The real Mission Impossible: How Tom Cruise tried to save England’s Euro dreams | Sunday Observer

The real Mission Impossible: How Tom Cruise tried to save England’s Euro dreams

18 July, 2021
Tom Cruise and David Beckham at the Euro 2020 final
Tom Cruise and David Beckham at the Euro 2020 final

By the end of last Sunday’s Euro 2020 final, many England fans could be forgiven for experiencing the sporting equivalent of severe motion sickness. Ecstasy had turned to agony. Waistcoats to hair shirts. Football wasn’t coming home – it was taking a direct flight to Rome.

But of all the visual non-sequiturs to have marked the Wembley decider surely the most jarring had occurred right at the beginning. As Luke Shaw put England one up against Italy, the camera cut to David Beckham celebrating the goal by extended a fisted hand in a exultant gesture towards…Tom Cruise?

Wait…what? The camera cut away almost immediately, so it took a moment to process what you had just seen. One instant Shaw was roaring with joy, the next Hollywood’s most ebullient A-lister was flashing his megawatt smile. He appeared to be every bit as excited about England going ahead as Beckham. He cut more of a dash than Becks, too, courtesy of an immaculate three-piece suit that might have been hewn out of the same gleaming materials as one of his Top Gun fighters.

There is an obvious joke to be made about Mission Impossible and England in a major tournament. However, let’s not go there. Instead, let us gaze in wonder at Tom Cruise, who turned the simple act of fist-bumping David Beckham into an outrageous salute of triumph.Cruise’s career actually makes more sense if we think of him as all-star athlete rather than actor.

From the original 1986 Top Gun – where he had it stipulated in his contract that he would take three flights in an actual jet fighter – to still-in-production Mission Impossible 7, in which he single-handedly took on the pandemic and won via state-of-the-art Covid protocols, Cruise always gets stuck into a project. He’s like a big-name footballer sliding into a crunching tackle. There may be pain and stud marks. But you know he’s going to come out on top.

Perhaps that’s why he has proved such an enthusiastic backer of Gareth Southgate’s England. Cruise treated the squad to an exclusive screening of the forthcoming Top Gun: Maverick. This was followed by a FaceTime call from Cruise himself, who gave England what was presumably the mother of all pep talks (details remain a mystery as players were required to sign nondisclosure agreements).

Wembley rounded off what had been a sports-packed weekend for Cruise, who popped up at the Wimbledon women’s final alongside Mission Impossible co-star Hayley Atwell. Afterwards, he exited Centre Court in the most Tom Cruise fashion possible by getting behind the controls of a helicopter and whooshing off into the clouds. It was as if he was staging his own real-life Simpsons cameo. He was back at Wimbledon for the men’s final on Sunday – grinning from behind aviator shades that looked as if they may have potentially cost as much as a small airplane and sporting the blue-steel suit which he would later bring to Wembley for a victory lap.

Cruise’s shark-toothed enthusiasm for life is very American – and, at first pass, hard to reconcile with the seething atmosphere of a nearly-full Wembley. And yet, Cruise’s attachment to Southgate and England adds up perfectly in the context of his life and career.

It was sport, not acting, that Cruise turned to for salvation as a troubled 15-year-old in suburban Essex County, New Jersey. He had moved to New Jersey from Kentucky along with his three sisters after his mother remarried. Shy, dyslexic and haunted by his relationship with his violent father, Cruise found an outlet for his anxieties in gladiatorial conflict and was soon a star of the Glen Ridge High School wrestling team.

“He had times where he was struggling to be accepted,” former classmate Tom Jarrett would later tell the Daily Mail. “With wrestling, you made your own mark at school, he certainly felt like that.”

Injury brought Cruise’s wrestling prospects to a premature end. But it was while recovering that he auditioned for a school production of Guys and Dolls – a role which kindled his love of acting.

And as a young movie star, he seemed always to chase the thrill he had experienced in the wrestling ring. In Top Gun, it was the sheer, relentless physicality he brought to the part of Maverick that made him believable as a hot-shot pilot. In Cocktail, he juggled vodka bottles and shot glasses like Ronaldo performing a step-over. Working with Martin Scorsese on The Color of Money in 1986 he meanwhile “did a De Niro” and became an accomplished pool player. More than accomplished, in fact.

The only conclusion, then, is that England couldn’t have asked for a more ardent fan than Cruise. As ever with an actor whose plans for 2021 include shooting a film in space with Doug Liman, he was 110 per cent committed to the cause.

And when scanning Wembley for potential penalty takers on Sunday night, perhaps Gareth Southgate should have gazed into the stands and signalled for Cruise to come on down. At the very least we know that his run-up for the spot kick would have been immaculate. (insider)