Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1992--The Year in Review

Man, this is a year in which my choices aligned with the Academy almost right down the line--14 out of 24 categories, in fact. Strangely, I recall a dream I had in the summer of '92 in which I was flipping through the pages of Variety and came across an ad for Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven which touted its eight Oscar nominations--the exact number it eventually received. It's the only time I've had a dream like that. I also correctly predicted, upon its March US release, the win for Marisa Tomei and her superb comedic performance in My Cousin Vinny (which was later drubbed by a ridiculous controversy positing that Jack Palance misread her name off the envelope, which not only insulted Tomei's deserving performance, but also the aging Palance's reading ability). 1992 is not a great year for movies, but you have to admire the top fifteen films or so (Reservoir Dogs, The Long Day Closes. and Glengarry Glen Ross chief among them). And I love that Clint Eastwood finally got his due as a director, producer, and actor--that's 1992's major victory. James Ivory's shining adaptation of E.M. Forster's Howards End came close to besting this bunch (and it ends up doing pretty well in the final tally, with Emma Thompson's lead performance and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay emerging up top). But, honestly, nothing could come close to Eastwood's elegant and brutal western, which screamed out "Instant Classic" upon its release. I'm also thrilled with Mike Leigh's short film A Sense of History, made in collaboration with actor/co-screenwriter Jim Broadbent, which I urge anyone who loves movies to take a look at here. About the only major category in which I disagreed with the Academy in 1992 was Best Actor; out of guilt for not recognizing any of the actor's previous performances, the Academy lauded Al Pacino's excruciating and scenery-masticating performance in Scent of a Woman, while the REAL superlative lead male performance of the year came with Denzel Washington's show as Malcolm X in Spike Lee's slightly flawed biopic (and it was a real close contest here, with Harvey Keitel's memorable freak-out Bad Lieutenant nearly victorious). A final comment: this is absolutely the worst year for Best Song; not being a real rabid fan of Aladdin, I had to search hard for a preferable victor. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold. 



PICTURE: UNFORGIVEN (US, Clint Eastwood) (2nd: Howards End (UK, James Ivory), followed by: The Long Day Closes (UK, Terence Davies); Glengarry Glen Ross (US, James Foley); Reservoir Dogs (US, Quentin Tarantino); The Crying Game (UK, Neil Jordan); Hard Boiled (Hong Kong, John Woo); A Midnight Clear (US, Keith Gordon); Brothers Keeper (US, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky); Bad Lieutenant (US, Abel Ferrara); Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (US, David Lynch); My Cousin Vinny (US, Jonathan Lynn); Passion Fish (US, John Sayles); Baraka (US, Ron Fricke); Malcolm X (US, Spike Lee); The Player (US, Robert Altman); Life and Nothing More (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami); Lessons of Darkness (France/Germany, Werner Herzog); Visions of Light (US, Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy and Stuart Samuels); Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (US, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick); Romper Stomper (Australia, Geoffrey Wright); Map of the Human Heart (US, Vincent Ward); Deep Cover (US, Bill Duke); Under Siege (US, Andrew Davis); Raising Cain (US, Brian De Palma); Husbands and Wives (US, Woody Allen); One False Move (US, Carl Franklin); Lorenzo's Oil (US, George Miller); Bitter Moon (France/UK/US. Roman Polanski); Innocent Blood (US, John Landis); American Heart (US, Martin Bell); El Mariachi (US/Mexico, Robert Rodriguez); Army of Darkness (US, Sam Raimi); Gas, Food, Lodging (US, Allison Anders); Of Mice and Men (US, Gary Sinise); Death Becomes Her (US, Robert Zemeckis); The Last of the Mohicans (US, Michael Mann); In The Soup (US, Alexandre Rockwell); A River Runs Through It (US, Robert Redford); Noises Off! (US, Peter Bogdanovich); Aladdin (US, John Musker and Ron Clements); The Story of Qiu Ju (China, Zhang Yimou); Indochine (France, Regis Wargnier); Orlando (UK, Sally Potter); The Waterdance (US, Neal Jimenez and Michael Steinberg); Aileen Wuernos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (UK, Nick Broomfield); Bebe's Kids (US, Bruce Smith); Strictly Ballroom (Australia, Baz Luhrmann); The Lover (France/UK, Jean-Jacques Annaud); Damage (UK/France, Louis Malle); The Tune (US, Bill Plympton); Olivier, Olivier (France, Agnieszka Holland); Leap of Faith (US, Richard Pearce); Savage Nights (France/Italy, Cyril Collard); Singles (US, Cameron Crowe); Porco Rosso (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Man Bites Dog (Belgium, Rémy Belvaux and André Bonzel); Dead Alive (New Zealand, Peter Jackson); A Few Good Men (US, Rob Reiner); Bram Stoker’s Dracula (US, Francis Ford Coppola); Hero (US, Stephen Frears); Sister Act (US, Emile Ardalino); Scent of a Woman (US, Martin Brest); Basic Instinct (US, Paul Verhoeven); A League of Their Own (US, Penny Marshall); Alien 3 (US, David Fincher); Batman Returns (US, Tim Burton); Chaplin (UK, Richard Attenborough); Hoffa (US, Danny De Vito))




