Tom Cruise's coronavirus meltdown has the internet divided

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On Tuesday night, someone involved in Mission: Impossible 7 leaked an impassioned and amusingly blistering tape from its star. Tom Cruise, easily the most intense weirdo left in Hollywood, was upset at an unspecified crew member for violating set COVID restrictions. This was immediately appointment listening for any fan of Christian Bale’s on-set meltdown filming Terminator Salvation, or every Cruise Les Grossman scene in Tropic Thunder.

“They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us! Because they believe in us and what we’re doing,” he shouts. “I’m on the phone with every fucking studio at night, insurance companies, producers, and they’re looking at us and using us to make their movies.”

Cruise threatens to fire anyone who violates protocols again on the spot, since the movie’s “creating thousands of jobs.” In the midst of all this, he managed to land on a few salient points about the brutality wrought on working people during the pandemic:

“You can tell it to the people that are losing their fucking 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 fucking industry! So I’m sorry I am beyond your apologies.”

The reactions to this were as scattershot as Cruise was laser-focused on scaring the daylights out of his colleagues. Was it an incredibly funny dispatch from an egomaniacal celebrity and nothing more? Is Tom Cruise a pro-labor icon? Is this not funny at all, actually, since his involvement in the Church of Scientology effectively equates to endorsing slave labor? Was it even half as inspired as the Bale rant? Was it staged? Look around enough, and you’ll find just about every read on the rant imaginable.

Maybe it was a bit of fortuitous timing for one of the biggest stars in Hollywood to deliver such a rallying cry, just weeks after Warner Bros. threatened to destabilize the entire industry. In the absence of cogent government oversight, the burden has fallen onto corporations and productions to look out for their employees — which many of the largest have failed remarkably at. But yeah, he’s a Scientologist with an incredibly sordid connection to the church’s worst misdeeds, so there’s no need to go much further beyond acknowledging that he made some points.

For as long as he continues to dangle off airplanes and throttle motorcycles off mountainside ramps, Cruise is one things you just have to take on your own terms, with all the discomforting contradictions. And hey, if you didn’t know Cruise was out filming the next two Mission: Impossible installments back to back, you certainly do now — and maybe that was the point of this all along.