Tom stood in front of the wall, saying his name.
He would’ve stood in front of the mirror instead of the wall, but he couldn’t, someone might walk in. Someone might walk in and tell someone…
So he was in front of the wall.
Tom of Cruise
If he squinted hard enough he could picture a reflection…not completely him, but him enough.
Katie sat on the couch watching Colin Farrell get on a bus in Tigerland. She wasn’t really sure, but she thought he was protesting about something.
She picked up the DVD cover, looked at screenshots, but couldn’t figure anything out.
He didn’t want to fight?
She put down the cover and thought about going out.
‘I wanna go out,’ she told the couch.
The front door wasn’t far away, and the bars weren’t that far from the front door, but…
‘Damnit, I wanna go out,’ she told Tigerland Colin, already leaving on the bus.
The front door opened and Tom walked in.
The first time…
God, I’m here with Tom Cruise.
The fourth time…
God, I’m in bed with Tom Cruise…
The three-hundred and twenty-first time…
God, this bed’s small [Pause] I wonder what Josh, James and Michelle are doing?
‘I wanna go out,’ she told Tom.
Tom chose a smirk, the one that covered pretty much all his films, and held her hand.
‘Honey, where do you wanna go?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Nowhere in mind?’
‘Not really, no.’
‘So, you’re sure you wanna go out?’
‘But you don’t know where?’
‘No plan at all?’
‘No, just out.’
He kissed her on the neck then pushed her back so she could look at his face.
Nicole sat on the couch watching one of the old Bette Davis films, thinking of putting on a dress and some heels and going out somewhere.
The front door opened and Tom was there.
He sat down, took her hand and watched Bette Davis arguing with her lover.
‘I’m gonna go out…’
‘I’m gonna go out somewhere…just for a while.’
‘Just for a while…’
Nicole left his hand, stood up, and put her jacket and heels on.
Tom watched her grow and grow until she was too big for him to stand next to. He’d already taken his shoes off, he couldn’t…
‘Just for a while, darling…’
And then she was gone.
Tom pulled his knees up to his chest and rocked back and forth, biting his nails, watching Bette Davis argue with her husband.
‘Do what he says for once,’ he mumbled to Davis. ‘Just do what he fucking says.’
Tom woke up on the opposite side of the bed to Katie.
He thought about moving towards her and putting his hands over her breasts, but he didn’t.
Did I move over here, or did she move over there?
He couldn’t remember.
In bed with Penelope, he lay back and let her ride him.
When she went too fast he would grab her by the hips and push her back down.
He couldn’t come early, he couldn’t…
With Nicole, towards the end of it back in ‘98, he climbed into bed and cuddled up to her.
Sometimes he’d keep his distance and watch her.
Mostly he’d go close, bury his head in her neck.
He didn’t want to think about those legs of hers, how far they stretched.
He’d rest his head on her shoulder.
She’d laugh, tell him he was like a woman…
He’d laugh back, the laugh from Rainman when he got the flowers in the father’s will.
Then he’d pull himself up and push her down, her head on his chest.
But the legs…her feet…
He didn’t want to think how far down the bed her feet were.
In the kitchen, Katie talked about getting back into films.
Tom said, ‘yeah, it’s a good idea…’
…but he wasn’t really listening.
Nicole walked into the kitchen, tall in heels, and told him she was getting back into films.
‘Good idea, honey…’
He sat on the stool, his legs hanging down but not touching the floor.
‘There’s a script I just read…’
She put a script in front of him.
To Die For starring Nicole Kidman
‘Gus Van Sant might be directing…’
‘Really, honey? Van Sant’s awesome…’
‘…one of the greats…’
He thought about Van Sant and how he did his films. Every director had an obsession, and Van Sant’s was sex. Every film, he wanted sex.
‘I think it’ll be good for me…’
Sex, sex, sex…out in the open, unclothed sex…
‘…pull me out of your shadow a little…’
‘Yeah, honey…that’s great.’
Katie, barefoot but still tall, put a script in front of him.
Ljubljana Witch starring Katie Holmes
‘Who’s directing, honey?’
‘Not sure yet…’
He thought of Van Sant, what he was doing at that moment, whether or not he was busy on a film somewhere.
‘…but Gus Van Sant came up.’
‘Van Sant? Wow.’
‘It should be good for me, I think…’
Tom got off his stool and walked over to her and gave her a kiss.
‘Van Sant’s awesome…’
Tom sat in his trailer with the TV on.
He wasn’t watching anything, he was thinking.
Thinking about his route to the set.
How long it would take to get there.
Who he’d have to meet along the way.
How he’d talk to them.
The scene he had to do.
