Who would have guessed that Tom Cruise can be a little strange, even intimidating, to work with? But did you have Scientology-themed Christmas gifts on your weirdo bingo card?
In a broad, juicy interview with Vulture, Thandie Newton shared, among many other things, her experience working with Cruise on Mission: Impossible 2. He was “very generous and open about sharing Scientological stuff,” she said. Among the Scientology swag he liked to hand out? “Like a book with the greatest hits of Scientology, a bit like a Bible kind of thing,” Newton recalled. “I was curious, because it’s like, Wow, if [Scientology is] going to attract people, powerful, high-profile people, there’s got to be some glue that sticks this shit together. Didn’t find any.”
But Newton’s bizarre on-set experiences did not stop with bizarre, pseudo-religiously-themed swag. “I was so scared of Tom,” she said. “He was a very dominant individual. He tries superhard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done.”
For example? At one point, she said, the two were shooting a night scene with Cruise on a balcony, in which their characters were supposed to be frustrated with one another. Director John Woo was downstairs watching them perform from a monitor.
“So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines,” Newton recalled. “And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, ‘Let me just—let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.’ So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, ‘I’ll be you. You be me.’”
And so, the two filmed the entire scene in one another’s roles. “And it was the most unhelpful … I can’t think of anything less revealing,” Newton said. “It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.”
Another fun fact about that shoot? Cruise apparently managed to grow a massive zit in record time.
“I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not—this is how his metabolism is so fierce—he had a big whitehead where that red dot was,” Newton said. “It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger.”
Newton later called Jonathan Demme to talk about the shoot. “I described the night to him: ‘A nightmare.’”
Later, Cruise called her—not, as she’d expected, to apologize, but to let her know they’d be reshooting that same scene the next week.
“He wasn’t horrible,” Newton clarified. “It was just—he was really stressed... That was more just surreal than anything.”