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The Reeler Blog

42nd Street Cruise

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Museum of the Moving Image honored Tom Cruise on Tuesday at its annual gala tribute, which, for The Reeler, meant only one thing. Well, two things if you count the A-list supporting cast of Julianne Moore, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tim Robbins, Kenneth Branagh, Barbara Walters (!) and a few dozen others. However, in keeping with the institution's mission, I'm thinking a little more film historically. I'm thinking of Losin' It.

Guest of honor Tom Cruise flanked by Katie Holmes and Museum of the Moving Image founding director Rochelle Slovin at Tuesday's gala tribute (Photo: WireImage)

"Losin' It?" Cruise repeated when I broached his overlooked 1983 teens-in-Tijuana sex comedy.

Yes, Tom. Losin' It. I pointed over my shoulder at the slideshow of film stills looming on a screen above the dining room at Cipriani 42nd Street. We have Born on the Fourth of July, Risky Business, Jerry Maguire... and Losin' It. Surely this brings back memories. Any favorites?

"Oh, man," Cruise winced. "My favorite moment?"

Well, when you put it that way--

"There are just so many," he said. And smiled like, you know, Tom Cruise. And fled.

Perhaps it was not the most ideal use of the Only Question I Will Likely Ever Ask Tom Cruise, but like the museum's clip and photo gatherers, I strive for comprehensiveness. And while it's not exactly shocking that a 45-year-old Hollywood megastar would have a resume so diverse, the context and contrast between Cruise's films was cast in sharp, surprising relief Tuesday night. Obvious as it sounds, you don't always think of him having been at this -- like this -- for so long, taking chances and accruing a range of work that for better (Rain Man) or worse (Interview With the Vampire) stands a few sizable steps apart from his contemporaries. Even Brad Pitt never got to spend a year cooped up with Stanley Kubrick.

But a gala tribute? Really? It implies "lifetime achievement" or "Happy retirement, pal" or some over-the-hill analogue, doesn't it? "It is sort of a lifetime achievement, but they really seem to be more about people in their prime," said Ron Howard, whom the museum toasted with his own gala in 2005. "Like a keep-up-the-good-work kind of an award, you know? That seems to be more of the approach."

I asked Branagh the same question. "I was inside here earlier looking at the clips and things thinking, 'Jesus! This is the work of somebody who's been doing this for much, much longer,' " he told me. "I think tonight people will be surprised by how enormous it seems for a young man."

So what's the difference between a stage-and-screen veteran like Branagh and a born movie star like Cruise? How does that affect actors' dynamics when they work together? "I just worked with him on this film Valkyrie, and one of the things that surprised me about him was the amount that he wanted to rehearse," Branagh said. "He was ready to perform at a sort of performance pitch in rehearsal. To that extent, it was a theatrical approach. He was ready to do run-throughs and always very open; he didn't save everything for the day. We worked for weeks like that. I don't know whether or not that was always in his system, but it seems to part of the way he works now. I quite enjoyed it."

All right, Ken. But how about Losin' It, eh? Any lost Cruise favorites of his own? "Do you remember The Outsiders?" he said. "At the gas station? He looks like he's 4 years old, and he plays this put-upon kid among all these Brat Packers, as it were. I like Taps, too. He was always very striking in those pictures, and I really admire the way he started there and he's always created differences and inventions."

Posted at November 7, 2007 6:56 AM

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