He’s been nominated three times – as Best Actor for ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ and ‘Jerry Maguire’ and as Best Supporting Actor for ‘Magnolia’.
Yet Tom Cruise, arguably the biggest movie star of the last 20 years, has never actually got his hands on a little gold man, but why?
He’s ‘too mainstream’
Only occasionally does Oscar really intersect with the blockbuster community. ‘Titanic’, ‘Avatar’, ‘Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ are some of the few recent smash hits which also got some awards love. Tom Cruise – despite an incredibly varied and interesting filmography, is the very definition of mainstream.
People forget that he’s worked with everyone from Paul Thomas Anderson and Michael Mann to Martin Scorsese and Stanley fricking Kubrick. What they do remember is ‘Top Gun’, the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise, ‘The Firm’…
Popular actors who became “award-worthy” ones generally had to do so in a film which pitched itself as Oscar bait. Unfortunately for Cruise, he doesn’t seem to have shaken off the stink of $20 million success.
He was robbed for ‘Magnolia’
Speaking of Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s a travesty that Cruise didn’t win for Anderson’s masterpiece ‘Magnolia’, where he played a charismatic women-hating pick-up artist with deep-seated personal issues (see above).
Made at the height of Cruise’s fame and box office power (he filmed it before ‘Mission: Impossible II’) it played with our perceptions of Cruise’s charisma and showed off hitherto unseen acting prowess.
He stole the film from acting greats like Julianne Moore, Jason Robards and Philip Seymour Hoffman and it was the kind of flashy star-playing-against-type supporting role that Oscar voters love.
Yet Cruise was beaten by Michael Caine’s perfectly respectable - but far less memorable - turn in old fashioned yarn ‘The Cider House Rules’. This was Cruise’s best chance to win an Oscar… and he missed it.
His best work isn’t noticed
But at least he was nominated. The other strange thing looking back at Cruise’s CV is that several of his best performances weren’t even noticed by the Academy. There are many that (with another actor) would be swamped with awards love.
Think the calculating but charming hitman in ‘Collateral’, the cocksure Naval lawyer in Aaron Sorkin-penned ‘A Few Good Men’, Lestat in ‘Interview With The Vampire’ (a performance so good author Anne Rice took out an ad in Variety to praise it).
These are roles that with an “award-friendly” actor attached would mean at least a nom, if not the prize itself. But maybe he’s just too effective as a leading man. You expect him to be good, he’s part of our cinematic canvas and as such he doesn’t get the recognition.
His co-stars get all the glory
There’s a school of thought that it’s actually way harder to play the straight man than it is the more obvious showy role. In other words, lots of people (us included) think that Cruise was far more deserving of an Oscar for his brilliant work in ‘Rain Man’ than Dustin Hoffman was for his mannered, yet eye-catching performance.
He was nominated for playing Jerry Maguire, but it was Cuba Gooding Jr who walked off with the prize for his shouty presence as Jerry’s client.
Cruise was hilarious and displayed a surprising lack of vanity as megalomaniacal studio head Les Grossman in ‘Tropic Thunder’, but it was Robert Downey Jr – on the comeback trail and playing ironic blackface – who scored the nom.
And as for ‘The Colour Of Money’? Well, what are you gonna do if you’re starring opposite Paul Newman when one of the elder statesmen of the industry is just due recognition.
His personal life
Any journalist who’s met Tom Cruise will tell you what a nice, professional bloke he is. He understands what being a megastar entails and has been known to show up at his premieres three hours early just so he can interact with as many fans as possible.
But his enthusiasm has also got the better of him – the couch-jumping incident on Oprah being a prime example. That little escapade probably set his career back a few years, as did coming out the loser in the post-divorce PR battles with Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes.
And then there’s Scientology. Cruise is one of its most important members and he has credited the religion with helping him get to where he is in Hollywood (he can be seen opening a new church-affiliated building in Spain below).
But it’s possible that the stories (whether they are true or not) about silent births, ex-communicating family members and Navy-style teen boot camps has tarnished Cruise in the eyes of Oscar voters, who tend to be more conservative.
It’s possible Tom Cruise will end up being another iconic actor who never gets awards recognition. He wouldn’t be the first (see: Peter O’Toole, Harrison Ford, etc.)
Or maybe as his blockbuster life seemingly begins to fade, which some are predicting after the comparative failures of ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’, the Cruiser will finally delve headlong into the kind of compelling character parts which sees him finally take to the Oscar stage as a winner.
Photos: Moviestore/Rex/Snap Stills/giphy/portable.tv/imgur/PA