Is Tom Cruise the last great movie star?

The last true movie star? From flying fighter jets to motorcycle jumping off a cliff, Tom Cruise has gone above and beyond to ensure his action movies remain a true spectacle – so can he ever be knocked off the throne?

  • Thanks to Top Gun: Maverick success, Cruise has become king of blockbusters
  • Star has no plans of slowing down as Mission: Impossible 7 is set for July release
  • Actors like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson have also enjoyed consistent box-office success, but 60-year-old Cruise remains above the rest of the pack 
  • Cruise is always determined to go above and beyond to make his action films realistic at a time when studios rely heavily on CGI
  • FEMAIL explores how Tom Cruise has managed to become the Daniel Day-Lewis of action reality on screen

Tom Cruise is undoubtedly one of the most famous and iconic stars in Hollywood.

After more than four decades in the industry, it’s become a celebrated fact that the 60-year-old doesn’t hold back in his never-ending mission to deliver the best viewing experience for movie goers.

While most movie studios heavily rely on visual effects and an army of stunt doubles, Cruise has gone as far as to refuse projects if he won’t be allowed to film scenes in real life.

Whether it’s having to train the entire Top Gun: Maverick cast to learn how to fly fighter jets or insisting on performing his own stunts for Mission: Impossible films, Cruise is always determined to go above and beyond.

As an actor and producer of some of the most successful films in history – including Mission: Impossible and Top Gun – Cruise is still able to command a box-office draw that contemporaries such as Brad Pitt are no longer able to match. For this reason, the actor has found himself crowned as the last true movie star.

Following the success of Top Gun: Maverick and the anticipated box-office dominance of the next Mission: Impossible instalments, it doesn’t look like Cruise will be slowing down anytime soon.

Though other actors such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Vin Diesel have enjoyed great success with their own projects in recent years, Cruise remains above the rest of the pack.

Here, FEMAIL explores how Tom Cruise has managed to become the Daniel Day-Lewis of action reality on the screen.

Box office bankability: Actor was named the highest-earning film star in 2022

Tom Cruise is undoubtedly one of the most famous and iconic stars in Hollywood, with his love for stunt work helping him rise high above other leading actors in the industry 

Thanks to Top Gun: Maverick, the 60-year-old has become Hollywood’s highest earning actor making more than $100 million for his blockbuster movie

During his career to date, Tom Cruise has taken in more than $1 billion in all-time earnings from dozens of movies – after essentially kicking his success off in 1983 with a breakout role in Risky Business.

Thanks to his latest blockbuster release, Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise was officially the highest-earning film star in 2022 as reported by Variety in July.

The actor is expected to make more than $100 million from movie ticket sales, his salary, and his cut of home entertainment rentals and streaming revenue.

His earnings come as no surprise after fans and critics alike heaped praise on the movie, which some claiming the film is one of the greatest action movies ever made.

It currently has a hugely impressive 96 per cent ‘Fresh’ score on the reviews aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with the film landing a 99 per cent Audience score from more than 50,000 verified ratings.

At present, Maverick is Paramount’s highest-grossing movie ever worldwide taking in $1.2 billion globally and is the first of Cruise’s movie to pass the billion-dollar mark. It is also only the 12th film in history to cross the $600 million mark at the domestic box office.

Though Cruise is set to take a lower fee upfront for starring in the next two Mission: Impossible films, with sources estimating his paycheck to be between $12 million to $14 million, he earns a sizable percentage of the movies’ first-dollar gross.

That means he ‘gets box office bonuses before the studio even breaks even’ ensuring he always get a good pay day.

One movie executive noted that Cruise and Dwayne Johnson (who made $22.5 million for Black Adam) are two stars whose high salaries are certainly justified.

‘I would never bet against Tom Cruise. Most actors aren’t worth what you pay them, but Cruise and maybe Dwayne Johnson justify their salaries,’ he told Variety, making note of Cruise’s excellent ability to promote his films all over the globe.