ACTOR: Denzel Washington, MALCOLM X (2nd: Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant, followed by: Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven; Stephen Rea, The Crying Game; Jack Lemmon, Glengarry Glen Ross; Russell Crowe, Romper Stomper; Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs; John Lithgow, Raising Cain)



ACTRESS: Emma Thompson, HOWARDS END (2nd: Sheryl Lee, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, followed by: Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns; Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish; Catherine Deneuve, Indochine; Gong Li, The Story of Qui Ju; Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo's Oil; Romane Bohringer, Savage Nights)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: Gene Hackman, UNFORGIVEN (2nd: Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs, followed by: Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross; Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game; Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross; Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs; Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men; Fred Gwynne, My Cousin Vinny)



SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Marisa Tomei, MY COUSIN VINNY (2nd: Vanessa Redgrave, Howards End, followed by: Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives; Helena Bonham Carter, Howards End; Alfre Woodard, Passion Fish; Miranda Richardson, Damage; Miranda Richardson, The Crying Game; Juliette Lewis, Husbands and Wives)



DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood, UNFORGIVEN (2nd: James Ivory, Howards End, followed by: Terrence Davies, The Long Day Closes; Neil Jordan, The Crying Game; Quentin Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs; James Foley, Glengarry Glen Ross; John Woo, Hard Boiled; Keith Gordon, A Midnight Clear)



NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: HARD BOILED (Hong Kong, John Woo) (2nd: Life and Nothing More (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami), followed by: El Mariachi (US/Mexico, Robert Rodriguez); The Story of Qiu Ju (China, Zhang Yimou); Indochine (France, Regis Wargnier); Olivier, Olivier (France, Agnieszka Holland); Savage Nights (France/Italy, Cyril Collard); Porco Rosso (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Man Bites Dog (Belgium, Rémy Belvaux and André Bonzel))



DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: BROTHERS KEEPER (US, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) (2nd: Baraka (US, Ron Fricke), followed by: Lessons of Darkness (France/Germany, Werner Herzog); Visions of Light (US, Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy and Stuart Samuels); Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (US, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick); Aileen Wuernos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (UK, Nick Broomfield))



ANIMATED FEATURE: ALADDIN (US, John Musker and Ron Clements) (2nd: The Tune (US, Bill Plympton), followed by: Porco Rosso (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki); Bebe's Kids (US, Bruce Smith))



ANIMATED SHORT: MONA LISA DESCENDING A STAIRCASE (US, Joan C. Gratz) (2nd: La Course a l'Abime (Switzerland, George Schwizgebel); The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (Russia, Alexandr Petrov); Still Nacht III: Tales from the Vienna Woods (UK, Stephen Quay and Timothy Quay))



