Over on Vulture this morning, E. Alex Jung has a remarkable interview with Thandie Newton, where she is candid in ways that perhaps none of have previously heard. She talks about her frustrations with her Westworld character, she speaks candidly about being sexually abused as a teenager by director John Duigan on the set of Flirting, and how Eve Ensler helped her process. It’s an excellent, insightful interview.
Much of the interview is is also devoted to Thandie Newton and her work on Mission Impossible II with Tom Cruise, a gig she says that Nicole Kidman — then Cruise’s wife — helped her land. Now, we all know how devoted Tom Cruise is to his craft. I very much doubt anyone is as committed to his films as Cruise, whose obsession seems borderline … unhealthy. I mean, the man strapped himself to a plane, for God’s sake. He’s going to film a movie in outer space. He once ran sideways on the tallest building in the world. There’s a lot of things you can say about Tom Cruise — many of them unkind — but you can’t say that he’s not hard working.
That said, we don’t often get too much of a sense of Tom Cruise as a human being, because I’m not entirely sure he is one. I heard him on a podcast a few years ago, and he sounded like someone trying to simulate being a human person. It was Zuckerbergian. But then, despite his commitment to Scientology, one really doesn’t hear other celebrities bad mouth Cruise. It could be the NDAs, but I’m inclined to believe it’s more, again, that there’s not much ill to say about a super-committed robot person with very little personality outside of his intensity and ambition. His personality is his intensity or, as Roxana puts it, his personality is his work.
All of which syncs with this story Newton told about Cruise on the set of Mission Impossible II. Newton sets up the story, first by saying how Cruise was very open about Scientology. In fact, he sent Scientology stuff as Christmas gifts, like the Scientology “Bible.”
She also says she was never asked back for another MI and that Cruise is a “dominant” person who “tries superhard to be a nice person,” but that the pressure of what he takes on in making a movie can sometimes get to him. To wit, this story, which Newton called ‘surreal,’ from the set of MI: II:
There was one time, we were doing this night scene, there were so many extras with pyrotechnics and you name it, and it was a scene with him and me on the balcony. And I don’t think it was a very well-written scene. I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. And we’re looking out over Spain. It wasn’t going well … So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines.
And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, “Let me just — let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.” So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, “I’ll be you. You be me.” So we filmed the entire scene with me being him — because, believe me, I knew the lines by then — and him playing me. And it was the most unhelpful … I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.
I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not — this is how his metabolism is so fierce — he had a big whitehead where that red dot was. It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger. I remember calling Jonathan Demme. I described the night to him: “A nightmare.” As I was describing it, it was clear that I thought I was the big fucking problem. And Jonathan was like, “Thandie, shame on you for not backing yourself.” He was really sweet. And then Tom called and I thought, Oh, this is it. The apology. No, he was just like, “We’re going to reshoot this next week.” I’m like, “Way brilliant.” And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the — because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone.
He wasn’t horrible. It was just — he was really stressed. I had the most extraordinary time.
And that is what it’s like to work with Tom Cruise. I suspect that the pressure to perform well for Cruise can be crippling.
Read the entire, terrific interview over on Vulture
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