‘Voyeurs welcome’ went the advertising campaign. It wasn’t a spoken agreement. It was a look. In the theatrical trailer for Eyes Wide Shut, the defining image is of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, naked, making-out in front of a mirror. Tom has his eyes closed to what he’s doing. He can’t see himself in heat. But Nicole’s eyes are open, she’s watching herself in that mirror, and her look is fearful, hunted. Tom’s hand is round her throat. It’s as if she sees his brute desire in that mirror. As much as she enjoys it – and, rest assured, she does enjoy it too – catching desire is dangerous. He’s in the grip of lust: right where we are. By looking in the mirror, Nicole dares us to admit: we want to see. She snares the voyeur.
Tom Cruise doesn’t mean us harm. He just wants to be a movie star. Unlike Brad, or George, Tom doesn’t mind living on another planet. He’s comfortable being seen as some kind of ambition-fuelled android who exists to sign autographs. In the 80s, before the internet and 24-hour news, stars were more like spokespersons. Tom was good at this. He could get out there – glad-hand it with the best of them – and sell the movie. No-one asked Tom Cruise about Tom Cruise. In his new movie, Knight and Day, you can see Tom trying to give account of himself the best way he knows how (after the Oprah debacle): by starring. He shouldn’t have to exist outside movies.
Is there a movie more parodied than Apocalypse Now? Something about that movie seems to speak to wags in the movie business. Maybe it’s because even the making of Apocalypse Now lends itself to parody; all the self-important madness of Hollywood condensed into one film: the egotistical director, the deluded star, spiralling costs and a set caught mid-Tet offensive. Ben Stiller’s new movie, Tropic Thunder, is a satire of war movies, and it features (lo and behold) a lot of images that may remind you of Brando and co. lost in the jungle. No-one lashes out at their reflection this time around, but most actors will recognise “the craft” in this mirror.