Interview: Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise hits the accelerator and slides onto a deserted stretch of Sunset Boulevard behind the wheel of a car so hot, so space-age sleek, that you can’t find one anywhere — not in a Porsche showroom, not in the Malibu Colony, not in the hippest Hollywood parking lot.
Cherry red, rippling with curves and built low to the ground, it’s a car of the future, with a moniker to prove it — Destiny 2000. But what really throws you is what happens when Cruise puts the pedal to the metal. You don’t hear a thing. No revved-up engine, no grinding gears. Whoosh. It sounds like a glider slicing through the late-morning air, with only the tiniest hum – a soft, electronic purr – barely audible over the rush of the wind as the car snakes through a curve down Sunset toward the Pacific. There’s only one catch: At this rate, we might reach the ocean by nightfall. This is Hollywood’s brashest daredevil behind the wheel – the guy who flies F-14s, dives out of airplanes and hits 170 mph on the racetrack – and he’s poking along at, to be generous, maybe 28 mph.
Has Hollywood’s Top Gun lost his nerve? Has he gone soft on the throttle? Hardly. Cruise is simply test-driving an electric car. The vehicle keeps its speed as we head uphill, into another turn. “I’m blown away,” Cruise exclaims. “It goes right up the hill — BANG!
The Destiny 2000 is actually a Pontiac Fiero refitted with a trunkful of foil-wrapped batteries. An ardent environmentalist, Cruise has borrowed it for a couple of days to see if it might make a practical second car — or third, if you count the Bluebird, his on-location motor home that’s the size of a troop transport plane. The Destiny is definitely cheaper than Cruise’s current No. 1 set of wheels (a $65,000 black Acura NSX), but it can’t compete in the velocity department. The NSX clocks in at 168 mph; the Destiny’s top speed is about 55 mph.
Of course, if anyone could get a speeding ticket in an electric car, it’s Cruise. Wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, his hair slicked back in a modified ducktail, he even looks a little like a Fifties hot rodder, raring for action. Taking the Destiny down a Sunset straightaway, he somehow revs it up to 35, then 40 mph. Just as he’s pushing 45, he slams on the brakes — he has spotted a cop. “Jeez, that would be embarrassing,” he says with a nervous laugh, watching the LAPD cruiser pass. “We’re out here ten minutes, and we get stopped for speeding in an electric car.”
After taking the Destiny through a few more curves, Cruise returns to his starting point, a park nestled in the hills of Pacific Palisades. Hopping into my car, I make the mistake of belittling the Destiny 2000’s less-than-studly road performance. I say that my car could probably beat the Destiny down Sunset — in second gear.
Cruise grins. His cocky Cruise grin. “Not if I get a head start, you won’t,” he says.
Swinging the car around, he heads for Sunset. Suddenly the dumpy Destiny 2000 leaps forward, accelerating like a stock car with a massive V-8 under the hood. Somehow Cruise has squeezed a burst of energy from this battery-driven powder puff.
By the time I pull up alongside him, he’s already down at Sunset, waiting for traffic to clear. He can’t hide a triumphant smile.
“Guess you didn’t catch me, did ya?”
WHETHER HE’S FLYING FIGHER PLANS IN ‘TOP GUN,’ hustling pool in the The Color of Money or burning rubber in Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise is a guy with the Right Stuff. In fact, with his peculiar combination of earnest enthusiasm and coolheaded ambition, he’s eerily reminiscent of the young John Glenn from Tom Wolfe’s famous account of the packaging of the astronauts.
Smiling, courteous and ineffably self-confident, Cruise is — as his Born on the Fourth of July director Oliver Stone once put it — “a kid off a Wheaties box.” But he’s also, as Wolfe described Glenn, “a true believer and a half… a guy with a halo turned on at all times.” There’s something about Cruise you can never quite touch. That’s why he looks so right in Top Gun. He’s the daring flyboy who never removes his visor.
Hard to pin down for an interview and ferociously protective of his private life, Cruise is always uncomfortable playing the Celebrity Game. But it’s that time again. He’s touting his new film, Far and Away, the Ron Howard-directed saga that stars Cruise and his wife, Nicole Kidman, as a mismatched pair of Irish immigrants seeking their fortunes in the land of opportunity.
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