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Toothy action star Tom Cruise has never had a star turn quite like his role as Les Grossman in 2008’s Tropic Thunder -- and despite being buried under a literal ton of latex, he delivers one of the most successful performances of his career.

A comic masterstroke by an actor not known for comedy, Grossman was a profanity-spewing powderkeg of a studio mogul, reportedly based loosely on producer Scott Rudin. Truth is, he probably resembled a lot of Hollywood execs. 

Why was the role so popular? In a ten-year look back for Entertainment Weekly, critic Leah Greenblatt reveals why she loves Cruise-as-Grossman so much:

The biggest revelation in this movie is probably Tom Cruise … this is the last time I remember him distinctly not playing himself. He’s a hairy-knuckled bear-daddy Diet Coke-head with a nuclear rage problem, and he looks like he’s having so much fun. I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed him this much as a pure actor, and not as a dude playing the dude who is always Tom Cruise™, since Magnolia."

Cruise’s performance kicked tail. But what if Greenblatt had it backward?  What if, instead of playing against type, Cruise has never revealed his true colors more than when he played the “Diet-Coke-head with the nuclear rage problem?”

Nuclear blast

Shutterstock

There goes Les.

In a recent interview with The Daily Mail, Cruise’s ex-agent, Eileen Berlin, alleges that Cruise has always been a Grossman in disguise.

“Tommy had a terrible temper. He harbored a lot of anger at his natural father. He was moody and would get angry in a snap of your fingers,” claims Berlin.  “It was like something was smoldering and it would boil up and explode.”

Want some details? When Cruise turned 19, Berlin claims she assembled what she presumed was a thoughtful gift: a photo album full of articles from his teen magazine mentions. The present was … not well received.  

“He screamed, ‘I don't want to be in the teen mags,’” remembers Berlin. “He had told me he considered himself an adult, not a teen idol. He threw the album hard at me and it hit me on the cheek.”

Yikes. But let’s be fair. After all, Berlin is Cruise’s ex-agent. Perhaps this is just an example of a talent rep scorned, belly-aching about a failed relationship after a bad breakup?  

Or maybe it’s just another in a series of furious incidents over decades of production. Just last year, Cruise went bananas on his crew after COVID-19 protocol screw-ups on the set of Mission: Impossible 7.  Hey, we get it -- the pandemic has us all on edge, as does the prospect of sitting through another Mission: Impossible.  But this edgy?

Here’s a sample of what happened on-set: Take it away, Tom

"We want the gold standard. They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us! Because they believe in us and what we’re doing! I’m on the phone with every f***ing studio at night, insurance companies, producers, and they’re looking at us and using us to make their movies. We are creating thousands of jobs you motherf***ers. I don’t ever want to see it again, ever! And if you don’t do it you’re fired, if I see you do it again you’re f***ing gone. And if anyone on this crew does it - that’s it, and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f***ing do it again. That’s it! No apologies. You can tell it to the people that are losing their f***ing homes because our industry is shut down. It’s not going to put food on their table or pay for their college education. That’s what I sleep with every night. The future of this f***ing industry! So I’m sorry I am beyond your apologies. I have told you and now I want it and if you don’t do it you’re out. We are not shutting this f***ing movie down!

It’s a rant Les Grossman would be proud of.  

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Top image: Shutterstock/Dreamworks Pictures, Paramount Pictures

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