Tom Cruise Showed Us That Moviegoing Was Back With ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Says Paramount Vet Sherry Lansing; Actor Receives PGAs David O. Selznick Honor02/26/2023
After a 2022 that saw the biggest movie of his career at the box office and the top-grossing movie of the year with Top Gun: Maverick ($718.7M, $1.49 billion worldwide), Tom Cruise accepted the David O. Selznick honor tonight at the PGA awards.
After a glowing introduction by former Paramount Pictures boss Sherry Lansing, Cruise teared up as the exec said, “Quite simply every day is better because of you.”
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Paramount/Skydance’s Top Gun: Maverick also was up for the top film at the PGAs tonight in addition to being nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture.
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Lansing shared her early days with the actor in 20th Century Fox’s Taps, and also how he wanted to take his first stab at producing with 1996’s Mission: Impossible. The studio boss had her doubts about Cruise in an ensemble, but better a little Cruise than none at all, she thought at the time. But then Lansing read the script which had the whole Mission Impossible team dying in the beginning and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt surviving to avenge their death.
However, what impressed her the most, was that Cruise understood the studio side of the business.
“He didn’t see us as his enemy. When the budget came in high, Tom worked to bring it down without damaging the movie,” said Lansing.
“Tom Cruise showed us that moviegoing was back,” said Lansing about the actor/producer’s determination to keep Top Gun: Maverick as a theatrical release, its release held during the pandemic, despite inner studio politics which wanted to put the sequel on Paramount+.
“He watched every day of dailies…watched all the previews,” said Lansing about his determination to produce the best movie. The actor would hide in the projection room or the back of the room to catch the audience reaction during test screenings. If only audiences knew that Cruise was watching them.
Cruise’s highlight reel played to Strauss’ sprach Zarathustra with scenes from, gosh, his entire canon, i.e. Color of Money, Rain Man, Taps, Collateral, Jack Reacher, Far and Away, The Firm, Mission: Impossible, A Few Good Man, Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, Cocktail, Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky, Interview with the Vampire, Rock of Ages, Magnolia and more.
Taking the stage, Cruise told Lansing, “You’re an exceptional person and you’ve had a tremendous impact on my career.”
Cruise talked about his childhood, working various jobs so he could go to the movies. “Whenever I didn’t have the money, I’d figure out a way to sneak in,” the actor said.
Then one day, he was 18 years old in Valley Forge, PA. “I wasn’t watching a movie, but on the set making one.” That pic was Taps which starred freshman actor Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton hot off his Oscar win for Ordinary People. It was there that Cruise further fell in love with moviemaking, becoming a student of the craft on the set of Taps, exploring the production through various departments thanks to director Harold Becker and producer Howard Jaffe with “their decades of wisdom”
“I was overwhelmed by what I didn’t know,” said Cruise. “How do I become competent in this?”
Following Taps, Cruise was invited to LA by Penn where he met Paula Wagner. She’d become his talent rep, and in future years, his producing partner. He gave big thanks to her husband Rick Nicita, Bert Fields and CAA’s Kevin Huvane.
Cruise told the room that he understood if his movies were good, they’d make money and everyone who worked with him would share in that on his productions. He imparted that philosophy to the room, emphasizing as everyone in the motion picture industry does well, it benefits all, the studio, the overall industry ecosystem.
“You have to create that luck and will it into existence. I’m rooting for all of you,” said Cruise.
Cruise has been largely absent on the awards tour for Top Gun: Maverick, but that’s not a coincidence: He’s popped up at key moments during the post noms Oscar phase at the Nominees Lunch and tonight at the PGA awards. It’s just about when Paramount wants to spring their secret weapon. Cruise received an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival back when Top Gun: Maverick made its overseas premiere there in May in addition to the 4x Oscar nominee receiving a retrospective from the fest.
“I want to thank audiences for allowing me to entertain you,” said the actor.
The Selznick Achievement Award recognizes a producer or producing team for their extraordinary body of work in motion pictures. Past recipients include Steven Spielberg, Barbara Broccoli, Mary Parent, Brian Grazer, David Heyman and Kevin Feige.
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