LIVE ACTION SHORT: A SENSE OF HISTORY (UK, Mike Leigh) (2nd: Rispondetemi (Canada, Lea Pool), followed by: Smells Like Teen Spirit (US, Samuel Bayer); Swan Song (UK, Kenneth Branaugh); Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint (US, Michael Moore);



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: David Webb Peoples, UNFORGIVEN (2nd: Neil Jordan, The Crying Game, followed by: Terrence Davies, The Long Day Closes; Quentin Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs; John Sayles, Passion Fish)



ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, HOWARDS END (2nd: David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross, followed by: Michael Tolkin, The Player; Keith Gordon, A Midnight Clear; Horton Foote, Of Mice and Men)



CINEMATOGRAPHY: Phillippe Rousselot, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT (2nd: Tony Pierce-Roberts, Howards End, followed by: Jack Green, Unforgiven; Robert Fraisse, The Lover; Michael Coulter, The Long Day Closes)



ART DIRECTION: HOWARDS END, Unforgiven, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Orlando, Toys




COSTUME DESIGN: BRAM STOKER‘S DRACULA, Howards End, Malcolm X, Toys, Orlando



FILM EDITING: UNFORGIVEN, Hard Boiled, Howards End, Glengarry Glen Ross, Under Siege




SOUND: TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, Unforgiven, Under Siege, Hard Boiled, The Last of the Mohicans




SOUND EFFECTS: UNFORGIVEN, Under Siege, Hard Boiled 



ORIGINAL SCORE: Richard Robbins, HOWARDS END (2nd: Lennie Niehaus and Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven, followed by: Wojciech Kilar, Bram Stoker's Dracula; Mark Isham, A River Runs Through It; John Barry, Chaplin)



ADAPTED OR SONG SCORE: Alan Menken, Aladdin (won as Original Score) (2nd: Robert Kraft, The Mambo Kings) 



ORIGINAL SONG: "She Would Die for Love" from TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (Music by Angelo Badalamenti, lyrics by David Lynch); (2nd: "Friend Like Me" from Aladdin (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman), followed by: "A Whole New World" from Aladdin (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice); "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" from The Mambo Kings (Music by Robert Kraft, lyrics by Artie Glimcher))



SPECIAL EFFECTS: DEATH BECOMES HER, Army of Darkness, Alien 3




MAKEUP: BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, Death Becomes Her. Hoffa

Thursday, May 26, 2016

1991--The Year in Review

Movies definitely take a dark turn this year, evidenced by the eventual winner of the Best Picture Oscar (and the other top four categories), Jonathan Demme's hit horror offering The Silence of the Lambs, an undeniably thrilling and somehow elegant addition to a genre that had rarely been noted before by the Academy. Of course, Anthony Hopkins hit a new high in his career as Hannibal Lecter, but his character was NOT a lead in the movie, so I have moved his performance over to the Supporting Actor category, which he handily wins. As for Best Actress, as much as I adore Jodie Foster's exacting Clarice Starling, I think Mimi Rogers easily overtakes her in The Rapture in an impossibly intense performance, displayed in a film that's often mindbending in its willingness to go where no other film will venture (that's why I also gave its writer/director Michael Tolkin the Best Original Screenplay award, even over the Coens). But it's that brotherly duo that I think emerged with the best movie of the year: a dank, hilariously layered and beautifully horrifying dip into the life of the mind called Barton Fink, with John Turturro excelling as a pretentious New York playwright struggling to adapt to new surroundings while on a soul-eating sojourn to Hollywood (the film set a still unbroken record at Cannes, winning Best Actor and Best Director on top of the Palme D'or). As much as I love other bleak offerings this year--Raise the Red Lantern, Europa (released in the US as Zentropa), JFK (which I admire on a filmmaking front despite resolutely believing that Oswald acted alone), Defending Your Life, The Double Life of Veronique, Cape Fear, The Fisher King, Poison, Delicatessen, Thelma and Louise, Boyz N The Hood and Naked Lunch, among them--it's the Coens that emerge with the 1991 film that fascinates me most with its smart and troubling imagery. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold. 