Fellow Hollywood heavyweight Brad Pitt’s most recent actions films have not been able to draw in numbers quite as spectacular as Cruise (pictured alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Bullet Train)

One movie executive noted that Cruise and Dwayne Johnson (pictured in Hobbs & Shaw alongside Jason Statham) are two stars whose high salaries are still justified

Indeed, there are many other high earners from the past year including Will Smith, who earned $35 million for action thriller Emancipation, Leonardo DiCaprio who earned $30 million for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Killers of The Flower Moon and Brad Pitt who is getting $30 million for an as-yet untitled Formula 1 drama.

Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth (Extraction 2), Denzel Washington (Equalizer 3), Vin Diesel (Fast X), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker 2), Tom Hardy (Venom 3), Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds (Spirited) all earned $20 million for their respective films. However, it is clear that Cruise still reigns supreme compared to his contemporaries.

Some could argue that actors like Brad Pitt and George Clooney are at the same level of movie stardom as Cruise, but the pair no longer rake in the same kind of box-office numbers.

For example, Pitt’s latest action-comedy release Bullet Train took $30.1 million on its opening weekend in the US following mixed reviews.

It has eventually grossed $239 million worldwide on a production budget of about $90 million, however the numbers aren’t as impressive when placed next to Cruise’s output.

Unrivalled stunt work: Cruise made his love for spectacular stunts become a big part of his brand

After a career spanning over four decades, audiences has grown to love seeing Cruise’s displays as a movie star ‘action man’ on screen

The actor has developed impressive skills such a parachuting while filming projects such Mission: Impossible (pictured in September 2022)

Vin Diesel (pictured left in Fast & Furious 5) and Keanu Reeves (pictured right in John Wick: Chapter 2) are top actors praised for intensive stunt work, though neither have pulled off some of the more outrageous sequences performed by Cruise

Cruise is known to expect the best from his co-stars on set as revealed by Edge of Tomorrow star Emily Blunt in a recent interview (pictured in the film)

Blunt was told to ‘stop being such a p***y’ by Cruise during a teary moment in which she was struggling to film while wearing her extremely heavy armor costume

Thanks to films like the original 1986 Top Gun, audiences have grown to love seeing Tom Cruise’s displays as an all-round ‘action man.’

As the years went by, the star was able to raise the bar with the help of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol director Brad Bird.

In the 2011 film, Cruise pulled off his biggest stunts at that time in his career as his famous character, Ethan Hunt, was seen wallcrawling and running alongside the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.

While the likes of Tobey Maguire relied on CGI when filming similar stunts in Spider-Man, Cruise was hanging from a rope in order to pull off the spectacular stunt.

After this, Cruise used his passion for stunts as a way to combat the modern trend of editing and effects – which provided audiences with the extra thrill of knowing the action they were witnessing was as realistic as possible.

Further collaborations with stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood and director Christopher McQuarrie have seen the actor maintain his action star status at an age where the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone started to see their pulling power wane.

It must be noted that his stunt work hasn’t come without some downsides after the actor snapped his ankle while filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 2017.

Cruise injured his right leg whilst trying to leap from the edge of one building to another in London and it took the star nine months to fully heal thanks to 10 hours a day on rehab, seven days a week.

The accident hasn’t changed the actor’s love of stunt, with Cruise being seen shooting daredevil stunts in England and South Africa as he continues to work on Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning.

Fans will get to see more of the actor’s stunt work when MI:7 is released in July 2023 (pictured in Rome, Italy in November 2020)

Cruise often shows off his daredevil behavior online – with the star recently standing on top of a small World War II biplane while it was mid air in South Africa

Cruise performed the dangerous stunt in a short social media clip as he filmed scenes for his upcoming Mission: Impossible movie

In comparison, Ryan Reynolds has relied on stunt teams after seriously injuring himself on the set of 2013 flick, Safe House, while Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has famously worked with a long-time stunt double – his cousin, Tanoai Reed.

