By Nathan Kamal | 7 seconds ago
2022 is kind of an odd time period to call out Tom Cruise as “irrelevant,” considering he has a film in theaters that is both his most critically and commercially successful ever. It is especially odd to hear it coming from Mickey Rourke, of all people. However, that is exactly what happened when Mickey Rourke recently appeared on Piers Morgan Uncensored (per Variety). According to Rourke, the immense gross of Top Gun: Maverick mean nothing (at least to him) because Tom Cruise has been “doing the same part for 35 effing years.” While the tone of Mickey Rourke’s breakdown of the recent career of Tom Cruise has a certain element of sour grapes to it, it must be admitted that he may have just the slightest amount of a point.
In the interview with Piers Morgan, Mickey Rourke goes on to claim that he himself is not interested in the kind of massive popular success Tom Cruise had achieved. Instead, Mickey Rourke is interested in the kind of acting popularized by Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Ray Winstone in their 1970s heydays. This makes a lot of sense considering that Mickey Rourke is 69 years old and presumably was enthralled by those actors as a young man. He goes on to say that those actors were dedicated to trying “to stretch as actors.”
While Tom Cruise and Mickey Rourke are at very different points in their respective careers, they actually started around the same time. Mickey Rourke first came to prominence in the Barry Levinson comedy-drama dinner in 1982, while Tom Cruise had his own breakout role in 1983’s risky business. Over the next two decades, they would both see success. While Mickey Rourke was increasingly known for intense erotic thrillers like 9½ weeks and examinations of sordid, grimy underworlds like the Charles Bukowski biopic BarflyTom Cruise became an action star in the Mission: Impossible franchise and an increasing number of science fiction films like Minority Report other oblivion.
What Mickey Rourke may be alluding to in his discussion with Piers Morgan is the undeniable trend of Tom Cruise’s career away from more challenging roles. In the 1980s and 1990s, Tom Cruise worked with virtually every major director in Hollywood, often in roles that played with his Top Gun image as a cocky, brash maverick. Movies like Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide ShutNeil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampireand Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnolia have all been re-evaluated as films in the years since, often singing out Tom Cruise for praise. But at the time, they did not have nearly the same impact on pop culture as movies like Mission: Impossible. It is not entirely surprising that Tom Cruise eventually began to lean into the “challenging stunts” part of his career rather than the challenging acting.
On the other hand, Mickey Rourke has become far more known for direct-to-DVD (and streaming) action films himself than for challenging acting. His next role will be in Roman Polanski’s controversial director ThePalace. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise was recently awarded an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.