PICTURE: BARTON FINK (US, Joel Coen) (2nd: Raise the Red Lantern (China, Zhang Yimou), followed by: Defending Your Life (US, Albert Brooks); The Rapture (US, Michael Tolkin); The Double Life of Véronique (France/Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski); Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (US, Fax Bahr, Eleanor Coppola and George Hickenlooper); Europa (Germany/Denmark, Lars Von Trier); A Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan, Edward Yang); The Silence of the Lambs (US, Jonathan Demme); The Commitments (UK/Ireland, Alan Parker); Cape Fear (US, Martin Scorsese); Dogfight (US, Nancy Savoca); The Best Intentions (Sweden, Bille August); Beauty and the Beast (US, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise); Poison (US, Todd Haynes) Thelma and Louise (US, Ridley Scott); 35 Up (UK, Michael Apted); Delicatessen (France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro); Bugsy (US, Barry Levinson); JFK (US, Oliver Stone); City of Hope (US, John Sayles); Boyz N the Hood (US, John Singleton); The Fisher King (US, Terry Gilliam); Naked Lunch (Canada, David Cronenberg); Rambling Rose (US, Martha Coolidge); Jungle Fever (US, Spike Lee); The Man in the Moon (US, Robert Mulligan); The Lovers on the Bridge (France, Leos Carax); L.A. Story (US, Mick Jackson); Rubin and Ed (US, Trent Harris); Grand Canyon (US, Lawrence Kasdan); Daughters of the Dust (US, Julie Dash); La Belle Noiseuse (France, Jacques Rivette); A Brief History of Time (US, Errol Morris); Until the End of the World (Germany/France/Australia/US, Wim Wenders); Paris Trout (US, Stephen Gyllenhaal); Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, Alfonso Arau); Frankie and Johnny (US, Garry Marshall); Terminator 2: Judgment Day (US, James Cameron); Let Him Have It (UK, Peter Medak); A Rage in Harlem (US, Bill Duke); Little Man Tate (US, Jodie Foster); Enchanted April (UK, Mike Newell); Not Without My Daughter (US, Brian Gilbert); High Heels (Spain, Pedro Almodovar); Poink Break (US, Kathryn Bigelow); Proof (Australia, Jocelyn Moorhouse); Toto the Hero (Belgium/France, Jaco van Dormael); Stepping Out (US, Lewis Gilbert); The Rocketeer (US, Joe Johnston); Life Stinks (US, Mel Brooks); Black Robe (Canada, Bruce Beresford); Slacker (US, Richard Linklater); Homicide (US, David Mamet); New Jack City (US, Mario Van Peebles); What About Bob? (US, Frank Oz); The Doors (US, Oliver Stone); City Slickers (US, Ron Underwood); The Prince of Tides (US, Barbra Streisand); Fried Green Tomatoes (US, Jon Avnet); The Addams Family (US, Barry Sonnenfeld); My Own Private Idaho (US, Gus Van Sant); Prospero’s Books (UK, Peter Greenaway); Night on Earth (France/UK/Germany/US/Japan, Jim Jarmusch); Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (US, Kevin Reynolds); Shakes the Clown (US, Bobcat Goldthwait); Hook (US, Steven Spielberg))



ACTOR: John Turturro, BARTON FINK (2nd: Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life, followed by: Robert De Niro, Cape Fear; Warren Beatty, Bugsy; Howard Hesseman, Rubin and Ed; Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides; Dennis Hopper, Paris Trout; River Phoenix, Dogfight)



ACTRESS: Mimi Rogers, THE RAPTURE (2nd: Lili Taylor, Dogfight, followed by: Gong Li, Raise the Red Lantern; Irene Jacob, The Double Life of Veronique; Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs; Laura Dern, Rambling Rose; Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise; Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise)



