May 1, 2006 -- Just like some politicians get re-elected despite controversies, Tom Cruise remains the Teflon box-office star.
Russell Crowe's outspoken, phone-throwing behavior may have hurt the well-reviewed "Cinderella Man," which tanked last summer at the box office. But Cruise's "War of the Worlds" was a $234 million smash, despite the star's war of words with Brooke Shields and mental health professionals over psychiatry and prescription drugs, and his couch-jumping escapade on Oprah Winfrey's couch.
"Last year people told me that they didn't want to see 'War of the Worlds' because they were so sick of Tom Cruise, and they thought he had kind of gone a little crazy," said movie reviewer Richard Roeper.
"'There's something about Tom Cruise … the media can rip him to shreds; there are a lot of us who can say, 'Boy, I don't know what this guy's talkin' about with his personal life.' Yet as a movie star, not just domestically, but internationally, he's untouchable."
With Cruise reviving his super spy Ethan Hunt character for a third time, Hollywood's most bankable star and Paramount Pictures have taken a huge gamble. With a $150 million budget, it's the most expensive film Cruise has ever starred in.
The 43-year-old-actor earned $75 million, his biggest payday, by turning down an upfront salary in lieu of a backend deal for 30 percent of "Mission: Impossible II's" gross. He's working under a similar arrangement for the new movie, which opens Friday.
Underscoring how much is at stake, Cruise was in Europe last week, just days after his fiancée gave birth, to attend the promotional tour, spending hours signing autographs at red carpet premieres in London and Paris.
A Master at the Hollywood Game
Cruise has starred in at least a dozen films that grossed more than $100 million domestically, and he remains popular abroad with "War of the Worlds" and "Mission: Impossible II" earning $591 million and $543 million outside the United States, making them among the highest grossing films ever produced.
At a time when Hollywood has struggled hard to fight off dwindling ticket sales, Cruise's reputation still holds. In 2005, only 18 films grossed more than $100 million domestically, the lowest number since 1999.
At his zenith in the mid-1990s, Cruise became the first actor in Hollywood history to reel off five films that reached triple digits, with a magical run that included "A Few Good Men," "The Firm," "Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles," "Mission: Impossible" and "Jerry Maguire."
Even Cruise's less financially successful films of recent years -- "Vanilla Sky" and "Collateral" -- managed to cross the $100 million mark. The last of his headlined films not to reach that number was 1999's "Eyes Wide Shut."
"Cruise might be controversial, but he stays away from controversial roles, and he knows how to play the Hollywood game. That's a big difference between him and someone like Crowe," says Stan Campbell, a film studies researcher at Centre College in Kentucky.
"Cruise largely makes movies that people don't really judge him for.They're not really personal statements or political statements, so moviegoers don't have to consider the man's actions before seeing the movie."