Tom Cruise goes all out rockstar in the June issue of W magazine! The photoshoot is up at the gallery and you can read the full interview at WMagazine.com or below below:
Rock of Ages star Tom Cruise is strumming his way to the hall of fame.
Itâ€™s a Thursday afternoon in a studio in Los Angeles, and Tom Cruise, dressed in jeans and an untucked white button-down shirt, is Âbelting out â€œParadise City.â€ Heâ€™s performing the Guns Nâ€™ Roses songâ€”which he sings during the opening credits of his new movie, Rock of Agesâ€”in character, as Stacee Jaxx, a fading rock god from the eighties. Sitting in front of the glass-enclosed recording booth are Cruiseâ€™s music advisers, including Ron Anderson, formerly a vocal coach for Axl Rose, whose trademark screech Cruise has perfected. When Cruise started this project more than a year ago, he didnâ€™t know whether he could really sing. â€œAdam Shankman, the director, asked me if I could carry a tune,â€ Cruise tells me later. â€œI said, â€˜Weâ€™ll see, wonâ€™t we? This is either going to work or itâ€™s going to be dreadful.â€™â€Šâ€
Throughout his career, Cruise has assessed roles by their degree of difficulty. He loves a challengeâ€”especially if it involves mastering some new skill. Cruise has tossed bottles (Cocktail), flown fighter jets (Top Gun), hustled pool (The Color of Money), learned to live life as a Nazi with one arm and an eye patch (Valkyrie), raced cars (Days of Thunder), and, most recently, rappelled down the face of the tallest building in the world (Mission: Impossibleâ€”Ghost Protocol). He always works from the outside in: Even in his serious, Academy Awardâ€“nominated roles for Born on the Fourth of July (in which he was wheelchair-bound) and Magnolia (where he played a sex guru), his way into a character is through the physical. With Stacee Jaxx, he began with the mundane rock-star requirementsâ€”honing his newly discovered four-octave range and learning to play the guitarâ€”but the physical soon gave way to the emotional. While everyone else in Rock of Ages is either ridiculous or playing their part with a wink (Alec Baldwin in a wig!), Cruise seems to actually be living in Staceeâ€™s leather pants. He is alone inside another, much more interesting movie; there is a melancholic undertow to Stacee Jaxxâ€”heâ€™s only truly alive when heâ€™s onstage, and he knows that his time there is nearly over.
Cruiseâ€™s personal sense of character complication may have something to do with timing: Though the actor looks easily 15 years younger, he will be 50 in July. When he signed on to Rock of Ages, he was at a career crossroadsâ€”the rambling, not-fun Knight and Day, a big action movie, had not scored at the box office, and negative rumors had plagued MI4. True to his nature, Cruise concentrated on the workâ€”specifically, the jump off the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. â€œI look at cities and architecture and Iâ€™m always thinking, I want to jump off that building,â€ Cruise says. â€œIâ€™m inspired by Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton or Charlie ÂChaplin. I think, Weâ€™re going to get this on camera, and itâ€™s going to be in IMAXâ€”that will be something for an audience.â€
The jump worked: Last Christmas, MI4 was an enormous hit, making $693 million and putting Cruise back on top. â€œWe were finishing Mission,â€ he recalls. â€œIâ€™d go down the front of the building and then get on the phone with Adam Shankman and say, â€˜Whatâ€™s the voice of Stacee Jaxx?â€™ This movie was, for me, like training for anything: You have to learn how to use your muscles. And then you start thinking, What story do I want to tell?â€
When W photographed Cruise in the penthouse of the Raleigh ÂHotel in Miami Beach several months before our meeting in Los Angeles, he was completely immersed in Staceeâ€™s story. Rock of Ages was filming in Miami, and Cruise was sporting long hair extensions and tattoos. Playing the character took some courage: If he didnâ€™t approach the role with sincerity and intensity, Cruise could easily look like a joke. â€œStacee Jaxx had to be real,â€ he said during the shoot. â€œI didnâ€™t want to imitate all these other rock stars. He had to be unique. If the audience doesnâ€™t immediately buy into his absolute greatness, thereâ€™s no movie journey. Without that, you have nothing.â€
Back in the studio, Cruise lets out a pitch-perfect scream. â€œMy throat is gone,â€ he says, sounding hoarse. â€œThatâ€™s all Iâ€™ve got.â€ Cruise says his goodbyes to the Rock of Ages crew and leaves the room. I follow him into another recording studio to talk. â€œAfter four hours of singing,â€ Cruise begins, â€œI sound like Donald Duck. No more rock star.â€
As a kid, did you sing around the house?
You know what? I did the scene from Risky Business around the house. I would sing Bob Segerâ€”my mother worked, my sisters were out, and Iâ€™d turn the music up. I learned how to dance watching Soul Train. I noticed that if a guy could dance, heâ€™d get a lot of attention and girls would want to dance with him. I worked very hard at imitating those moves.
Were you ever in a school musical?
In my senior year I was in Guys and Dolls. I was Nathan Detroitâ€”the Sinatra part. I wish Iâ€™d had Ron Anderson back then. He would have made a big difference.
Why did you want to do a musical now?
Kate [Holmes, Cruiseâ€™s wife] loves musicals. She sings and dances, and we kind of went through the history of musicals together. And Suri loved Hairspray. With kids, you watch everything over and over; I watched Hairspray 15 times with Suri. I thought Adam Shankman did a great job directing the movie, so I arranged to meet him and said, â€œWhereâ€™s our musical?â€ He came back and said, â€œRock of Ages.â€ We went and saw it in L.A., and for meâ€¦I didnâ€™t know how to play the character like that. I had to find my own Stacee Jaxx.
You began training.
I needed to find out if I could really sing! Ron came in and worked with me. And then I had to learn how to play guitar. Iâ€™m very good at air guitarâ€”and air drumsâ€”but I had never played an actual guitar. After working for weeks on Staceeâ€™s technical skills, I was thinking about the character, and I said, â€œYou know what? I need a monkey.â€ Adam said, â€œWhat the fuck are you talking about?â€ And I said, â€œIâ€™m seriousâ€”I need a monkeyâ€ [laughs]. When Staceeâ€™s not onstage, heâ€™s kind of sad. And I thought, This guy has to have a monkey thatâ€™s his best friend. Adam found this baboon. He sent me the baboonâ€™s audition tape, and I said, â€œThe baboonâ€™s name has to be Hey Manâ€ [laughs]. Stacee Jaxx doesnâ€™t work without Hey Man.
There are a lot of sexy scenes in this movie: At one point youâ€™re climbing a stripper pole; in another scene, youâ€™re grinding up against a ÂRolling Stone reporter, played by Malin Akerman.
I knew we had to push the sexuality because of the nature of the character and the songs. Heâ€™s singing, â€œI Want to Know What Love Is.â€ Adam has a sweetness with this stuff, so you can push things pretty hard. With Malin, I thought of Susan Sarandon in The Rocky Horror Picture Showâ€”incredibly sexy and very sweet.
Itâ€™s hard to get that balance.
When you read a lot of rock biographies, you find that when these musicians are doing their work and itâ€™s going well, thatâ€™s when theyâ€™re really alive. Itâ€™s all the other stuffâ€”the noise and complicationsâ€”that gets them into devilish behavior. Stacee is kind of floating until he comes onstage. Thatâ€™s where heâ€™s at home. Everything else is kind of a mess.
Was your goal to show something intimate?
Yes. Itâ€™s a little uncomfortable at times. But funny. Uncomfortable and funny: That was the goal.