Too Much Control, Not Enough Cruise
Date: October 8, 2006
by Kathryn Hughes
Tom Cruise: All The World's A Stage by Iain Johnstone
It should be impossible to write a dull book about Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, the geeky kid from the very broken home who willed himself into becoming perhaps the greatest film star we currently have.
For more than 20 years now, Tom Cruise, as he is more usually known, has produced a range of performances unmatched by any other actor of his generation.
Brad Pitt may pack muscle and Rob Lowe may be permanently on the point of a comeback, but it is Cruise who has simply cruised from action roles (Top Gun, the three Mission: Impossible films) through deft character studies (Rain Man, Born On The Fourth Of July) to villains (Magnolia).
If Cruise has ever had a turkey (Vanilla Sky, perhaps?) they are few and far between.
But whether his reign of glory will last, or indeed has already ended, has been the question on everyone's lips recently.
First there was all that sofa-jumping, when Cruise demonstrated his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes by behaving like a lovesick loon on primetime television.
Then came the rumours about how his public devotion to Scientology was turning off the multiplexes. When Cruise suggested Brooke Shields should not have taken antidepressants for her postnatal depression but relied instead on vitamins, he alienated most of his female fans at a stroke. The climax came in August when Paramount announced it was dumping Cruise because his recent conduct had 'not been acceptable'.
Iain Johnstone is a distinguished film journalist who has had his eye on Cruise ever since his breakthrough with Risky Business when he was 21.
Johnstone is able, therefore, to give a good if slightly dull account of how the undersized boy who attended 15 high schools was able to bluff his way into a part in Endless Love in 1981.
While other actors of his generation were sidetracked by drink, drugs and women, Cruise retained a steely focus on his career.
His determination to learn from the best directors Zeffirelli, Scorsese, Kubrick combined with a willingness to stretch himself resulted in a body of work that has been admired by audiences if sometimes under-appreciated by the critics.
However, anyone hoping for an intimate expose of the life and bizarre times of Cruise will be disappointed by this sketchy book. Johnstone may be a veteran Hollywood-watcher, but that doesn't mean he has any new insights to bring to this biography. Particularly disappointing is his refusal to even refer to the rumours circulating about Cruise's sexuality.
One clue may come from the dust jacket, which explains that the film critic has turned script writer and is now a close associate of Steven Spielberg, who happens to be one of Cruise's key mentors.
However, perhaps it is a fear of offending Cruise, and even provoking court action, that has muffled Johnstone. Certainly the end result is a book that feels as if it has been pored over and dissected by lawyers determined to remove anything remotely controversial and therefore vaguely interesting from its plodding prose.