Tom Cruise Nearly Wins Us Back at Museum of the Moving Image Tribute

For the past couple of years, Tom Cruise has been cultivating a scary, Scientology-spewing, Matt Lauer–fighting, possibly baby-faking persona. But as we worked the red carpet at last night’s tribute to the actor by the Museum of the Moving Image, we found ourselves quickly experiencing backlash to the backlash. He really is, as they say, a megawatt star. He can still spin liquor bottles like in Cocktail, he told us, laughing heartily to signal how clever he thought we were for asking. “I [recently] went to Croatia or somewhere and a guy asked me to get behind the bar and I was spinning with him,” he said. “I broke a bottle or two. I tried!” With the fans, he’s a tireless hand shaker and picture taker. “I just think it’s manners,” he told us, after being taken away to pose with small children for the fifth time in our conversation. We’ll admit it. He had us at "hello" (well, in his case, "HELLO!").

And then he got onstage. The Vanilla Sky star spoke for AGES, giving platitude after platitude in what one very well-known media writer told us was “the worst celebrity speech I’ve ever heard.” Just when we began to tune/pass out from boredom, he started referring to himself in the third person, laying out a superhero-like origin myth. “While I stand here tonight as Tom Cruise, and whatever label they attach to that — A-, B-, C-list actor and movie star — let me instead give it to you from Thomas Cruise Mapother, who is the son of a single mother with three sisters. Somebody who traveled so much and lived in so many cities that he doesn’t even have a recognizable accent because it is a morph of the countless public schools he attended in the north and the south. Somebody whose first job was at the age of 8, selling newspapers to make ends meet. But somebody who already had a dream, so in that sense, this story is circular. 360 degrees. This is not a sad story. It is a story about however rough and unforgiving and unfair the world can be, there’s always hope.” We realized, then, that there was hope for us, too. Hope that the writers strike ends really, really soon. —Jada Yuan

Read about how Katie Holmes felt after the marathon, and the rest of the celebrity quotables in our complete coverage of the Tom Cruise Tribute.