SUPPORTING ACTOR: Anthony Hopkins, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (won as Best Actor) (2nd: John Goodman, Barton Fink, followed by: Samuel L. Jackson, Jungle Fever; Rip Torn, Defending Your Life; Michael Lerner, Barton Fink; David Straithairn, City of Hope; Andrew Strong, The Commitments; Brad Pitt, Thelma and Louise)



SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Juliette Lewis, CAPE FEAR (2nd: Judy Davis, Naked Lunch, followed by: Meryl Streep, Defending Your Life; Amanda Plummer, The Fisher King; Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose; Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King; Sarah Jessica Parker, L.A. Story; Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides)


DIRECTOR: Joel Coen, BARTON FINK (2nd: Zhang Yimou, Raise the Red Lantern, followed by: Lars Von Trier, Europa; Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Double Life of Veronique; Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life; Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs; Michael Tolkin, The Rapture; Oliver Stone, JFK)


NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: RAISE THE RED LANTERN (China, Zhang Yimou) (2nd:  The Double Life of Véronique (France/Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski), followed by: Europa (Germany/Denmark, Lars von Trier); A Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan, Edward Yang); The Best Intentions (Sweden, Bille August); Delicatessen (France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro); The Lovers on the Bridge (France, Leos Carax); La Belle Noiseuse (France, Jacques Rivette); Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, Alfonso Arau); High Heels (Spain, Pedro Almodovar); Toto the Hero (Belgium/France, Jaco van Dormael))


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE (US, Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr) (2nd: 35 Up (US, Michael Apted, followed by: A Brief History of Time (US, Errol Morris))


ANIMATED FEATURE: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (US, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise)



ANIMATED SHORT: ENTRE DEUX SOUERS (Canada, Caroline Leaf) (2nd: The Comb (UK, Stephen and Timothy Quay), followed by: The Sandman (UK, Paul Berry))



LIVE ACTION SHORT: LOSING MY RELIGION (US, Tarsem Singh) (2nd: Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment (US, Debra Chasnoff) (won as Documentary Short), followed by: Bedhead (US, Robert Rodriguez); World of Glory (Sweden, Roy Andersson))



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Tolkin, THE RAPTURE (2nd: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Barton Fink, followed by: Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life; Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, The Double Life of Veronique, Callie Khouri, Thelma and Louise)


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Ted Tally, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (2nd: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais and Roddy Doyle, The Commitments, followed by:James Toback, Bugsy; Ni Zhen, Raise the Red Lantern; Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK) 


CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lun Yang and Fei Zhao, RAISE THE RED LANTERN (2nd: Roger Deakins, Barton Fink, followed by: Robert Richardson, JFK; Darius Khondji; Delicatessen; Freddie Francis, Cape Fear)


ART DIRECTION: BARTON FINK, Raise the Red Lantern, Bugsy, The Rocketeer, Delicatessen



COSTUME DESIGN: BARTON FINK, Raise the Red Lantern, Bugsy, The Addams Family, The Rocketeer



FILM EDITING: JFK, The Commitments, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Silence of the Lambs, Thelma and Louise



SOUND: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, Beauty and the Beast, The Commitments, The Doors, Barton Fink

SOUND EFFECTS: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, Backdraft, The Rocketeer 

 
ORIGINAL SCORE: Carter Burwell, BARTON FINK (2nd: Howard Shore, The Silence of the Lambs, followed by Ennio Morricone, Bugsy; John Williams, JFK; Zbigniew Priesner, The Double Life of Veronique)



ADAPTATION SCORE/SCORING OF A MUSICAL: Alan Menken, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (won as Best Original Score) (2nd: Elmer Bernstein, Cape Fear, followed by: G. Mark Roswell, The Commitments)



