Having a bad rap in certain sections of the press serves Tom Cruise well, says British actor Simon Pegg.
"Tom has allowed this weird thicket of speculation to surround him and I think it serves him well to a certain extent," says Pegg, who is working with Cruise for the third time in the fifth instalment in the Mission: Impossible series, Rogue Nation, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.
"I don't think there is another movie star like him and that is partly because he hasn't engaged with the gossip about him, so he is seen as less of a normal human being. He still has this mystique about him which, for better or for worse, maintains his status as an old-school movie actor, which we don't really have anymore."
Hence, adds Pegg, the rumour and gossip serve Cruise well. "He does get an unfair rap about a lot of things, but people just don't know everything about him. They think that they do and they don't. There are things I don't know about him and I am good friends with him.
"My experience of him is incredibly positive," he adds. "And I find him to be a very interesting, incredibly generous and fun person to be around. He is a goof! People don't realise that."
At the London press event, which Cruise did not attend, the 45-year-old British actor cites as an example a series of moments that arose while making Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. He and Cruise filmed a series of stunt-driving scenes in the Moroccan capital city, Rabat, and Cruise was forever fooling around.
For a start, he kept switching on Pegg's seat-heater. Working under the sweltering Moroccan sun, this became somewhat uncomfortable.
"It became this war between me and him," says Pegg with a laugh. "One day, I got him back. I switched on his seat-heater, but I had got the tiniest sliver of black tape that I stuck it over the lights on the dashboard, so that he couldn't see that it was on.
"He came back from the bathroom and I noticed he looked hot while we were driving, but whenever he looked over at the dashboard, he couldn't see that the seat-heater light was on. Man, that was a good day. He had to give me kudos because you don't often catch Tom out. He usually wins at everything."
There is no doubting that last statement.
He carries himself like a born winner and his position as one of Hollywood's last out-and-out movie stars is no accident. Everybody who knows Cruise, to any extent, talks about his amazing drive and determination.
Much of the advance publicity for Rogue Nation has been centred on the fact that the American star, at age 53, actually clung on to the outside of an aircraft for a scene - without a stunt double or the use of computer-generated imagery.
It must stand among Cruise's craziest stunts. One wonders what the insurance demands must have been.
"It's funny, the insurance question comes up a lot and I've not got to the bottom of the mystery myself," laughs Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects (1995) who directed Cruise on Jack Reacher (2012) and who returns to helm Rogue Nation.
"Tom and I have the tendency to just go ahead and do things until somebody comes and tells us to stop. But that airplane stunt was incredibly dangerous. There were a number of variables and the concern about him falling off the plane was the least of our concerns.
"Interestingly enough, what kept him on the plane was the pilot," continues the director, who is in his 40s. "If the plane went beyond a certain threshold, nothing in the world was going to keep Tom on the plane. We could have stapled him to the plane and he was not going to stay on. That stunt was all about the pilot's hand on the throttle and the trust that Tom had in the pilot."
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