Tom Cruise has been shooting Mission: Impossible 7 for months across Europe during the pandemic. Production has been paused a couple of times due to COVID complications and now they’re back in London, shooting interiors, and audio from set this week was leaked to The Sun of Tom losing his sh-t when a couple of crew members evidently violated social distancing protocols. If you haven’t heard it yet, here’s the tape. It’s really too bad they bleeped out the profanity. I’ve heard the unedited version, with all the swears intact, and it makes all the difference.
First reaction to Tom’s tirade has been pretty positive, considering that the holidays are approaching and in many places around the world, COVID numbers are spiking (here in Ontario where I live, we exceeded 2,000 cases a day yesterday, a sh-tty new milestone) and many of us will not be able to see our families and loved ones for quite some time, on top of the already long ass time we’ve gone without seeing them. (Cheers to you though, New Zealand. I’m an admirer.) And that’s probably a minor concern when you think about health care professionals and the risks they assume every day. But still there are those who aren’t taking the health crisis seriously – even before the vaccine was made available. So hearing Tom explode on a couple of people who were cavalier about following the rules is understandably satisfying – on so many levels.
He’s expressing the frustration that a lot of people have been feeling. But also, there’s his fame and familiarity. We’ve been hearing Tom Cruise’s voice for over 30 years now so here’s someone we culturally recognise, saying the things we wish we could say, delivering it the way we wish we could – dramatically, theatrically… we can’t see him but he’s such a recognisable figure that even when we’re only getting the sound of his outburst, we can totally picture it. Can’t you picture it? His jaw tight, his teeth clenched, spitting out his anger… like he was in the courtroom in A Few Good Men. There are times, LOL, when he actually sounds scripted. Like he’s merging his own character from that film with the righteousness and sanctimony of Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup on the stand.
Tom: “We are the gold standard.”
Jack: “We use words like honor, code, loyalty.”
Tom: “I’m on the phone with every f-cking studio at night, insurance companies, producers, and they’re looking at us to make their movies. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherf-ckers!”
Jack: “I have a greater responsibility that you can possibly fathom…. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death while tragic, probably saved lives; and my existence while grotesque, and incomprehensible, to you, saves lives.”
So if it sounds like Tom’s giving a performance, well, of course he’s giving a performance. His new role is Captain Hollywood, the Superhero of Movies. He is taking it upon himself to save the movie business. You remember back in the summer, he posted a video of himself in London to his social media channels showing people that it was safe to go to the cinema – and he went to see Tenet, the movie that was supposed to save the movie business.
This is Tom’s cause, his PURPOSE, that big word that defines us, that guides all our decisions. And, for Tom Cruise, what else could it possibly be? What else does he know? He lives on movie sets. He lives to run, dive, jump, punch, run some more, jump some more, climb, fall, and run again on a movie set. Without movies, what would be Tom Cruise?
And for Tom Cruise, his default move anyway, while running and jumping and climbing is The Rescue. In real life, even when he’s not working, we are constantly hearing stories about how Tom Cruise saved this person or the other person – and he’s miraculously always in a position to be able to save this person or the other person. You know why?
You know where I’m going, don’t you?
We have to go there. Because when we’re talking about Tom Cruise, Captain Hollywood, the hero of the movie business, we cannot separate that from the way he has explained his life’s philosophy, rooted in Scientology. After all, he explained it himself in the infamous video. How long has it been since you watched this video? Maybe you’ve never seen it? Watch now before it gets disappeared – and pay close attention to what he says at the beginning:
“Because a Scientologist does. He, or she, has the ability to create new and better realities to improve conditions. Being a Scientologist you look at someone and you know absolutely that you can help them. Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else. You drive past, you know you have to do something about it. Because you know you’re the only one that can really help. That’s what drives me. I know we have an opportunity to really help, for the first time, effectively change people’s lives.”
When we talk about this situation then – Tom lecturing the crew about COVID and his duty to the industry, the way he’s taken on this responsibility, you cannot separate it from his approach to life in general, his duty in general, as guided by Scientology principles. This is how he seems himself: as a Scientologist who knows better than anyone else that he’s “the only one that can really help”.
And it’s relevant because this is the best press that Tom Cruise has gotten in years. He’s maintained a pretty low profile for almost a decade now, apart from when he’s on promotion for his movies, specifically because there’s been so much controversy around Scientology. Now he’s making headlines for being Captain Hollywood, the First Avenger fighting COVID Thanos. Many are applauding. It’s re-enhancing his brand… which wouldn’t be an issue if his personal brand wasn’t tied to another brand. All of Yashar Ali’s slides here are worth thinking about, but for the purposes of this discussion, slide five is the one that nails it:
Something to keep in mind as reaction to Tom’s outburst continues to come in and what the consequences will be going forward.
PS. While we’re here though, and Scientologists can solve all the problems, can they please tackle the climate crisis?
PPS. Duana and I will be discussing the Show Your Work angles of Tom’s leaked audio on the next episode of the podcast, which will be posted tomorrow.