Daniel Craig also left the more challenging James Bond stunts to the professionals, with the likes of Batman’s Christian Bale and The Gray Man star Ryan Gosling also doing the same.

There is certainly a lengthy list of action stars known for doing their stunts where possible. 

Mark Wahlberg, Scarlett Johansson, Harrison Ford, Michelle Yeoh, Vin Diesel, Tom Holland, Gal Gadot, Keanu Reeves, Henry Cavill, Charlize Theron and Jason Statham are just some of the top actors praised for their dedication to intensive stunt work. 

However, Cruise continues to top the list with regards to how far he will go on set. In fact, the star even expects the same level of dedication from his co-stars.

Emily Blunt recently admitted to getting emotional on the set due to the grueling effort of working in the heavy robotic costume in 2014 blockbuster Edge Of Tomorrow, which injured her ribs due to it’s build.

But as she got teary over the weight, the star admitted that her famous co-star ‘didn’t know what to do,’ so simply offered harsh words of encouragement.

Speaking to The Times, she said: ‘He just stared at me and was like “I know, I know,” I was like “Tom I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this shoot,” and just started to cry. I said: “I’m feeling a bit panicky about the whole shoot.”‘

And attempting to diffuse the situation, Tom went down the route of tough love, as Emily continued: ‘He just stared at me for a long time, not knowing what to do, and he goes “come on, stop being such a p***y, OK?”‘

Elsewhere, the actor hasn’t just limited himself to doing jaw-dropping sequences purely for film purposes.

Cruise’s love for daredevil stunts is unmatched by his contemporaries, with many film studios preferring to rely on CGI and effects instead

Cruise is seen alongside collaborator Christopher McQuarrie who penned the script for Top Gun: Maverick, and is directing parts one and two of the next Mission: Impossible movie

Despite previously getting injured while filming, Cruise continues to perform his own stunts in films 

In September, the actor shared a clip of himself standing on top of a small World War II biplane while it was midair and flying over the Blyde River Canyon in South Africa.

The video shows the brightly-colored planes soaring across the sky before coming down to land at the airfield.

The adrenaline junkie – who wasn’t wearing a helmet during the death-defying stunt – could be heard saying: ‘Hi everyone, wish I could be there with you, I’m sorry for all of the extra noise. As you can see I’m filming the latest installment of Mission: Impossible.

‘Right now we’re over gorgeous Blyde River Canyon in stunning South Africa and we’re making this film for the big screen for audiences to see in local theatres.’

Then in December, the actor once again showcased his daredevil side in a clip he posted to Twitter in which he could be seen filming a skydiving sequence for the upcoming film.

In the clip, Cruise was in an aircraft over South Africa alongside collaborator Christopher McQuarrie as he told his fans that he wanted to show his gratitude as the holidays approach.

‘Hey everyone, here we are over stunning South Africa, where we’re filming Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning parts one and two,’ he said. ‘And I didn’t want the year to end without thanking you all for coming out to the theaters and thank you for supporting Top Gun: Maverick.’

McQuarrie reminded the leading man: ‘Listen, we really gotta roll, we gotta get the shot.’

To which Cruise replied, ‘Where was I? Oh yeah thank you for supporting Top Gun: Maverick and thank you for allowing us to entertain you, it truly is the honor of a lifetime.’

Cruise continued: ‘I’m running out of altitude, so I have to get back to work – we have to get this shot – you have a very safe and happy holiday, we’ll see you at the movies.’

At the end of the clip, Cruise jumped and was seen in a descent toward the ocean.

Much like Jackie Chan, knowledge about how much of the actor has put into the each complex sequence seems to enhance the viewing experience for fans. 

Always putting the fans first: Famously takes time to interact with movie lovers

Cruise is famously generous with his time when it comes to interacting with fans

From spending hours signing autographs and taking pictures on the red carpet, the actor always seems happy to interact with movie goers

Another way Cruise has worked to stay ahead of the pack is his consistently kind interactions with fans.

