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Risky Business (1983)
Top Gun (1986)
The controversial suicide of the film director Tony Scott in 2012, scuppered plans for a sequel to this 1986 worldwide blockbuster; Cruise’s affection for his British friend ensuring the shelving of their proposed script. The pair had reportedly toured a naval air station in Fallon Nevada in August that year as part of their research for the military drama, in which Cruise would have reprised his celebrated role as a naval fighter pilot Lt Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
As it is, the original movie remains the prototype for testosterone-fuelled action adventures, charting the fortunes of a cocky air force pilot with the hots for his sassy female instructor. Now available in a 3D remastered edition, the aerial dogfights look more spectacular than ever.
Co-star Kelly McGillis’s memories of Cruise are of a warm, respectful and throughtful colleague, her reservations about the movie confined to its naval recruitment propagandistic undertones.
Born on the 4th of July (1989)
The Firm (1993)
Mission Impossible (1996)
War of the Worlds (2005)
Cruise is Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the real-life mastermind behind the elaborate plot known as Project Valkyrie: a plan to assassinate Hitler and overthrow his government from the inside.
I saw the film during its first theatrical run, being initially interested to see how it compared to the 1980 made for television film “The plot to assassinate Hitler”, but also to assess how Cruise might handle his professional mid-life crisis.
A fast paced, deftly handled screenplay, that maintains genuine tension despite the historical certainty of the storyline’s finale, the film is somewhat undermined by the curious melange of acting dialects. Von Stauffenberg’s cohorts are played by British actors, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, and Kenneth Branagh, who deliver their lines in English accents, whilst Thomas Kretschmann recalls Hollywood’s golden period with an archetypal German accent that Anton Diffring would have been proud of. Most disconcertingly of all, there’s our central hero, delivering his lines in pureblood American whilst commercially treading water. Still, unlike John Wayne’s centurion in ‘The Ten Commandments’, his dialect isn’t unintentionally hilarious.
There isn’t time to plumb the emotional intensities of the central characters, nor the background to their wavering political convictions, but as an entertainment spectacle, it’s a two hour rollercoaster ride.
At 50 years of age Tom Cruise sits at the very top of his professional game as the most ‘bankable film star’ in the world. From 1992 to 2006, he had an almost unbreakable string of $100 million-plus grossing hits, an unprecedented track record in modern Hollywood. Recent entries in his film canon have not performed as well, yet his 2013 release ‘Oblivion’ has shown there’s more to his appeal than the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise.
He appears personable, gracious towards his fans, restrained in the face of provocation, (the idiot who squirted him with water at a London premiere being a case in point), and financially astute. He is well respected amongst directors and technicians, and is an ever popular interviewee, yet unsettling aspects to his private life have once again, brought into public focus, the continuing operations of the Church of Scientology. As the accusations and denials about this religious organisation abound with ever increasing regularity, one ever present thought prevails – someone, somewhere, is lying.
There’s little doubting that Cruise is a cause célèbre for scientologists, his sensitivity to criticism of the church leading to his recent blacklisting of several less than complimentary magazine reporters from the ‘Oblivion’ premiere; undeniable evidence of his commitment to the faith. Former President Nixon had a blacklist but in terms of an actor and his religious beliefs, matters appear to be getting out of hand. Most of his wrath has been reserved for “The Hollywood Reporter”, which has published more than twenty unflattering Scientology stories in less than a year, but other tabloids have not escaped unscathed. If his faith really can account for three failed marriages, then a little ‘time-out’ is perhaps called for; a rather difficult task nonetheless, with a life lived in the fast lane.
According to their official literature: “Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.”
Okay, in all honesty, the vast scope of this aspirational journey is beyond me; at the age of fifty four I am only just coming to terms with my own self, let alone my universe. As an elderly relative put it to me recently -“Once you’ve worked out that 60% of your life is going to be s – – t, then you’ll be fine”. Homespun philosophies like this always make me laugh, but nevertheless there’s surely more to investigate? More importantly, I don’t want to be involved in any ‘rush to judgement’ where scientology is concerned; after all, I set myself the goal of writing these commentaries with as much impartiality as possible, and I do not intend to deviate from this aim, whatever the controversy surrounding this subject area.
If one of the aims of scientology is an understanding of one’s relationship to self, then that appears to me, a perfectly logical starting point. Cultivating a good relationship with ourselves may seem selfish, and there is a counter argument for devoting time on improving our relationships with others. Yet, in reality, it is selfish not to have a good relationship with ourselves because this is the foundation for all other relationships. Without loving, respecting, and accepting ourselves, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to love, respect, and accept others. If we are to agree on this premise, then we must also accept our internal struggles as amongst the most difficult we will encounter in life. Connecting with ourselves requires patience, time, and kindness and is a constantly evolving process. The twists and turns of life will change us. We have to learn to grow with ourselves, change when necessary, and pay attention to our current state. In the final analysis, this is the one relationship we’ve had, and will continue to have, for our entire life.
