IT HAS TO go down as one of Hollywood’s strangest marriages — and one of its most successful. Tom Cruise, the world’s most bankable star has hooked up with Cameron Crowe, an easy-going, 40-ish rock fan with little regard for conventional indicators of success.
Behind the unlikely partnership is Jerry Maguire, a $100 million blockbuster which has put movie director Crowe’s name up in lights beside that of its star. Whatever the chemistry involved, this is a match made in heaven — the film has won Oscar nominations for Tom Cruise (Best Actor) and for Crowe as Best Director and Best Writer.
The one thing that everyone seems to know about Crowe is that he started out writing for Rolling Stone, Penthouse and Playboy at the age of fifteen. Six years later, he wrote Fast Times At Ridgemont High and began a film career that climaxes with the box office number one hit starring Tom Cruise, Jerry Magttire.
In the flesh, he looks dis- armingly relaxed, dressed in a black T-shirt and jacket, with black hair ﬂopping over his eyes and a ready, winning grin that slips onto his face given half an excuse. He might be at the top of the Hollywood heap, but he prefers to remember his roots.
‘lt’s a joke with my mum that, if she’d known what Led Zeppelin was, she would not have let me go on the road with them at the age of fifteen,’ he says, referring to an experience that makes endless sense to him even today. ‘l’m still inspired by the time I spent around people like Pete Townsend. With The Who’s film Quadrophenia, I felt like there was a guy writing about something I was feeling, and l was not alone.’
ls it music, then, that inspires Crowe the
film director? ‘Yes,’ he agrees. ‘The best music takes you to the place where you are not alone, and that is what I try to do with my movies. I do go for that really personal thing that might reach someone who’s out there and feels like they’re alone in the world. When you hit it and express it correctly, people are really moved. That’s the most amazing feeling. That is exactly the motivation for all of this.’
Crowe admits he was somewhat surprised to find himself directing Cruise in what some feel was the performance of his career, but it happened quite naturally.
‘I sent Tom Cruise the script and he knew me because I interviewed him once,’ explains Crowe. ‘So he read it and he loved it. It was a good marriage for both of us. I was ready to do something that might reach a bigger
'I was pretty scared directing Cruise the first day, but he made it very comfortable for me. He made a fool of himself a number of times for me. All I had to do was ask.’
audience,’ — bigger than his two indie films, Say Anything and Singles — ‘and Cruise was ready to do something that might reach a smaller audience. I was pretty scared directing him the first day, but he made it very comfortable for me. He made a fool of himself a number of times for me. All I had to do was ask.’
Crowe guffaws dismissively at rumours that Cruise won’t allow anyone to look into his eyes, or that he insists upon a special microphone to make his voice sound deeper — ‘That’s not the guy I directed.’ The picture that emerges is of a hard-working star who is sensitive to other actors and has a superb head for business. ‘After the filming is over, Cruise
is able to say. “Let’s talk about how to market this movie, let‘s go to this person because they know how to put a trailer together.” He’s really good at that and people obviously listen to him.’
Cruise was also sympathetic to the idealism at the heart of Jerry Maguire, Crowe says, and this was important to him. Going beyond the call of duty, the director wrote the entire 27-page Mission Statement that. in the film. lands Cruise’s sports agent character in hot water with his high-powered bosses. The Statement argues for a return to caring. people-centred business and is surely a manifesto for a gentler, less materialistic society. ‘I have the distinct feeling that what I have written is “touchy feely”,’ writes Maguire/Crowe half-way through the document. ‘I don’t care. I have lost the ability to bullshit.’
This philosophy is built on some hard graft. Crowe spent four years researching the script, trailing real-life sports agents in order to reflect accurately their lifestyle in the film. Anybody who has tried to pursue a pet project without the support of an employer will know what an incredible amount of commitment it takes, particularly to stick at it for as long as Crowe did.
‘It was too long, actually,’ the director admits. ‘But I love to research, it’s the best part. I’m a journalist at heart. Writing a script is hard, so for me it’s easier to go do interviews and study what the lamps look like in people’s houses. But then sometimes you glimpse a feeling that you want to get across in the finished movie, and that’s what keeps you going.’
Jerry Maguire goes on general release from Fri 7 Mar.
’Does your watch say 1.10pm?’ sighs Cuba Gooding lnr nervously. ’Oh man, I was so good about these nominations until today, maybe because I know it’s looming in the next hour. I can’t even imagine sitting at the Oscars.‘
Not for this charming actor the veneer of cool, the studied distance that so many stars put between themselves and the outside world. Gooding seems to be someone who wears his emotions openly and, the day we meet, he is very emotional indeed. Within minutes, the whispers will be confirmed and he’ll find himself nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category as headstrong football star Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire. But for the time being, the strain and expectation are getting to him and he’s getting distinctly twitchy.
If you don't recognise the name Cuba Gooding lnr, you soon will. For the young man who impressed
critics and audiences worldwide six years ago with his debut performance in Boyz N The Hood has matured into a very fine actor indeed. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
’After Boyz N The Hood, I got my share of offers to do Boyz N The Hood 2, gangsta this and drugs that,’ he says. ’But the diversity of roles wasn't there. I want to do colourless things, more universal movies. I'm a black man, and I’ll always be .a black actor but I don’t have to be in films just geared for the black audience.’
Jerry Maguire isn’t the first time that Tom Cruise and Gooding have co-starred: they first met on the set of A Few Good Men. ’I only had two days' work on A Few Good Men,‘ he nods, ’and me and Tom had never met before. But the first day. he came up and gave me this big hug and told me how much he had enjoyed Boyz N The Hood. I told
him he was my idol when it came to how he’s patterned his career and made these universal movies that are accepted by every race, country and creed. So we kind of sat and just hung for two hours.’
The two men share plenty of screen time in the new movie however, making a great comic screen partnership. Nevertheless, Gooding might not have played Tidwell had his original intention of being in box office dud The Fan - ironically, playing a sports agent - come about.
’I got a call from the director
Cuba Gooding lnr: starring with his idol Tom Cruise
[Tony Scott] in the middle of the night asking if I would do his movie and then the next day they made the offer to another actor. I was destroyed. I had shaved my head and was going to wear this sharp suit. And then, only a few days later, I was asked if I'd like to read for the role in Jerry Maguire.’ The mega-watt smile returns. 'When my agent told me I’d got the part, I jumped right into the pool with all my clothes on and I was screaming and yelling, and my wife said, "You got it, didn't you?“.‘ (Anwar Brett)
7—20 Mar 1997 TIIEUST19