Whether or not the other guy was better than him.
Ken Branagh and Terence Stamp…were they better?
He played with his eye patch, spinning it in the air.
They weren’t better than him.
They were different, that was all.
Theatrical, not cinematic.
He was cinematic.
He spun the eye patch faster…
No, more than that…
On set, it was a group scene.
Terence Stamp had a fake revolver in his hand and was about to kill himself.
Before killing himself, he had to say a line.
‘I’m thinking of better times.’
Singer came over to Tom and told him, even though it’s not really your scene, I’m gonna put the camera on you, ok?
Tom didn’t say anything.
There was a procedure he’d always followed. Never instigate.
If the director wanted him to be the focus then let him direct.
The scene played out. Stamp said the line then shot himself in the head.
The camera recorded it, but another one recorded Tom.
The scene played again, the same line, the same suicide.
This time something happened…
The line… ‘I’m thinking of better times’…
Tom took in the words, forgetting Stamp, the room, the camera…
Sitting in the real plane, listening to Anthony Edwards tell a joke from the seat behind.
‘The guy looks at the other guy with his pants down and…’
Tom listened and smirked, the smirk he’d learned from Newman in the Scorcese film, but he wasn’t really listening…
The plane, the films he’d already done, the decent reviews he’d got for Color of money…this film, the next film, the ones after that…the one in the pipeline with Hoffman…Dustin fucking Hoffman…
There was something big happening, he could feel it…if he could just keep control of it…just keep everything running smoothly then…
The gun malfunctioned and Stamp broke down laughing.
‘I’m thinking of better guns,’ he said to the room.
Tom came back and joined the laughter.
He didn’t know what the joke was, but he had to laugh.
In the canteen Tom sat with the others, the British guys in their Nazi clothes.
Branagh was talking about Henry V.
‘It’s a strange thing,’ he said, ‘that film…with that film I felt fearless…absolutely fearless.’
Tom nodded and said it was an incredible film.
‘Yes, I’m incredibly proud of it.’
There was a silence.
Branagh, Stamp and a few of the others drifted off, picking at the cuffs of their SS sleeves…remembering the better roles, Tom thought.
He went back to his own, the greats…
Rainman. Fourth of July. Magnolia.
He couldn’t think of anymore.
Rainman. Fourth of July. Magnolia.
Three films out of a whole career.
But wasn’t that enough?
Dustin Hoffman walked down the road, with Tom following behind in the car.
The director was at the side, silent, watching.
Tom couldn’t hear the details, but he knew Hoffman was talking gibberish.
He drove slowly behind, shouting at him to get in the car.
‘Ray, get in the car.’
Hoffman ignored him and kept on with the gibberish.
‘Raymond, get in the fucking car.’
No reaction, just like it said in the script.
But Goddamn, Tom thought, which one is the stretch here?
He opened up the paper and turned straight to the review.
The guy was generous. Four stars, good write-up, ‘see the film, everybody.’
But what about him?
He knew Hoffman had the buzz role, but it wasn’t the challenge…he knew it wasn’t the challenge…there was no change, no development…surely others would see it too.
Surely this guy would see it.
‘Cruise keeps up, but it’s Hoffman’s show.’
He threw down the paper, almost spitting.
Jack Nicholson sat in the courtroom, denying everything.
‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’
Tom stood over him, on the tips of his shoes.
‘Tell me the truth, Colonel…’
‘You can’t handle-…’
Cut, from the director.
A smirk from Jack.
‘He’s stealing it,’ Tom muttered, walking back to his fake files.
In the trailer later, in the closet with the door closed…
‘Goddamnit, he’s fucking stealing it…’
Tom slapped the white uniform hanging in front of him.
‘Jack fucking Nic…’
When Tom stole…
In a fat suit with five fucking tons of face shit…
‘Fucking fuck of a fuck’s fuck and fuck it in the face,’ Tom said.
Stiller, behind the lens, held up his hand and said ‘again, again.’
‘Was it too much?’ Tom asked.
Stiller shook his head.
Tom alone in a field near Nagano, in his samurai suit, trying to think back to…to when?
He couldn’t remember.
There were no more.
This was his.
The last one was his.
The next one would be…
Katie was cuddling up to him, kissing his chest…
Who was she seeing before me, Tom wondered?
She ran her fingers along his arm and up to his neck.
That guy from that show?
The tall one from the Pie film?
What was his name?
Fuck, he was tall.
She reached his lips.
‘You want me, baby?’
He looked down at the top of her head, seeing his own feet poking out by her waist.
‘Yes,’ he said back.
In the closet, in the spare room, Tom lay against the wall with all the heeled boots around him.
