TOM CRUISE PART 1
It was the opportunity of a life time; an EXCLUSIVE Australian interview in LA with Tom Cruise.
Why was I getting the interview over so many other Australian media identities with much bigger profiles and higher rating shows? Firstly, the interview was in the aftermath of the TOM-CRUISE-GOES-NUTS period. He had jumped on Oprah’s couch, scolded Brooke Shields publicly for taking post natal depression drugs, warned Peter Overton to “mind his manners”; announced there was no such thing as psychiatry and had a go at parents who allow their ADD children to be medicated with Ritalin.
All this, while being the poster boy for the much-talked-about-little-understood Church of Scientology. If Cruise was running for President, it would be a euphemism to say his approval rating had taken a battering. The film company was clear in their proposal. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to deliver a charming, engaging interview with Tom Cruise for the release of Mission Impossible 3. (In other words, we’ll give you the exclusive but please make Tom Cruise charming again)!
WEDNESDAY 10:00am: (DAY BEFORE INTERVIEW) – CHECK INTO BEVERLY HILLS FOUR SEASONS HOTEL
Not only is hotel spectacular but serves best buffet breakfast in whole world. Queen Latifah is at next table. David Schwimmer from “Friends” is two tables over. (Note celebrity watching is unavoidable in LA unless one is walking around with eyes closed).
WEDNESDAY 11:00am: (DAY BEFORE INTERVIEW) MEET U.S CAMERA CREW IN LOBBY
Have hired extra crew to film on-location opener and closer for show. (Note this is when host (me) introduces and closes the program. For eg, Hi, I’m Angela Pulvirenti, welcome to Backstage Pass. Today I’m in sunny LA about to chat with the biggest movie star in the world etc).
When overseas, always best to film against well-known backdrop or iconic landmark- Hollywood sign, Sunset Boulevard- which proves you are where you say you are. Crew suggests filming in front of Paramount Pictures, home of MI3 films.
WEDNESDAY 12:00pm: ARRIVE AT PARAMOUNT PICTURES STUDIO.
Camera sets up across road from studio so Paramount Pictures sign and gate can be framed behind me in shot. After filming different versions of opener and closer-all with “mission impossible” references – decide it might be fun to get footage of me pretending I am secret spy scaling garden bed walls of Paramount Pictures in search of way inside to find Tom Cruise.
Crew exchange bewildered glances. Am warned that security is very tight. Assure them have no intention of going near entrance – just outside in garden bed.
WEDNESDAY 12:20pm: AM DOING BEST SPY-IMPERSONATION ALONG GARDEN BED WALL when security car pulls up. Out jump two security guards WEARING GUNS. First guard demands to know who I am and exactly what I’m doing.
Nervous sentences spew force “am very sorry…am TV person from Australia…am interviewing Tom Cruise tomorrow for Mission Impossible 3…thought it might be funny to pretend I was on top secret mission to break into Paramount studio… not that I was actually going to break in to studio…no of course not…that would be illegal…have never committed a crime in my life …Oh look! That’s my camera crew across the road…they’re American! (glance across road to see sound guy running for cover and cameraman pull cap down over head and wave – hesitantly).
WEDNESDAY 12:30pm: LET OFF WITH WARNING
Security guards have thankfully deemed me stupid rather than dangerous. Am asked to ‘remove myself from garden bed immediately”; (occurs to me how few times this sentence would need to be uttered).
Am told it is illegal to film on Studio grounds without express permission. I will NOT be let off so lightly if am found “loitering” around studio again.
WEDNESDAY: 12:40pm REUNITE WITH CAMERA CREW IN CAR
“You are like, one awesome chick”, says cameraman crying with laughter. “I have never, like, seen someone do something, like, so stupid. Weren’t you like, scared”? Yeh well thanks for, like, coming to my rescue, mate.
WEDNESDAY 5:10pm: EN ROUTE TO PUBLICITY EVENT IN WEST HOLLYWOOD
Have put day’s dramas behind me and am in courtesy bus with 30 other international media persons. Due to devastating LA traffic, 20-minute bus ride will be MUCH longer. Is pouring rain outside.