From spending hours signing autographs and taking pictures on the red carpet, to more unexpected interactions during filming, the actor always seems happy to give his time to movie goers.

Earlier this year, a group of local walkers in the Lake District, England got a surprise when they stumbled upon Cruise filming Mission: Impossible.

The actor happily posed for a photograph with the pair before thanking them and leaping off again.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, one fan said several people wanted photos with Cruise who happily obliged.

They explained: ‘He was nice and polite and really humble. Tom Cruise apologized for the noise of the helicopters and asked if we were alright. He was making sure everybody who wanted to, got their photos with him. 

‘We were the last ones to get his picture and then he just paraglided off the mountain back to his camp next to Buttermere. It was a real pleasure meeting one of the most famous Hollywood celebrity actors out there – one of the richest as well. It was not what we expected while out walking on the fells.’

The couple added they watched some of the filming taking place, with Cruise performing all his own stunts as he paraglided down the fell several times.

Cruise was recently filmed speaking with supporters in South Africa

The actor flew in by helicopter and stopped to chat with fans, saying their hospitality ‘means a lot’ to him

Back in February, Cruise appeared in good spirits as he was greeted by hordes of fans in South Africa where he is currently filming Mission: Impossible 8.

The actor flew in by helicopter and stopped to chat with fans, saying their hospitality ‘means a lot’ to him.

Walking over to the crowd after stepping off the helicopter, he removed his face mask and told fans: ‘It’s so awesome to see you. I can’t wait for you to see the next movie. Thank you for coming out today.’

One of them asked Tom if he would ever move to South Africa to which he said: ‘I’d love to, it would be nice to live here. We’re very excited. We’ve wanted to film here for a very long time.’

Before making his leave, the star added: ‘Thank you all for your hospitality. It means a lot to me.’

Despite being so open with fans in real life, the actor has maintained a notoriously private personal life.

Something that has likely helped his popularity to remain high despite his couch-jumping Oprah interview in 2005, several high-profile divorces and his deep connection with Scientology.

The fact the actor remains both so accessible while keeping the world outside of his personal life has likely been the most beneficial decision to keeping his brand on top.

Continuing to break boundaries: The actor plans to help movies go to infinity and beyond

Tom, who famously learned how to fly airplanes, is preparing to take on a new challenge by filming in space

Doug Liman (pictured together in 2014), who directed Tom in The Edge of Tomorrow is set to helm the movie, which is being shot with help from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA 

Cruise seems to have done everything other than fly into space for a movie, so it should come as no surprise that the star is gearing up to pull off his riskiest stunt yet as it has been revealed that he’s planning to perform a spacewalk for an upcoming film with a budget of $200 million.

Universal chairwoman Donna Langley hinted at the future blockbuster, telling the BBC: ‘We have a great project in development with Tom that does contemplate him taking a rocket to the Space Station.’

The plan would be for Cruise to suit up for an unusual stunt as she added: ‘Hopefully, he will become the first civilian to do a space walk outside of the International Space Station.’

The idea for the film first took off in 2020 with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA taking part in the project.

Doug Liman, 57, who worked with Cruise on The Edge of Tomorrow is set to direct and if all goes as planned, the director would have to blast off as well.

In a January 2020 interview with Deadline, the Locked Down director said of his leading man: ‘I think the reason that Tom is such a superstar is, as much as we’re talking about making a movie not on Earth, I think Tom very much has both of his feet planted on the ground.

‘No matter what the movie is, he’s like, I’m getting to go make a movie. That enthusiasm! He has made god knows how many movies, and he hasn’t lost that enthusiasm.’

Back down on Earth, Cruise is still pushing the limits as fans will see in M:I 7. In a clip shared in December, the actor gave a behind-the-scenes look at the ‘greatest stunt in cinema history.’

Cruise has performed the ‘greatest stunt in cinema history’ by driving a motorcycle off a cliff and then base jumping for his 2023 film, M:I 7

In Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, the action star will be seen performing the stunt which sees his driving on the vehicle at top speed

What won’t be shown in the final edit is that Cruise had a harness in place as he sails through the air; the motorcycle is attached to a separate cable

The scene features a motorcycle jumping off a cliff, which then turns into a base jump – all performed by Cruise instead of a stuntman.

