At the controls of Top Gun: Maverick … Tom Cruise came down to earth to receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Paramount Pictures
The biggest star at this year’s 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Tom Cruise, who turns 60 in July, disappointingly didn’t arrive on the Croisette piloting a supersonic fighter jet.
Instead he was helicoptered sedately along the coast from Nice Airport for a day of full-on promotion including a sold-out master class in the Debussy Theatre followed by the red carpet première of Top Gun: Maverick whose release had been delayed for two years due to the pandemic. It is due to roll out worldwide from next week.
Cruise in Cannes: “Cinema is my love, my passion.” Photo: Richard Mowe
The last time Cruise bounded up the steps of the Palais des Festivals was 30 years ago in 1992 for the première of the underwhelming Far And Away, directed by Ron Howard and starring his then wife Nicole Kidman.
There was no comparison between then and now. For a start, eight French air force fighter jets suddenly appeared, exuding red, white and blue smoke behind them as the glitterati ascended the Palais steps. That stopped Cruise and his co-stars Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, and Jon Hamm as well as Paramount studio execs in their tracks as gazes turned skywards.
His superstar status, judging by the Cannes reaction, is assured. He received a standing ovation even before the first images hit the screen. Part of the ceremony included the award of a 'surprise' Palme d’Or for the sum of his carer which genuinely appeared to take him off guard.
From the stage of the Lumière Theatre, Cruise reminded the adoring throng that it had been 36 years since the first Top Gun. “This is an incredible evening. I make all these movies for all of you and I’m very blessed to do what I do. You all have made my life,” he said with an emotional flourish.
Cruise and Cannes are in many ways perfect bedfellows because the star, in line with the ethos of Festival director Thierry Frémaux, believes in the big screen, the collective experience and the sanctity of cinemas in the face of streaming giants.
Tom Cruise on stage in Cannes Photo: Richard Mowe
At his earlier master class, he revealed that he had played his part in helping cinemas come back from Covid. He has been known to drop in to multiplexes and tell the staff: "I know what you're going through, just know we're making another Mission: Impossible. And Top Gun is coming out…"
He enthused: ""Look at us all together, we're all united, we all speak different languages, different cultures... but we're able to come together around a shared experience," he said.
"Cinema is my love, my passion. I always go to movies when they come out. I'll put my cap on and sit in the audience with everyone. I've spent a lot of time with theatre owners.” He also spent time in Cannes greeting the crowd outside the theatre and posing for selfies.
Asked if he had ever considered allowing Top Gun: Maverick to come out on a platform during the two year hiatus he was emphatic: “That was never going to happen - ever.”
Frémaux purred with admiration: “He is someone who is devoted to cinema. To see Tom Cruise you have to see his latest feature film in a cinema.”
For a Festival that is also returning to a sense of normality after the disruption, Tom Cruise provided just the fillip it needed.