ORIGINAL SONG: “Be Our Guest” from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman) (2nd: “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman), followed by “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman); "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast (Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman); “Everything Do (I Do For You)” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Music by Michael Kamen, lyrics by Bryan Adams and Rob Lange))


SPECIAL EFFECTS: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, Backdraft, The Rocketeer 

MAKEUP: NAKED LUNCH, The Addams Family, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Friday, May 20, 2016

TOP GUN and Tom Cruise: A Look Back

In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the release of Top Gun, I am reprinting my interview with Tom Cruise, which was conducted in May 1986 at the UN Plaza Hotel in New York City, the day after the film premiered for press at the Paramount Theater. The article originally ran in the May 20th 1986 edition of the Georgia State University Signal's Tuesday Magazine: 


Tom Cruise is neither as arrogant nor as innocent as he may sometimes seem on screen. He constantly walks a tightrope between the two extremes, yet he recklessly does so in a way that could make one think he could flip-flop at any moment. He could probably make a person feel indispensable one minute, then turn and intimidate them with his own assuredness. He doesn't seem like the type of person who would actually do that. But he could if he wanted to.

That strength of personality has afforded Cruise the opportunity to tackle a variety of roles in his five-year film career. He has moved swiftly from the pathological Red Beret in Taps to the naive high school student in Risky Business to the ambitious football player in All The Right Moves to the heroic hermit Jack O' The Green in Legend and has approached each role with vitality and a total commitment to purpose. Perhaps that is why he was the first actor to pop into the minds of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop) when it came time to cast their newest film Top Gun. The producers knew they had to have an actor that could express an exceptionally vigorous love for his (and for the lead character's) profession, so Simpson and Bruckheimer agreed Cruise was their man.



In the film, Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, one of the finest fighter pilots enrolled in the Navy Fighter Weapons School, a training program set up for the Navy's most expert and elite pilots--a program more popularly known as "Top Gun."

In an interview conducted on a sunny May day at New York's UN Plaza Hotel, I found that, as he does with much of his acting, Cruise puts force behind his words and beliefs, not solely because it's his job, but because he himself wouldn't have it any other way. It would be unwise just to write off what he has to say about his acting and his films as a con--he speaks that intensely. It would be simple to flick his emphatic stance away and to disregard it as a fervent performance given by an expert salesman. But Cruise, dressed modestly in a pair of fashionably worn cowboy boots, an over-sized brown wool sweater, some slightly baggy white pants, and with a then-unoccupied pierced left ear, is not a salesman; he may sport that brand of tenacity, but he speak with a clear-eyed honesty.

For instance, he doesn't hesitate to admit that, while he was taken with the film's script from square one, he had his reservations about agreeing to star in Top Gun when the producers first offered it to him. "I didn't want to make a war film. I was more interested in making a piece about character. Luckily, [Simpson and Bruckheimer] didn't want to make a war movie, either. If we had wanted to make that type of film, we would've opened with MiGs blasting out and put explosions all the way through it. We could have done that," Cruise says, smiling at the thought. "But we were careful to stay away from it. "


The actor maintains that, in keeping an open mind about the military, he learned a few things about it if which he previously (from working on Taps back in 1981) only had inklings. "The thing that I understood prior to Top Gun was that the military was just a tool of the government. You're not making policy, you're enforcing it. I got involved five months prior to the shooting of the film. I did a lot of research, going down to San Diego, spending time at the Top Gun base in Miramar, spending time looking for what it was about this character that makes him what he is. Going into the film, I had, maybe, this idea of the fighter pilots themselves, even when I was getting involved with them and spending a lot of time with them. In doing that, I met these great old fighter pilots from World War I and World War II. Talking to them, I got the feeling--especially from the older guys who flew the B-51s--of their passion for flight and their love of competition. I found that, among these pilots, there's a camaraderie, a great and equal respect for any man who's brave enough to go up and fly in these jets. It's a whole different world, a different reality."

