Mary McNamara: 'Top Gun' casts Tom Cruise as the hero in the film and at the box office

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In the roll-up to "Top Gun: Maverick," people keep saying Tom Cruise is the last real movie star and I don't get it.

How else would a reasonable person describe Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Will Smith (pre-slap), Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Hugh Jackman, Denzel Washington, Robert Downey Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Melissa McCarthy, Scarlett Johansson, Octavia Spencer … well, you get the idea.

Apparently, those folks are not quite up to the mark. Apparently, to be a real movie star you have to act exclusively in movies (someone needs to break the news to, among many others, Dames Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith — and allow me to be present while they do so).

You also need to have a name that, on its own, can conjure audiences and multiple franchises out of thin air.

If that is the criterion for a movie star, then to paraphrase Elizabeth Bennet's remark to Mr. Darcy, I rather wonder that anyone knows any.

(Also, what is Liam Neeson? Chopped liver?)


That said, there is no denying that Cruise has accepted the mantle of last movie star — or at least the movie star determined to save the film industry single-handedly.

It is a role in which he is quite convincing.

Whether shouting at the crew of "Mission: Impossible" over violations of COVID-19 protocol because the industry is "looking at us and using us to make their movies" or insisting that "Top Gun: Maverick" be a theatrical-only release and prefaced by a big, splashy, event-driven and very expensive publicity campaign of the sort that is rarely seen anymore, Cruise is here to remind us that the industry will not die on his watch. Not if he can help it.

While, you know, continuing to risk life and limb doing his own stunts in his "Mission: Impossible" films, the seventh of which is set to open in July, because doing his own stunts is what a real action hero does — as he recently said in Cannes: "Would you ask Gene Kelly why he does his own dancing?"


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