This week a new Tom Cruise video hit the Web, believed to be an internal Scientology indoctrination reel (which we can’t confirm; although Tom’s words are definitely English, they make no sense in the unique order he’s chosen). Cruise stars as himself, a fervent believer who practically vibrates with devotion and punctuates his preaching with disturbingly enthusiastic cackles. It’s so weird that you can’t look away, and the timing couldn’t be better: Ol’ Couchjumper’s recent canon of cracky behavior has inspired such massive piles of intrigue and gossip that he’s become the subject of a book by professional-unauthorized-biographer Andrew Morton. The book attempts to unveil all the dark secrets of Cruise’s mysterious private life, including his not-so-casual involvement with Scientology — and now that this creepy video has hit the Web, Morton’s no doubt thanking the gods for their impeccable timing. But Morton’s reported inability to penetrate Cruise’s closed ranks has turned a hotly anticipated tell-all into a loosely sourced kitchen sink of a book that may, amazingly, do the Cruise camp more good than harm.
Based on published excerpts, Morton’s book only elevates Cruise’s mythos. In trying to cut him off at the knees by dishing dirt and peeling back the layers, Morton has instead raised more questions than he answers. Sure, excerpts indicate Morton makes the obligatory mention of a few derogatory rumors: Nicole was a robot! Katie was not Tom’s first-choice third trophy wife! Suri was actually spawned by Holmes and an L. Ron Hubbard Popsicle! But the lack of on-the-record concrete sources — where’s the person holding the turkey baster? — means Morton’s biography is just another giant pile of (admittedly titillating) hearsay. By failing to crack Hollywood’s toughest nut and reverting to unsubstantiated, kooky gossip, Morton hastens Cruise’s complete transformation from Movie Star to High-Profile Yet Mysterious Religious Mouthpiece, whetting an appetite that can only be sated by — guess what? — paying yet more attention to Tom Cruise.
Hear us out. Obviously, the world will never embrace Tom Cruise as the same dreamboat from the Top Gun poster tacked above our beds in junior high. That guy didn’t jump on Oprah’s couch, or engage Matt Lauer in a war of words about whose knowledge of psychiatry was more encyclopedic. He was not, at least publicly, the guffawing nutjob we see on this latest Scientology leak. His sweaty, intense proclamations of infatuation with meek little Katie Holmes officially turned our girlhood crush into someone we feared encountering in a dark furniture store (or a shrink’s office). Next time we play MASH, Tom Cruise is so totally off the “husband” list.
But let’s face it: Tom Cruise isn’t in the heartthrob business anymore. He’s almost too old for Mission: Impossible–style action, his dramatic roles don’t keep anyone talking — do you even want to see him play a Nazi in Valkyrie? — and although that comic Hardy Boys update with Ben Stiller might still happen, we suspect we might be laughing at him rather than with him. There’s an entire generation of people who know Tom Cruise only from his marriage, his antics, and his passionate proselytizing about Scientology; there’s no film project anymore that won’t be overshadowed his public persona.
Since his end game has shifted increasingly from acting accolades to extending the global reach of his sci-fi religion, Cruise has to accept all the headlines he can get. In effect, being Tom Cruise these days has less to do with what you see on the silver screen and more to do with what’s in Us Weekly — whether it’s for throwing a lavish party for the Beckhams or brokering peace with Brooke Shields after so publicly naysaying her bout with postpartum depression. And that kind of press is, in many ways, all he’s got right now. If Tom Cruise wants to be more than just the dude whose eighties flicks inspire us to wax poetic to our grossed-out grandkids, then people have to stay curious about him. And in this post–Lions for Lambs world, that’s all he can ask for — and could be all he’s got left. —The Fug Girls
Related: ‘Tom Cruise, Scientologist’: Tom Cruise Finally Plays an Evil Mastermind [Vulture]