Is Tom Cruise's Star Fading? Not By a Long Shot

The pressure is on for Cruise's new moive, Knight and Day, to keep the star's career afloat

Movie fans are buzzing this week about whether to interpret the ultimate success or failure of Knight and Day as a direct reflection on Tom Cruise's likability. Indeed, the film's box office wasn't stellar (on opening weekend, it came in third behind Toy Story 3 and Grown-Ups). But Cruise’s career is far from over.

Knight And Day, costarring Cameron Diaz, is an enjoyable movie, despite anyone's personal feelings about the star (stemming from -- oh, you name it -- his Oprah couch moment, rumors about his sexuality and religious fervor, questions about his out-of-nowhere relationship with Katie Holmes). In a nutshell, the action movie demonstrates that Cruise can still carry a feature film -- even though, at 47, he does break a sweat.

But is it possible anymore to see a Tom Cruise character on the screen without being reminded of the widespread entertainment gossip, which has often put the actor on the defensive? Perhaps Cruise is the victim of a publicity machine that leaves no corner of a star’s life unexposed. (In the old days, the Hollywood movie studios kept their lead actors on a tighter leash, and were remarkably successful at controlling perception about a star's private life.)

Cruise, staring down 50 in a few years, has hinged a lot of his appeal on his boyish charm, and whether he faces it, audiences are realizing: he’s middle-aged (despite that hard-won six-pack!) and we've learned a lot about him over the years. Certainly, today's PR machine doesn’t exist in a vacuum: the public fuels it with its hunger for intimate information. And as much as that public wants to build up the debonair star of Risky Business and Top Gun, countless people also leap at the chance to tear down that desperate Oprah guy.

Presumably, it all leaves Cruise desperate to find a way to hold on to his status as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. His new strategy seems to be to exploit an aura of creepiness that people have recently projected onto him. That oozing weird-factor was center stage in his comic supporting part in Tropic Thunder as Les Grossman -- the character he revived at the recent MTV Movie Awards. And it's clear that Knight and Day is playing up the fact that few people take Cruise’s Dudley Do-Right grin at face value anymore: he plays a charming spy who may, or may not, be a serial-killing rogue agent.

Let's face it. A lot of folks are waiting to see Cruise fail, but for a guy this charismatic and this invested in winning, with a reputation for being totally driven and focused on his goals, he’ll likely see this next phase of his career as another challenge he can overcome. We haven't heard the last of Cruise by a long shot -- unless, of course, he pulls a Mel Gibson, and starts doing things so egregious in his personal life that he can never be seen as a hero onscreen again. But nobody I know is hoping to see that happen.

What do you think of Tom Cruise's career? Chime in below!

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- Tom Cruise Talks Dad Issues, Jumping on Oprah's Couch


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