Even so, Cruise notes, there is a darker, colder, heavier side to the military that he had also never fathomed before: namely, its effect on men as individuals, not as just pilots or officers. "The thing they say," Cruise remembers, "is if they had wanted you to have a family and a wife and kids, they would've issued them to you. So it's tough. I mean, we lived on a carrier for four days and I was thinking the whole time I was going through it that these guys are on there for nine months at a time. Nine months of their lives. They kiss their wives goodbye, maybe she's two months pregnant and they come back and there's a baby that's a couple of months old." Shaking his head, thinking back on his experiences, Cruise says "Living on a carrier, it's prison with the threat of drowning. That is definitely not a nice environment."



Though Cruise is still very much the actor, he inevitably has been bitten by the production bug. Like many actors, he has his own production company set up in Los Angeles, with six projects in development, both for himself and for others. Top Gun, he says, was useful in his filmmaking education, as it finally gave him the chance to study what goes on behind the camera. "It was my first time in getting involved that strongly on the production side of it," he says. "Getting that whole different point-of-view [producers] Don and Jerry really shared a lot of that with me: the development of the piece, breaking it down. Some films come in and they're three or four hours over their projected length and you've got to cut them and reshape the whole film. These guys are very sound with what they do because they start out with a lean script and they decide what kind of picture they want to make prior to the shoot. Every scene that we shot," he says pridefully, "is on the screen. There's no excess."

Overall, the actor adds, he is pleased with Top Gun as a final product. The film is everything he expected it to be, especially when he takes into consideration how difficult the extensive aerial sequences were to shoot. Cruise feels that the combined effects of the air story and the ground story are going to be well received by audiences. "My little sister at in the theater, watching the film, and I was right behind her," Cruise says, trying to control the grin that begin to curl at his mouth. "I watched her and her head, every now and then, would go like this..." Cruise ducks his head violently, then laughs. "So I felt satisfied with the film."



One interesting thing about Cruise's latest effort are their directors. Top Gun, on one hand, was director Tony Scott's follow-up to The Hunger, an immensely popular cult film starring David Bowie as an aging vampire. Legend, on the other hand, was directed by Tony's more famous brother, Ridley Scott, who has given us such visual masterpieces as The Dullists, Alien and Blade Runner. In tone and in visual style, the Scotts' films are peas in a pod, particularly in their smoky cinematography. However, Cruise finds it difficult to compare their directorial methods without being unfair. "They're two different people," he says. "Their common interest is one of wanting to make different, interesting, bigger-than-life films. They're ambitious filmmakers. But it would be unfair to compare them because of the different types of films. If I had worked with Ridley on a character piece like Top Gun, or possibly even Alien, then I would be able to make a comparison. But as it stands, they were two totally different films."

Legend, in release for over a month now after being shelved for a year by Universal Pictures, has received fairly lukewarm notices, with most of them praising Ridley Scott's technical acuity rather than Cruise's acting, which has gotten, for the first time in his career, roundly slammed. Cruise is not bothered by the critical reaction to the film, though, just as he won't be bothered by the reception of Top Gun, whether it be good or bad.

"If I did let things like that bother me, for the rest of my life and career, I'd go nuts. I knew exactly what I was getting into with Legend. In the future, I'm going to take a lot of risks. And there are going to be other films people are not going to like. It's going to be that way. But it's the process and the actual making of the work that is the challenge, or at least most of the challenge. I mean, I want everyone to love my movies and everyone to go see them and to get great notices, but that can't be the reason for doing them."


Cruise is one of a handful of very successful young actors today that is not a member of the so-called "Brat Pack." However, he still takes offense when the term is dredged up. He feels that it is not only an insult to the actors to whom the label is aimed, but is, in reality, an insult to all actors, including himself. When asked why he hadn't done a film with the actors more famously included in "The Brat Pack," he struck back, not with aggressiveness, but with a modicum of irritation in his voice.