The actor says at the beginning of the video: ‘I’ve wanted to do it since I was a little kid… This is far and away the most dangerous thing we’ve ever attempted.’

The stunt was performed on location, on a cliff in Norway, and filmmakers built a giant ramp for Cruise to ride the motorcycle off.

To prepare for the stunt, the Top Gun actor put together a group of experts in all the disciplines involved in the stunt, to ensure the whole thing happened without a hitch.

Miles Daisher, a base jumping coach, remarked on Cruise’s ability: ‘You tell him something, and he just locks it in. His sense of spatial awareness – he is the most aware person I’ve ever met.’

In order to perform the stunt on camera, several experts had to work out the best equipment and positioning to use when filming, so that the stunt would be captured in the most effective way possible. 

McQuarrie, the writer and director of the film, which is slated for release next year, noted: ‘Even two years ago, the cameras didn’t exist that would allow us to do what we are trying to do today.’

Cruise practiced by completing more than 500 skydives and over 13,000 motocross jumps to film the stunt

Drones were used to capture the footage as the actor made his way up a large ramp

Ever the eager student, Cruise recently took more flying lessons in order to prepare for some of the upcoming M:I 7 film scenes.

The actor, who has had his pilot’s license since 1994 and owns several aircrafts, has continue to expand his skill set over the years – and even demands the same from his co-workers.

Indeed, the main cast of Top Gun: Maverick underwent a full Aviation Survival Training Curriculum before going up in the US Navy F-18 for the hit film.

They worked up to the supersonic jets over many months after Cruise insisted on real flying scenes with no CGI work. 

The actor even said in numerous interviews that he refused to even talk about a Top Gun sequel unless they flew in real planes.

The film’s aerial coordinator, Kevin LaRosa Jr., worked with Cruise to put together an intense flight program that began with the cast flying in a smaller aircraft.

Veteran producer Jerry Bruckheimer later confirmed that although they had clearance to put Cruise and other actors in the F-18s, they were merely passengers in the cockpit during filming.

Bruckheimer said that Cruise had filed a request to be allowed to fly the plane, but was denied clearance by the Navy – presumably on the grounds that the $70 million plane was simply too expensive to be entrusted someone who is not actually a fighter pilot.

In Top Gun: Maverick he flies other planes and is seen apparently flying the Super Hornet via cameras installed, but experienced Navy pilots are holding the stick.

Mission: Impossible 7 is set for release on July 7, 2023, and time will tell if Cruise will continue to dominate the box office like many anticipate he will.

Highest Paid Movie Stars

Tom Cruise – $100M + (Top Gun: Maverick)

Will Smith – $35M (Emancipation)

Leonardo DiCaprio – $30M (Killers of the Flower Moon)

Brad Pitt – $30M (Formula 1 Drama)

Dwayne Johnson – $22.5M (Black Adam)

Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds – $20M (Spirited)

Chris Hemsworth – $20M (Extraction 2) 

Vin Diesel – $20M (Fast X)

Tom Hardy – $20M (Venom 3)

Joaquin Phoenix – $20M (Joker 2)

Denzel Washington – $20M (The Equalizer 3)

Jason Momoa – $15M (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom)

Eddie Murphy – $15M (Beverly Hills Cop 4)

Chris Pine – $13M (Star Trek)

Steve Carell – $12.5 (Minions: The Rise of Gru)

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie – $12.5 (Barbie)

Millie Bobby Brown – $10M (Enola Holmes 2)

Timothée Chalamet – $9M (Wonka)

Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, and Emily Blunt – $4M (Oppenheimer)

Daniel Kaluuya – $4M (Nope) 

Jamie Lee Curtis – $3.5M (Halloween Ends)

Anya-Taylor Joy – 1.8M (Furiosa)



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