Katie was asleep, barefoot in bed.
When she stands up in the morning is there any way she’ll be a little smaller?
The fantasy ran briefly in his head, small Katie with smaller legs, walking towards him and shrinking, shrinking, shrinking…until he could pick her up and put her in his pocket.
In the closet, he reached forward and grabbed at nothing.
In New Orleans, ’93, with Neil Jordan prepping for a long shot.
Tom walked over and asked him if it was really necessary.
‘Gotta establish things, Tom…scenery, characters, proportion.’
‘But,’ started Tom.
‘…otherwise there won’t be any sense to anything,’ Jordan finished.
Tom walked back to Brad, anxious, smiling.
They went through the scene, Brad slouching, Tom stretching out his calves.
If I walk softly, the heel won’t dent, Tom coached himself. He’ll only have an inch on me…
In a New York apartment, but really in Vancouver, Tom stood on a box stroking Cameron’s hair.
Her face was still, her eyes focused.
She’s five-eight, he thought. Only five-eight.
The scene played, the two of them kissed.
Crowe called cut and Cameron giggled, poking Tom in the waist.
‘Playboy,’ she said.
‘Playgirl,’ Tom said back, up on his box.
Tom sat with his agent, in the agent’s car.
They were halfway between Hollywood and San Diego.
On the backseat were a bunch of magazines, covering the last six months.
This was what they said:
Tom loses it on couch.
Tom loses it on couch.
Tom loses it on couch.
Tom threatens to kill cameraman.
Tom fucks Midler.
Tom fucks brother.
Tom loses it on couch.
The agent threw the last one backwards and told Tom things weren’t looking great.
‘Things haven’t looked great before, man,’ Tom said.
‘Yeah, but this ain’t that time.’
‘Yeah. This is a different time.’
The agent put his hand on Tom’s leg.
‘…I’m no soothsayer, but it looks like we could be going solo.’
Tom tried to process the word ‘solo’.
The agent told him he had a nagging feeling Paramount were gonna cut him loose.
Tom walked down a corridor at Paramount, looking for an office he knew he’d been in before…way back in the day…before Maverick, before Rainman…before he was anyone.
Only the corridor didn’t look like any corridor he’d ever seen.
He kept walking, trying a door here, a door there…
‘Where are these fuckers,’ he whispered, half-losing the smirk.
The fuckers were nowhere.
He hadn’t seen anyone since the heifer in reception…
He kept walking, trying every door.
…a heifer in reception? When did they start doing that?
He turned down another corridor and another and another one after that, trying each door he saw, but each door was shut, and worse, had no nameplate or number or anything he could measure his progress off or figure out…shit, figure out anything of anything…so he kept on walking…walking down more corridors and trying more nameless doors and finding them locked and then walking some more and some more until the corridors lost the carpet on the floor and the wallpaper on the walls and turned into boiler room corridors, like he was somewhere on fucking Elm Street…but he wasn’t, he knew he wasn’t, and he kept on going forward instead of turning back because he knew the office he wanted was somewhere in this direction, and there was no way they could’ve moved it that far without telling him, and even if they had, there was still the heifer in reception who’d told him to come this way, and if she was wrong…if she’d led him down to the fucking boiler room then….then what the fuck did she think was gonna happen when he found his way back?
He reached a corridor longer than the others…dirtier than the others…darker than the others…like a damn abattoir and…
…Jesus, there was a sheep, a fucking sheep running ahead of him as if it were looking for the same office and…and what was this shit?
He stopped and let the sheep get some distance ahead of him.
Goddamnit, he thought, without a particular target.
When the sheep was out of sight he started walking again.
The corridor was dark but he could see a light, some kind of light a few hundred yards down…
He reached the light. It was caged and green and placed above a door with no name.
Tom reached for the handle and it opened.
Inside was a desk.
Beside the desk was Gene Hackman.
On Gene Hackman was the suit he wore in A Class Action.
Tom asked him what was going on.
Hackman shook his head and held up a piece of paper:
‘I’m sorry, I’m retired.’
Shit, Tom thought.
‘Well, what am I doing here?’
Hackman pointed at the desk, where there was another piece of paper.
Tom picked it up:
‘We’re cutting you loose, freak.’
Tom didn’t know what to do so he let the paper fall to the ground and scrunched up his face, imagining slow motion…imagining close-ups…imagining cameras, props, crew.
Hackman watched him without expression.
‘Why me?’ Tom asked.
Hackman cleared his throat.
‘I don’t deserve this,’ he said. ‘I’m building a house…’
Tom sat in the kitchen of his house, in the darkness, wondering whether or not he should start drinking.
