The one thing you can say about Tom Cruise: The older he gets, the bigger the challenges he relishes. While he may do a Mission: Impossible, Cruise will also step into places he hasn't quite traversed. They include last year's Last Samurai, which garnered him some of his best notices in years, to this year's Collateral, a dark thriller directed by Michael Mann, in which the actor plays Vincent, a hitman, who hijacks a local cab driver [Jamie Foxx], during one, violent night in Los Angeles.
As in Last Samurai, Cruise decided to take on a flawed character who also has a different, more ageing look than the real, youthful actor. Cruise says that he enjoyed the grey-haired look for Collateral and had no reservations about looking older. "When it happens, I'll go all the way and it was cool. You know, Michael Mann came up with that look. He asked for some pictures, so I went in and we went over different colours. I thought it was perfect for Vincent and was fun," a smiling Cruise explains.
Cruise forged a career playing different shades of characters, but Vincent was uniquely dark for the actor. He clearly relished the challenge. "It was certainly different and I always look for a challenge and something that's different. This definitely had every element and promise of being that. I also wanted to work with Michael Mann, Jada Pinkett and Jamie Foxx. It was really challenging, the ambition Michael had for this picture. When Michael sent the script he sent different stills, almost an art motif of things he was thinking about, and what he wanted to explore. It was just something else because his vision of LA and what he sees has real emotion and poetry. I knew it was going to be a lot of fun and it was." There is a clear and distinct physical look to Cruise's Vincent, which encapsulates who the character is, from hair to what he wears. "He definitely thinks about that suit and I know we thought a lot about that suit," Cruise says laughingly.
Cruise pauses, reflectively, when asked to analyse Vincent, and he set about playing such a unique character by Hollywood standards. "He was kind of an anti-social character. It was months of talking with Michael and finding that point of fracture. Where does it all go wrong for Vincent and where does it start? We just kept creating layers. Normally, I always do a lot of research for a character, particularly something like this, with that back story having to inform every scene. With Michael, he had pictures of where I came from and we discussed a lot of different aspects of where I live and how I became the way I became as Vincent, so it will emotionally inform the movie and start to look at where this fracture happens."
No matter how many times one meets Cruise, the one constant about this Hollywood superstar, is that he genuinely loves his work. There is no pretence here, which is why the actor seems to work as hard as he does. He says that at this stage, he is not planning any time off. "I have been busy hangin' out with my kids, releasing "Collateral" I have got the Cameron Crowe picture "Elizabethtown" that we are producing, with Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst and Susan Sarandon, which is going really well, and just working on things, such as "Mission" and a few other pictures. I haven't had a break yet, but I will take time. I am having a good time and life is actually very good.";
As for MI3, Cruise says that there is still no director on board as yet, including the rumoured JJ Abrams. "The director for Mission (3) is just something I'm looking at right now. I'm just evaluating and taking time, and looking at everything right now. I'm now just kind of putting it on hold and promoting "Collateral" and just evaluating."