At 58, Tom Cruise is still center stage. On the set, in Hertfordshire, England, of his making of the movie, “Mission Impossible 7,” he supposedly got very upset. He cursed out members of the crew for allegedly breaking Covid-19 restrictions. The so-called, “ranting” episode, happened not once, but twice, according to published reports.
I was a little taken aback when I heard this story. Cruise is also a producer on this production. He’s doing double duty: acting and producing. I recall meeting him back in 1993.
It was in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall, at the Lincoln Memorial. Cruise was starring in the film, The Firm. I found him a perfect gentleman in every respect. He had no “airs” about him at all. However, this was before he became the “big star” that he is today.
The movie, The Firm, was based on a book by the crime novelist, John Grisham. Cruise had the lead role of Mitch McDeere in the flick. Gene Hackman and Hal Holbrook co-starred. The one and only Sydney Pollack, now deceased, directed.
This is not long after I joined the Screen Actors Guild. I was cast as a stand-in for Cruise. Stand-ins do just that. They “stand-in” for the principal actor until they are ready to officially shoot the scene.
It’s easy – just get out of the way, keep your mouth shut, until you are “called” to the set. In other words, the stand-ins help the photographers to light the set and the camera department to focus the scenes while the actors are absent.
Before the shooting began. I was instructed to take a seat on a cement bench just to the right of the Lincoln Memorial and above the steps leading up to it.
Behind me and to my right a trailer was parked. After a few minutes, Cruise came walking out of it and took a seat next to me. He was dressed in a suit with a white shirt and tie. I introduced myself and we chatted. I was a little surprised how “small” he was. I’m 5’8” and he looked like he could be maybe two or three inches shorter than me.
I told Cruise how much I admired him in the movie Born on the 4th of July. He liked hearing that message. I think that is the flick that proved Cruise had the makings of becoming a huge Hollywood star and that he could – “act!”
In The Firm, Cruise played a young lawyer that finds out about the “sinister dark side” of his employer. The film did very well at the box office and it was another plus for Cruise’s career. This was before he launched the mega-popular “Mission Impossible” series.
The scene for The Firm was shot down by the reflective pool only a short distance from the memorial. It was a beautiful day. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue in the scene, but it took about three hours to shoot it.
The main reason for the scene’s length was that the director, Pollack, was a perfectionist. This was part of his M/O, and or method of operation. They just kept shooting it over and over. By the time they finally got done, I, as a stand-in, had memorized the entire scene! Not one word of dissent was heard from Cruise. He simply got himself ready for the next shoot.
Getting back to Cruise’s ranting binges on the set of MI:7. I think it’s difficult to make a movie under the best of circumstances. I’ve been in tons of films over the last 30 years and sometimes they don’t go as planned.
In Cruise’s defense, it is only fair to mention that he’s been shooting MI:7 in the middle of a pandemic, in Italy and the U.K., with more scenes to be shot later in Norway. Along the difficult production route over a “dozen” people on this job have reportedly tested positive for the virus.
The latest is that five production members have quit the set of MI:7 over Cruise’s “f-filled” rants. Hearing about this incident reminded me of my days on the Baltimore waterfront as a member of the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA), Local 829.
The best way I can put it is that the “f-filled” rants came with the territory of working on the Baltimore docks. I was both on the receiving end of that kind of crude message and also on occasions, the one belting it out.
Finally, I believe Cruise was within his rights to complain about possible Covid violations. That is his job as a producer of the film. “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” one of my favorite presidents, Harry S. Truman, once said. I believe that expression applies to this situation.
Bottom Line: Give ‘em hell, Tom Cruise!
Bill Hughes is a native of Baltimore. He’s an attorney, author, professional actor and hobbyist photographer. In his salad days, he worked on the docks as a longshoreman. Bill also played on three championship soccer teams: sandlot with Jules Morstein; high school at Calvert Hall; and college at the University of Baltimore.