Cannes is the only place that loves Hollywood more than Hollywood loves itself; it certainly loves to showcase colossal personal appearances by the iconic names, linked to a big, unjudgemental screening of his or her latest innocent-pleasure movie.
That certainly applies to this year’s live Q&A event with Tom Cruise, ahead of his latest extravaganza Top Gun: Maverick. Mr Cruise took the stage to a rock-star reception after an epic sizzle-reel recap of the great man’s greatest moments – thousands of cinephiles abandoned their cool cynicism and jumped ecstatically to their feet, your correspondent among them.
Cruise was slim, focused and understatedly athletic in dark sweater and trousers; he submitted to good-natured softball questioning from French journalist and Cruise superfan Didier Allouch.
Cruise was very serious about cinema and there were no racy and indiscreet anecdotes. Questions about romance or religion were clearly off the table. But there was something lovable about Cruise’s pure energy and lack of cynicism. He told us about shooting the same particular erotically charged scene with Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut for Stanley Kubrick dozens of times. “Really, Kubrick made you do it again and again?” asked Allouch, unwisely attempting ironic humour on the theme of Kubrick’s legendary perfectionism. “Oh yes,” said Tom, not getting this attempted joke at all.
He was asked if there was any pressure from the suits and the bean-counters to take Top Gun: Maverick straight to small-screen streaming. “Let me tell you,” said Tom, “that’s NOT GONNA HAPPEN!” Screaming and cheering from all of us.
He also told us how it was his habit to have meetings with everyone on a film set to learn about their work and ask: “What’s your job? How can I help you?” Only a lunatic would tell Cruise to go away and let him or her get on with, say, the location catering – because there’s a worryingly good chance that Cruise would actually know a lot about it.
Allouch asked him why in recent Mission: Impossible films, it’s the supporting cast and not Cruise himself who get to do the latex-unmasking-thing. “What can I tell you?” Cruise replied. “Simon Pegg REALLY wanted to do the mask! How can you say no to Simon, right?” We whooped.
Then Allouch became serious and asked him about doing all his own super-dangerous stunts. “You are a family man with children! Why do it?” Tom was ready for this one: “Would you ASK GENE KELLY WHY HE DOES ALL HIS OWN DANCING?”
This reply brought us to our feet all over again.