WEDNESDAY 6:00pm: STILL IN TRAFFIC
To pass time, decide to lead group in game called “guess-the-tv/movie-theme. Begin humming theme to The Godfather. Group is reluctant to participate at first but game eventually gains momentum.
WEDNESDAY 6:10pm: STILL IN TRAFFIC
Look out window to see well dressed couple in next car staring into bus with bewildered expressions. Know exactly what they are thinking. “Why are 30 adults in a bus singing the theme song to Star Wars at the top of their voices”?
WEDNESDAY 6:30pm: ARRIVE AT DREAMGIRLS MARQUEE
Hollywood sure knows how to throw a party. Film Company is maximizing presence of 30 international journalists to hold massive “warm up” publicity event for another major film - some musical starring Jamie Fox, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce and a girl who was runner up in last year’s American Idol; Jennifer someone. (18 months later, Jennifer Hudson is an Oscar winner).
Stars of film are walking around marquee – with minders – to casually field questions from journalists about experience of making film. All journalists advised that stars will only be “accessible” for 20 minutes and then must NOT BE APPROACHED under any circumstances.
WEDNESDAY 7:30pm: AT BAR SLIGHTLY GIDDY ON EXPENSIVE CHAMPAGNE
Have made friends with London journalist from Sunday Times. (Note English media also have far more relaxed attitude about “celebrity” and therefore make best taking-the-piss allies on big junkets). London journo dares me to approach Jamie Fox even though “accessibility” period has expired.
Spot Jamie Fox in corner with bodyguards placed at safe distance around him. Bugger it. Begin walking directly towards him.
WEDNESDAY 7:45pm: WELL PAST ACCESSIBILITY CUT OFF
See minders closing in out of corner of eye. Keep walking. Pretty close now. Lock eyes with Jamie. Minders closing in. One says, “stand back Ma’am”. Outstretch my hand and say “G’day Jamie; Ange from Australia. Nice to see you mate”. Can tell Jamie is thinking “am I meant to know who you are?”.
Shakes my hand warmly just in case and says “thank you so much for coming”. Pleasure mate.
MORAL OF THE STORY: You can take the girl out of Australia…
TOM CRUISE PART 2
Since arriving in LA two days ago, I have had breakfast with Queen Latifah and David Schwimmer (well, not at the same table exactly), nearly been arrested by Paramount Pictures security (well…warned not to return to their garden bed without permission) led 30 international media identities in a chorus of movie themes in the middle of a freeway traffic jam and nearly been crash tackled by Jamie Fox’s bodyguards. Now it’s time to focus on what I am really here for: to conduct an exclusive Australian interview with mega movie star TOM CRUISE.
THURSDAY 10:00am: MEET U.S. PUBLICIST IN HOTEL LOBBY
Am escorted to waiting courtesy bus and am driven to interview venue.
THURSDAY 10:30am: ARRIVE AT INTERVIEW VENUE
Am met by second publicist who ticks name off media accredited list. Am escorted to interview waiting area. Peek through open doorway into interview area. Four separate film crews have been set up on different sound stages so Tom can walk from one to other with precision of The President.
THURSDAY 10:45am: HANGING OUT AT MEDIA CATERING TABLE
Am approached by Tom’s assistant, Arnold, who is super friendly and asks series of casual-yet-specific questions; such as:
“So you produce your TV show yourself”? YES.
“That must be very rewarding”. Am thinking stressful is better word but say – YES.
“And you work as a journalist as well”? YES.
“You must be a busy lady”. Well… YES. (Am wondering if there is point to this).
“And your show is screened on Channel Nine”? YES.
“Tom is very close to the Packer family. He and James are great friends”. (Me and Jamie, not so much. But no sense emphasising that right now).
Attempt to capitalize on Packer theme by saying – “It was so lovely to have Tom and Katie in Australia recently, for “Kerry’s funeral’”. (Yep, I sound like a knob head. But that’s usually when you start fitting in, in Hollywood).
THURSDAY 11:20am: AM ESCORTED ON TO INTERVIEW SET
Am introduced to polite-but-militant camera crew. Clipboard-bearing-publicist informs me that Tom will be on set in 10 minutes.
THURSDAY 11:25pm: TWO BODYGUARDS TAKE POSITION AT BACK OF ROOM
Clipboard-bearing-publicist announces Tom will be on set in 5 minutes.