Cruise has clearly spent years seeking edification, a form of self improvement that none of us should publicly disparage; the fact that millions may feel uneasy with the path he has chosen for himself is, to all intents and purpose, incidental. He has three failed marriages behind him, a daughter he does not see every day and an experienced ‘patter’ with journalists and chat show hosts that will belie his innermost angst. At the core of his problem is the persuit of inner peace and contentment. Whilst millions around the world, gamble in the hope of a lottery win despite the overwhelming odds against them, Cruise has had, for more than one decade, all the material comfort he could possibly wish for and yet clearly, he is still searching for a deeper meaning to his life.
I don’t by nature, gamble, but have in the past, been a member of various work lottery syndicates. The motivation, as I recall, was three fold, namely 1) to be seen to actively participate in the syndicate 2)to preserve my options if the business employing me ceased to exist as a result of a substantial win and c) to ensure I would fully participate in any winnings. When I reflect on my weekly subscription, I can at least say that, had my employer been a multi-national company rather than a small entrepreneurial venture, I doubt I would have bothered. The fact remains that, in all honesty, and I know at least two other men who will guardedly admit to this, I wouldn’t instinctively rush out to buy anything if I won the lottery; in fact I doubt if that position would have changed after three months. Money brings a form of security but inner contentment? – we only have to look at the lives of the rich and famous to work out the answer to that one. I could buy myself an expensive car but I’m not really interested and in any event, the neighbours would despise me for my ostentatiousness. A yacht? Yes, sailing would provide some quality thinking time but then there’s the maintenance outlay and the cost of keeping a crew on retainer. For years, I was always convinced I would spend a small fortune on a 1958 Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, provided of course, that someone was willing to sell one! Now, I doubt I’d even begin the process. Why should that be so? Simply I feel, because it wouldn’t make me happy and in any event, moments of pure happiness are few and far between. A form of inner tranquility and contentment? – now there’s an attainable goal.
The following article is indicative of the polarised views on Cruise; this one vehemently opposed to his outspoken support of Hubbard’s teachings.
Scientology has singularly failed to secure any significant groundswell of support in the United Kingdom; the 2001 census of England and Wales, which included an optional question about religion, suggesting a membership level of less than two thousand.
The Church of Scientology says it has 10,000 churches, missions and groups operating in 167 countries, with 4.4 million more people signing up every year. If these statistics are true, then there is clearly an indigenous quality to the British psyche that is proving stubbornly resistant to this American doctrine.
In researching his life, a common parallel with so many public personalities can be drawn; namely, a problematic childhood. Cruise first revealed his abusive childhood in 2006, when he spoke of his father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, as a “bully and a coward, the person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. … It was a great lesson in my life, how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang!”
In an interview with Parade magazine just before his third wife Kelly Holmes, gave birth to their daughter Suri, Cruise said about his childhood years with his father, “For me it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.’ There’s that anxiety.”
The actor was 12 when his mother left his father, taking Cruise and his sister Lee Anne with her. The next time Cruise saw his father was 10 years later, when Mapother “was in the hospital dying of cancer, and he would only meet me on the basis that I didn’t ask him anything about the past,” the actor said.
“When I saw him in pain, I thought, ‘What a lonely life.’ He was in his late 40s. It was sad,” Cruise told Parade.
The monks and nuns of scientology are referred to as Sea Orgs and, according to the writer Andrew Morton, dress in paramilitary uniforms and sign “billion year” contracts to prove their commitment to the cause. Cruise would have encountered them for the first time in 1989, when he was invited to the community’s secluded lair in the California Desert near the remote township of Hemet. I presume Morton referred to the tithing of a member’s income in such a grand manner for literary effect, since it is doubtful the majority of such contracts can be worth that much. As for their uniform, Religious Orders traditionally wear them, both as an identification badge and to simplify their lives. Mr. Hubbard dismissed the idea of a uniform to resemble 15th Century monks as being out of date, and Orange robes likewise, would have been too distracting. The perfect choice, to instill pride, discipline and a team spirit, was to choose a modern 20th century image, a uniform loosely based on the look of the US Navy; L.Ron Hubbard himself, having been a US Navy Officer during WWII. The visit to the Scientology lair was successful and Cruise has been “in” ever since, whether it be campaigning for Scientology tax exemptions in Britain, cajoling 9/11 fireman to attend detoxicology programmes run by the sect or simply seeking constant nourishment for his emotional and physiological needs. By all accounts, his third wife was simply a star struck young woman, raised in a staunchly Catholic family, and seemingly protected by her lawyer father. By June 2005 she was a fledgling scientologist, by Novemeber 2006, the third Mrs Cruise, a mother the following year and a fleeing woman with her daughter by 2012. Clearly, something had gone horribly wrong. Why should this be so?
Millions of couples live harmoniously together (or not as the case may be), but religion is not invariably, a major factor either way. Organised religion has been the single largest cause of worldwide suffering since time in memoriam and its devisive and elitist elements have concerned me for years. As the late Frank Zappa so eloquently put it – “The difference between a cult and a church is real estate”. Regrettably, eloquence and accuracy are not, however, inextricably bound in wedded bliss, for whilst cynical observations can hint at the truth, they often do little more. The Catholic Church is a case in point, and it is perhaps churlish of us to reserve all our disdain for scientology at the expense of every other form of ‘organised religion’.
