Tom Cruise has worked with some of the biggest directors in the history of cinema - Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Brian de Palma, Oliver Stone, Rob Reiner and Paul Thomas Anderson to name just a few - but in the 2010s he's found himself a specific set of new relationships: Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, 2019's Top Gun: Maverick), Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and next year's M:I6) and, perhaps most successfully, Doug Liman. The pair first worked together on time travel actioner Edge of Tomorrow (and are set to both return for the rewinding sequel), and this week reunite for something a bit more grounded. American Made tells the outrageously true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot who went from cigar smuggler to CIA operative to Columbian cartel drug-runner to NSA informant, profiting from every step.
Screen Rant sat down with Cruise and Liman recently to talk about their latest collaboration and what kept them working together. As is wont with someone as energetic and talkative as Cruise, the conversation eventually went to the "Tom Cruise type" and a recent meme involving the star.
Good day so far?
Tom Cruise: Yeah, very good day. It's fun. It's fun finally having the opportunity the two of us together to be able to talk about this film.
Yeah, you guys don't spend much time together at all.
Cruise: We love hanging out together.
You do have a few directors who you work with over and over again - jumping off what we were just saying. What about Doug makes him great to keep working with and come onto very different sort of projects?
Cruise: Totally original in every approach. I love his characters and his movies and the stuff that he finds - things that he'll find and he's interested in and I'll look at and be like "Woah". And he just, he makes it work in a way that's very human, very elegant and involving. I have always loved his movies. Right from the first time I saw Swingers and like "who is this guy" that... It's cinematic but his characters - I know them but they're original and I think he's done that in everything. When I saw Bourne, what he did with Bourne is still [amazing] - you can turn that film on at any point and go. It's just classic. I just think it's perfect. And we'd met before and he and I just hit it off. I just love his sensibilities of filmmaking, he's someone who doesn't take anything for granted, and if you look at him from Edge to this movie - when he came on, he's like "Here, I want César [Charlone] to be the cinematographer..."
Doug Liman: He'd never done an American movie before, yeah.
Cruise: Yeah. He's our cinematographer and incredible. And he [Doug] wanted the film to have this kind of attitude, but it's an exploration, something he's willing to chase and he has the courage and conviction knowing what works, you know? And really not giving up either, because I look at a film that I only have one opportunity to make it and, no matter what, I want to just give it everything I have and I know that Doug feels the same way. And, also, with this kind of story, we came in, we're both pilots, I'm from the south, and when I read it I couldn't believe it and I said to Doug "This is outrageous". And just instantly reminded me of Twain, Mark Twain - you know the satire, the irony. Mark Twain's one of my favorite writers from the South. He's very kind of a southern flair that this film has, this kind of rascal, Huckleberry Finn kind of character in modern day. And also the fact that, the kind of flying that you could have in the 80s, that kind of adventure, those kind of escapades - that was it. You can't, you'll never have that time period again, so these kind of cowboys were very unique. And also one of my favorite films, which was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which is based on a true story but had also that kind of you know - it's a very layered film, Butch. It's very humorous, but it's also about American history, you see the tide changing in American history and I feel like...
Liman: Barry was living through something like that.
Cruise And he doesn't realize he's living through it. Like he doesn't see the future, Barry. He's just living one adventure, one moment to the next. But he's a very lovable kind of interesting guy.
One thing, Doug, to ask you, and I guess Tom as well. I saw you said maybe a month ago that it was meant to subvert the typical Tom Cruise "character". I wonder if you could just elaborate on that and how you guys went about doing something that was not maybe the typical Tom role.
Cruise: See I don't know what "typical Tom role is". I'm not... I've never... I don't know what is typcial...
Liman: Well, you just never have a hair out of place...
Cruise: Les Grossman?
Cruise: Collateral, that's a typical? Les Grossman, Collateral?
Liman: But just in life...
Cruise: Born on the Fourth of July [laughs]?
Liman: You know, you carry yourself like... he's always perfectly dressed...
Cruise: [Laughs for the rest of Liman's answer]
Yeah, you get it. You get it.
Liman: He's probably never broken a law. You know, it's like OK, but here's a character who flies in the face of all of that. Like, he's probably never mooned somebody in real life
I have to ask actually - when you moon, that's you mooning?
Cruise: Yes. Oh yeah.
That's you. That's pure Cruise.
Cruise: That's me, it's not CGI. No, it's me. I do my own mooning in films. Just let it be known, I do my own mooning.
Is that true of the Valkyrie thing as well? I don't know if you've seen the social media?
Cruise: No, no I haven't.
Oh, there's a social media thing - do you mind if I ask?
Cruise: No, no.
In Valkyrie where you're, like, doubled over and one of your butt cheeks is bigger than the other from the perspective and there's this thing going around that it's actually a prosthetic that you were wearing for that scene.
Cruise: For what? I have no idea.
Cruise: There was no prosthetic in Valkyrie, no.
Well, that's put that to rest.
Cruise: Good. [Laughs] Valkyrie I have no idea.
- American Made (2017) release date: Sep 29, 2017