THURSDAY 11:28pm: TWO MINUTE WARNING
TOM IS ON HIS WAY. Eyes are fixed on front entrance of room. His make up artist appears, but not Tom. Two publicists appear in doorway. Still no Tom. Feel hand on my shoulder and someone call my name: ANGELA PULVIRENTI. Perfect Pronunciation. Look up and see Tom Cruise’s face beaming at me. He has come through side entrance. He shakes one of my hands with both of his. Have interviewed many celebrities over past 5 years but am not prepared for overwhelming sense of familiarity that has come over me. Tom Cruise is sitting down next to me. Maverick, Joel from Risky Business, Ethan Hunt and Jerry freakin Maguire just said my name! “Bloody Hell”, I can’t help blurting out to him, “you’re as familiar to me as my cousins”. He laughs out loud and puts his arm around my shoulder. Even if this dude is nuts, he is charming-as-hell.
THURSDAY 11:32am: SMALL TALK WITH TOM WHILE CREW ADJUSTS LIGHTING.
ME: It was great to have you back down under recently.
TOM: Oh we had such a wonderful time. Kate loved Australia, she just loved it.
ME: Will the country always have a special place in your heart?
TOM: Of course! My kids are half Australian.
ME: How amazing was Kerry’s funeral. (Here I go again).
TOM: (excitedly). Oh, you were there!
ME: Er, no. I was…travelling. (What is it with me and this bloody funeral)!
TOM: It was a truly beautiful day; a celebration of an incredible life.
THURSDAY 12:00pm: 15 MINUTES OF INTERVIEW TIME REMAINING
The last 30 minutes have raced by. Tom is charming but rehearsed as a politician. When I ask him who in his life can tell him he sucks, he says he makes it very easy for people to give him their opinion. (Note, get distinct impression no one who might give him unwanted opinion would ever be in same room with him). He is most in-command subject I have interviewed. Until I start the quiz….
THURSDAY 12:10pm: THE TOM CRUISE QUIZ
Ask Tom if he will participate in quiz on his movies. He smiles nervously. What do you mean? I say line from one of your films – you guess the film. He glances at watch. OK. First line is from Rain Man. Tom gives wrong answer. I do wrong-letter-on-wheel-of-fortune sound (ba bung). Muffled laugh from crew. Second line is from The Firm. Tom closes his eyes and thinks. Minutes are racing by.
Me:Dude, either you know the answer or you don’t.
Bigger laugh from crew. Tom begrudgingly admits he does not know answer. Next Line is from MI2. Tom now thinking VERY INTENSELY. Crew begins winding me up. I tell Tom answer. Tom goes berserk. “Give me a second would you! I almost had that”! But I was being wound up! Tom instructs crew to relax until quiz is finished. Holly Hell. This has become a pride issue. Tom sits up straight and braces himself for next question.
THURSDAY 12:20pm: THE QUIZ CONTINUES IN OVERTIME
ME: Which of your characters said this in a pivotal scene – “I’m not letting you get rid of me, how about that”.
TOM: (thinking deeply) Jerry Maguire
ME: Right on brother. (We high five each other) In which movie did your character…
TOM: Top Gun.
ME: Hang on let me say the…
TOM: Risky Business!
ME: But Tom. I haven’t said the line.
TOM: I want to see if I can get the answer before you say the line.
ME: But that’s not a game. (That’s weird-telepathy-game-that-sucks).
TOM: Oh come on! Is it Vanilla Sky?
ME: No! Name the 2 actors in the scene when you…
TOM: Demi Moore and Kevin Pollack!
ME: That’s actually the correct answer! (Can’t help whacking him on the shoulder with my clipboard. That was freaky)!
TOM: Give me another one! Give me another one!
MORAL OF THE STORY: I could never have known that such an innocent little game would reveal so much about the man behind the megastar. Over the 10 minutes that quiz played out, Tom Cruise dropped his guard and behaved like himself: competitive, playful, controlling, energetic, a man-who-has-to-win. He is also a man who knows how to have fun. And the most polite and professional person I have ever interviewed.
SIDE NB: I you haven’t already, watch the Tom Cruise quiz on this website.