The act of drinking would be interesting, he thought. Put the shades on, grow the beard out, load the trolley full of booze…
But he couldn’t…
He didn’t know why exactly, but he just couldn’t.
Tom got out of the truck, closed the door quietly and walked along the path towards the tree-house.
As he got to the ladder he looked around.
No one watching.
He went up and pulled aside the cloth.
Inside was Bryan Singer.
Tom walked in, smiled, and held out his hand.
‘This can’t go any further, man. Not to anyone.’
Singer smiled back and they performed the handshake.
In bed, Katie flicked through a magazine Tom had brought back, and read about how she was a prisoner in her own home.
Tom watched her read from the corner of his eye.
In his head, he had his defence:
We’re married, we’ve got a kid.
Hollywood’s a hellhole.
I’m providing for our family.
You can’t act.
The fourth point was a last resort, but still absolutely fucking true, he thought.
Katie put the magazine down and said nothing.
She stared at the wall for a while then reached over and turned out the light.
‘Honey,’ Tom said, but she was already pretending to be asleep.
Tom put Katie in the car and told her they were heading into town for the whole day.
Katie smiled and put her hand on his leg as he drove them down the hills and towards Santa Monica.
Near the beach, he parked and they got out.
Katie in flip-flops, Tom in heels. Both wearing shades.
They walked along the beach and played in the sand a little and found the acrobat rings and swung back and forth on those for a while until they were both a little tired and Tom said they should sit down.
They found a place near the tide, not too close to anyone.
‘Having a good time there…prisoner?’ Tom asked, and laughed.
Katie didn’t reply.
In front of them, younger men with younger bodies ran out into the surf, jumping face first into the waves.
When Tom wasn’t so new anymore…
Tom played with one of the robot arms in the car factory while Spielberg gave orders to the new kid.
Looks like Brad, they were saying.
The next Tom Cruise even.
But the kid didn’t look so hot to Tom.
Just another good-looking nobody trying to pull himself up.
Man, he couldn’t even remember the kid’s name.
The kid came up behind him and said something he couldn’t understand.
Tom smirked and gestured towards the robot.
‘It’s cool, man…’
The kid laughed and said they’d all be taken over by robots sooner or later.
‘Yeah…robot actors…better than the real thing.’
Tom carried on smirking, shifting gear a little, adjusting the smirk every few seconds into variations of old smirks.
The smirk from Color of Money.
The smirk from Risky Business.
The smirk from Rainman.
The smirk from Days of Thunder.
They’re all a little different, he told himself.
He pulled out the smirk from Interview…, the one with a little danger to it.
‘Man, we’re all robots, really’ he said.
Another set, another new kid.
Tom sat in the mock air-vent giving Ving Rhames and the other one their mock orders.
The new kid stretched out his arms.
Tom watched him closely, following the line of muscle out from the kid’s vest.
This new one…that’s all he’s got?
He stretched out his own arms, clipping Ving on the cheek.
And the thing we’re reduced to…
Tom was back in the studio corridor, looking for that office.
This time there was no heifer in reception, and there were nameplates on the doors, and there would surely be no Gene Hackman in the basement.
He walked up to the door he’d been to before, way back, and knocked.
The door opened.
Inside was a mannequin with a bright, green smile painted on its face.
Tom blinked and blinked again to check he wasn’t dreaming.
Unless he was in the kind of dream where he would blink to check on himself and think after two blinks that it wasn’t a dream?
No, he wasn’t. Impossible.
He walked up to the mannequin and looked at the desk behind it.
There were seven scripts lined up.
He picked up the first one and read the title:
FILM ONE starring Tom Cruise
He flicked through the first few pages and each one looked like this:
Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise.
Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise…
He flicked through some more pages and it was the same.
Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise.
He put the script down and looked at the mannequin.
The smile was the same.
What’s going on, man?
He picked up the second script.
FILM TWO starring Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise…
The same shit.
He turned back to the mannequin.
Seriously, man…what the fuck?
The other five scripts:
FILM THREE starring Tom Cruise
FILM FOUR starring Tom Cruise
FILM FIVE starring Tom Cruise
FILM SIX starring Tom Cruise
FILM SEVEN starring Tom Cruise
And the pages:
Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise…
He dropped the seventh one down on the desk.
He said his name over and over and over until it would barely come out of his mouth.
And then he said it for what must’ve been the thousandth time…saw them all on the page, all those Toms and all those Cruises…and suddenly…suddenly it didn’t make any sense.
The words…they were gibberish.
He picked up the seven scripts and threw them across the room.
He flung his arm at the mannequin and wrestled it to the ground and pinned it down and strangled its neck and said over and over: