ELEVEN years ago, it seemed Tom Cruise was probably finished.
After a bout of bizarre headlining-grabbing behaviour (including Scientology stoushes and couch-jumping), the actor had become the focus of an unprecedented and blistering attack by the head of the movie studio that had long profited from his Hollywood stardom.
“It’s nothing to do with his acting ability, he’s a terrific actor,” said Mr. Redstone. “But we don’t think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot.”
It was the end of a 14-year relationship between Cruise’s production company and the movie studio, and to many, signalled the death knell for his career.
“As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal,” Mr. Redstone said. “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”
It was certainly a weird phase in Cruise’s career.
Although at the time he boasted a lifetime box-office gross of over $US1.5 billion, he hadn’t quite managed to adapt from his young hero status to a respected leading man.
The best examples of why it wasn’t working out were two seemingly harmless interviews in 2005, both now so infamous they hardly need a reminder.
Cruise jumping up on Oprah Winfrey’s couch to emphasise his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes during publicity for War of the Worlds has been so permanently ingrained in pop culture that it’s hard to look at a lounge set without remembering it.
Shortly after that came his controversial war of words with Brooke Shields, where the staunch Scientologist publicly branded her “irresponsible” for using antidepressants to help combat her post-partum depression.
“When someone says (medication) has helped them, it is to cope, it didn’t cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever,” he told Access Hollywood at the time, adding that women should cure themselves with “vitamins and exercise” instead.
Then came reports of a battle between Cruise and the Viacom-owned Comedy Central over an episode of South Park which joked about the actor being a “closet” homosexual.
While Cruise’s reps deny it ever happened, it was alleged he refused to promote Mission Impossible: III unless the episode was cancelled (it eventually aired a few months later.)
While it was by no means a flop — and still managed to reach number one at the US box office in its opening weekend — it was the lowest grossing film in the franchise.
It was about then that the head of Viacom delivered his stinging public rebuke of the one-time “Sexiest Man Alive,” and kicked his production company off the Paramount lot.
Despite describing the comments as “graceless” via his agent, to Cruise’s credit, he appeared to take them as a much-needed wake-up call.
He hired a new gun publicist, became less vocal (publicly) about Scientology, and took some time off from action movies.
And then came one of Cruise’s more brilliant decisions.
In 2008, he joined the cast of his good friend Ben Stiller’s comedy Tropic Thunderas the potbellied, balding studio executive Les Grossman and reminded us all that he could act and be funny at the same time.
It endeared him to many long-lost fans, and had the added benefit of teaming him up once more with Paramount.
Just two years later, after a heavy pinch of goodwill and persuasion on his behalf from director JJ Abrams, it was announced that Cruise would be starring in the next Mission: Impossible movie, titled Ghost Protocol.
Thanks to a number of genuinely insane action scenes — like Cruise scaling the tallest building in the world without a stunt double — M:I 4 became the franchise’s ever biggest worldwide success.
Off the back of that success, Cruise starred in Edge of Tomorrow, which managed to rake in more than $US100 million domestically — signalling the first time a movie outside the M:I series had done so in nearly a decade.
The follow-up M:I film — Rogue Nation — became the second-highest grossing in the franchise.
Certainly, 55-year-old Cruise’s reputation has been damaged by the controversies of his past, but in a story which at one point seemed certain to feature a Hollywood has-been, it’s clear he’s been brought back from the brink.