In a March 2013 interview with the Sunday Telegraph in England, the actor Gabriel Byrne discussed his Irish background and his views on the catholic church;
“…. yes, the Jesuits have that expression, ‘give us a child until he is seven and he will be ours for life’. That was why the Catholic church and the Nazi party fed off each other. After the rally at Nuremberg, the Pope said:
‘We need to be doing something similar and we have the theatre for it with St.Peter’s’ so that was when he started coming out on the balcony to address the crowds. And the Nazis meanwhile were learning from the Jesuits and making sure they got the child by seven in order to have them for life. The Hitler Youth”.
The reporter Nigel Farndale then enquired – ‘And that explains the sympathy between Irish Catholics and the Nazis?’
“Yes, De Valera (the Taoiseach) signed the book of condolence when Hitler died. There was a sneaking regard among many Irish people for Germany and Hitler. England’s pain was Ireland’s gain.
Byrne, for me personally, a never less than interesting actor, revealed in 2010 that a priest at the seminary had sexually abused him, and whilst not caring to elaborate, admitted that the experience had left him “deeply hurt”. Still clearly antagonistic towards the church to this day, the actor described the priesthood as having too much of a hold on this country. ‘It’s a very corrupt and nefarious institution”. Citing the “slavery” of the church-and-state run “Magdalene Laundries”, he added that “the nuns were vicious because you have all these women living together in denial of love. They turned inward on themselves, became twisted creatures. I saw nuns being awfully cruel to me and to my sister. Horrific. Horrific”.
Farndale pushed further enquiring of Byrne whether the Catholic church now formed part of his DNA. Replying emphatically, the actor responded :
“I think if you are lucky, you eventually come to a place where you are able to question these things, and I did. I read a lot on the subject and had many conversations and I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic church is a force for evil. How can you deny men who are supposed to be serving you the comfort of a marriage and children? How can they deny sending condoms to Africa? How can they deny women becoming priests? It’s an anti-woman church and an anti-love church”. Strong words indeed and for someone like myself, raised as a catholic, a reinforcemnet of my undue wariness of organised religion. I have my own set of beliefs by which I can measure my shortcomings, yet I have no desire to intermingle every sunday with ‘like minded individuals’. The ‘congregational proclivities of millions worldwide, whether it be inside soccer grounds or in Houses of Prayer, are inclinations that escape me. Nevertheless, my intellectual interest in religions remains wide ranging.
As for Catholicism, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio or Pope Francis, as he will be henceforth known, will have been overwhelmed to discover the extent of the Vatican’s bank holdings, conservatively estimated in 2011 at $8.2 billion. The Banking world’s best guess puts this figure at between $10 billion to $15 billion. Of this wealth, Italian stockholdings alone, run to $1.6 billion, 15% of the value of listed shares on the Italian market. The Vatican has big investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, and real estate. Dividends help pay for Vatican expenses and charities such as assisting 1,500,000 children and providing some measure of food and clothing to 7,000,000 needy Italians. Unlike ordinary stockholders, it pays no taxes on this income.
The Vatican’s tall order of secrecy and bureaucracy is now running in conflict with international banking laws that seek to gather enough information in order to battle money laundering globally. This is one of the thorny issues that the Pope’s predecessor, Benedict IV, tried to address months before he stepped down by appointing a German aristocrat and industrialist Ernst von Freyberg as head of the Vatican Bank.
Reports from the New York Times and Huffington Post indicated the power struggle stems from the tightly closed institution bound with secrecy all these years. The Vatican Bank has been tasked to hold in its vaults the accounts of a select clientele comprised mainly of clerics, religious institutions, and diplomats accredited by the Vatican. The Bank does not issue loans but keeps deposits and patrimony.
According to the most recent records available, as of 2011, the Vatican Bank had 33,000 accounts and some 20,772 clients, roughly two thirds being members of the clergy, according to the New York Times. As of 2013, the Vatican Bank is still able to keep the records of its transactions a secret from public scrutiny. Let’s get a grip on reality at this point, because whilst relayed televised images of the Pope giving Holy Mass on a sunday remain a less uncomfortable sight than portraits of David Miscavige, the 5’ 4” CEO of the Church of Scientology, drawing us into his world with all the panache of a high powered salesman, we’re still talking megabucks. Organised religion remains big business and let’s not forget it.
Therefore, having established that our unease with scientology, whilst not necessarily unfounded, is, from a religious perspective, unduly vituperative, we can return to the subject at hand, namely Tom Cruise. Since a financial pre-nuptial is already in place, it is thought that Katie Holmes purposefully filed for divorce in New York state and not California because New York dislikes giving warring parents joint custody. If she were able to secure sole custody of Suri, Holmes would be able to remove her daughter from the Church of Scientology, which she is alleged to dislike and distrust, despite her husband’s enthusiasm for it. She may well be motivated by the experience of her predecessor, wife number 2, Nicole Kidman, as the following link explains.