines, prompting Anderson to encourage Cruise to channel his emotions regarding the death of his own father. Cruise proceeded to have a complete breakdown during his performance, leading his co-star, Philip Seymour Hoffman, to be visibly moved as well.
1. Near-Death Experience
Cruise was nearly killed on the set of The Last Samurai when a mechanical horse he was riding malfunctioned in the middle of a fight scene between Cruise and Hiroyuki Sanada. Due to the malfunction, Cruise wasn’t able to duck in time from Sanada’s sword. Sanada barely managed to check his swing, with his blade being just an inch from Cruise’s neck.