"First of all," he said, "using that phrase, I think, is such a cop-out for the press. There's no such thing as 'The Brat Pack.' It's such a writer's device, y'know? It's really... cute. People who write that kind of stuff, it makes it very secure for them. Then they don't have to deal with the actors as individuals. Anyway, I've been offered those films and other things--I don't want to get specific--but I didn't look at the scripts in terms of how they were going to affect my image. When I read a script, I look at it in terms of 'Okay, what is this script saying? What would I want to say with this piece? What would I be communicating?' and then approaching it on that level." Cruise says that he turned down those films he was offered on that level, as well. In spite of the level of success he has so obviously reached, Tom Cruise still has a healthy attitude about being a celebrity and an admired actor. With the most modest of airs, he says "I'm always up-and-coming as far as my work goes. You look at Paul Newman, in his early 60s. He's still growing as a person and an actor. The roles that he's played, he just keeps getting better and better."



Cruise mentions Newman, he acknowledges, mainly because he just finished filming a movie with him in Chicago. Titled The Color of Money, the film is a sequel to Robert Rossen''s masterful 1961 film The Hustler, starring Newman as “Fast Eddie” Felson, a hot-shot pool shark. “It's a movie that stands on its own,” Cruise says. “If you haven't seen The Hustler, it's not going to make any difference when you see this film. It's Eddie Felson 25 years later. He hasn't played pool in all that time, and I'm this comer, this naive but arrogant pool player. It's interesting. For his character, his whole philosophy is 'Money won is much sweeter than money earned.' My character is 'I don't care about money, I just want a guy's Best Game. I just want the best game I can get.' He just wants the challenge. So, throughout the film, Eddie wants to take me on the road, to take me to Atlantic City—we got six weeks—and it's just this conflict of the young and the old. It's almost like the cleansing of Newman's character and the corruption of mine.” Cruise also notes that he did learn to shoot pool for the film, working for many months with pool champion Mike Segal. “Newman and I make every shot in the movie,” he says.

Cruise admits that doing the Scorsese movie was quite a different experience from making Top Gun. “My involvement with Top Gun was much greater. When I came on to The Color of Money, Paul and Marty had already developed the script with the writer, Richard Price. I come off Top Gun, you know, carrying the picture, and then, with Marty and Paul, I was, like, this...kid.” He chuckles now about the experience indicating that it perhaps brought him down a notch. Still, he is close to being speechless when asked to describe working with these two cinematic legends. Acting with Newman was, “exciting—really terrific” while taking direction from Scorsese was a heartfelt “Great!”

But, in all ways, Tom Cruise displays an adventurous streak that, in the past, has usually proven crucial to being a movie star. At no time in our talk did he let this attitude peek through more clearly than when asked about his aggressive style of acting. “I guess I identify with Maverick in the sense that I feel it's unhealthy to just think in terms of only wanting to be the best. I think you should be the best that you can be. If I woke up in the morning and didn't have that feeling that 'Today, I want to do the best that I can possibly do, emotionally or physically,  in any situation,' I wouldn't even get out of bed.”


I should note my meeting with Cruise that I didn't detail in this article. After our interview, I tried to get him to sign my All the Right Moves poster, but I didn't bring a workable pen. So he kindly told me to bring it back up to his room later on and, then, he would sign it for me. After some frantic searching, I found the correct sort of pen and brought the poster back to his room hours later. He was just then getting ready to leave the UN Plaza Hotel, so he invited me downstairs where he was going to wait at the bar for his car to arrive. We talked for a bit in the elevator, and he asked where I was from. When he found out I was from Atlanta, he perked up because he was getting ready to join Paul Newman at the Atlanta Speedway (where he would get a race-car-driving bug from Newman, which led to his film Days of Thunder, and further, to his marriage to co-star Nicole Kidman). At the bar, he had a cranberry juice and I a beer, and he dutifully signed my poster. We talked a bit about the state of the film industry in Atlanta, and before I knew it, he was flashing that famous grin and shaking my hand as we parted. Even today, I still recall his surprising kindness and generosity.