Tom Cruise: All the World's a Stage
by Iain Johnstone
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
344 pages, 2006
In the Driver's Seat
Reviewed by Lincoln Cho
You can't envy Iain Johnstone the task of trying to write an up-to-the-minute biography of mercurial star Tom Cruise. Unlike some of the other biographies the former film critic has written -- notably on Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood -- Tom Cruise is very much a work in progress and every day seems to bring new potential fodder for the biography mill. No matter: deadlines must be met, contracts must be honored, books must be written so, coming out of the gate, Tom Cruise: All the World's a Stage is not quite as fresh as it could be. The story is still being written, in a way. But the book? The book is here.
Now, all of that said, Johnstone has done a credible job in weaving in all the threads of the ongoing story that is the actor Tom Cruise. His relationships, both failed and in progress, as well as various fist-raising and couch jumping episodes ("The year 2005 was, without doubt, the most astonishing in Tom Cruise's life...") and although the final picture is still incomplete, Johnstone gets points for insight and detail.
It should be pointed out that saying that the book is incomplete is not a quibble. The subject of the book is still a relatively young man and, perhaps more importantly, one who seems more and more emotionally volatile as the years pass. Unlike much of the entertainment press, Johnstone restrains himself from taking runs at this new volatility, though he does examine some of the causes. And while the portrait he produces seems as evenhanded as can be, it's more stately than might be expected, considering the type of press Cruise has been getting the last few years.
Because Cruise is arguably the most significant star of his generation -- and certainly has been for many years one of the best paid -- much has been written about him throughout his career. As a result, the star's die-hard fans won't find much here that's new. After all, in one form or another, it's all been said before. On the other hand, Johnstone brings an insider's insight to his Cruise biography project. As Johnstone points out in his prologue, he was appointed film critic of London's Sunday Times in 1983, the same year Tom Cruise starred in Risky Business.
During my dozen years as a critic, I observed and analyzed this arrestingly handsome young man with his perfectly symmetrical features, searchlight blue eyes and killer smile.
More salient to the text than even Johnstone's professional observations have been the author's proximity to both the industry and even, on occasion, the star himself. Johnstone co-write the screenplay for Fierce Creatures with John Cleese. Still in the prologue, Johnstone relays his first meeting with Cruise, who visited the set of Fierce Creatures with Sarah Ferguson and "assorted children" in 1996. At first, no one recognized Cruise:
They recognised the Duchess of York, her red mane not being the best disguise in the world; but not our chauffeur in his baseball cap and dark shades. All eyes turned to Fergie, who attracts a slightly mixed reaction amongst the British public -- and so it was that suffocating summer's morning. Little attention was paid to the man in black. Until he smiled -- that smile. Cynthia Cleese, normally the coolest of customers, permitted her mouth fall open when she realised who was addressing her.
As these snippets from the prologue indicate, Tom Cruise: All the World's a Stage manages just about a perfect balance of insider insight and good old journalistic research. Hard-core Cruise fans will find few surprises, but the rest of us will find much of interest. | November 2006
Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and contributing editor to Blue Coupe magazine.