The jump worked: Last Christmas, MI4 was an enormous hit, making $693 million and putting Cruise back on top. “We were finishing Mission,” he recalls. “I’d go down the front of the building and then get on the phone with Adam Shankman and say, ‘What’s the voice of Stacee Jaxx?’ This movie was, for me, like training for anything: You have to learn how to use your muscles. And then you start thinking, What story do I want to tell?”
When W photographed Cruise in the penthouse of the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach several months before our meeting in Los Angeles, he was completely immersed in Stacee’s story. Rock of Ages was filming in Miami, and Cruise was sporting long hair extensions and tattoos. Playing the character took some courage: If he didn’t approach the role with sincerity and intensity, Cruise could easily look like a joke. “Stacee Jaxx had to be real,” he said during the shoot. “I didn’t want to imitate all these other rock stars. He had to be unique. If the audience doesn’t immediately buy into his absolute greatness, there’s no movie journey. Without that, you have nothing.”
Back in the studio, Cruise lets out a pitch-perfect scream. “My throat is gone,” he says, sounding hoarse. “That’s all I’ve got.” Cruise says his goodbyes to the Rock of Ages crew and leaves the room. I follow him into another recording studio to talk. “After four hours of singing,” Cruise begins, “I sound like Donald Duck. No more rock star.”
As a kid, did you sing around the house?
You know what? I did the scene from Risky Business around the house. I would sing Bob Seger—my mother worked, my sisters were out, and I’d turn the music up. I learned how to dance watching Soul Train. I noticed that if a guy could dance, he’d get a lot of attention and girls would want to dance with him. I worked very hard at imitating those moves.
Were you ever in a school musical?
In my senior year I was in Guys and Dolls. I was Nathan Detroit—the Sinatra part. I wish I’d had Ron Anderson back then. He would have made a big difference.
Why did you want to do a musical now?
Kate [Holmes, Cruise’s wife] loves musicals. She sings and dances, and we kind of went through the history of musicals together. And Suri loved Hairspray. With kids, you watch everything over and over; I watched Hairspray 15 times with Suri. I thought Adam Shankman did a great job directing the movie, so I arranged to meet him and said, “Where’s our musical?” He came back and said, “Rock of Ages.” We went and saw it in L.A., and for me…I didn’t know how to play the character like that. I had to find my own Stacee Jaxx.