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Interview of the week: Tom Cruise

By KAREN BUTLER   |   June 20, 2002 at 5:19 PM
NEW YORK, June 20 (UPI) -- Working on a film set 50 years in the future has actor Tom Cruise thinking about what kinds of technological advances he would like to see in the next few decades.

"I like the transportation system (created for the film 'Minority Report')," Cruise told a roomful of reporters in New York recently. "A stun gun would be kind of interesting. A sick stick to have around every now and then would be good. The retinal scanning. If you look at where that's going, it's certainly going to help us in terms of preventing crime. I was reading the other day on the Internet that there's this scientist who developed a program that could predict human behavior.

"I think they're going to test it in airports, but it's basically to spot terrorists and it's all done on computer. I'd like a system in place that would prevent crimes, prevent terrorism, certainly, but when you look at the freedoms you'll have to give up, that is something that I think people should be more aware of, the ramifications of that.

"Wires in the eyes. They numbed my eyes. (Director) Steven (Spielberg) was very nervous and wanted to shoot that as quickly as possible. It was wild. It didn't hurt because my eyes were numb, but it was a little uncomfortable afterwards. But I liked how it looked," he explained, confirming the "wires in the eyes" thing was a nod to filmmaker Stanley Kubrick of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "A Clockwork Orange" fame.

In "Minority Report," Cruise plays John Anderton, head of the Justice Department's elite Pre-Crime Unit, which catches and punishes people before they commit crimes, based on the predictions of a trio of psychic beings known as Pre-Cogs. Problems arise when the Pre-Cogs foretell that Anderton will murder a complete stranger in less than 36 hours. Now, with his own unit, led by his rival Danny Witwer (played by Colin Farrell,) tracking his every move, Anderton must dodge the very system he helped create and prove the Pre-Cogs wrong.

Asked what initially drew him to the project, the three-time Oscar nominee said simply that he thought it was a great idea for a film, "something that could be exciting to see."

"The whole idea of being able to predict a murder in the future and having this prevention team, this pre-crime team go out and stop it before it happened!" he exclaimed. "I just thought that was a great idea. ... I just thought it was a compelling story. It wasn't a conscious thing of me saying, 'I want to try something different.' I always want to try something different."

Cruise insisted that he approached working with the legendary director of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Jaws" the same way he would with any filmmaker, stating he never worried about the fact that Spielberg is as famous and powerful a Hollywood titan as he is.

"No. I never think of that," Cruise remarked. "Ever. When you're working, it's not something you think about. He's a filmmaker. Steven is a storyteller and I'm the actor and it's just that relationship. It's not weird. It's not contentious in any way. It's very much the opposite. He's focused on the story. He's someone who is relaxed and pretty easy. He's concerned about his story. He's not someone who takes anything for granted, either, which is quite wonderful. He's looking for a story and is committed to telling that."

Cruise said he read an early version of the screenplay for "Minority Report" when he was filming Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" in England several years ago. He was so intrigued by the tale that he immediately picked up a copy of the Philip K. Dick short story it was based on. As much as he enjoyed Dick's prose, Cruise said he liked the script for the movie better.

"I think what Scott Frank did with the screenplay was wonderful," Cruise said. "That short story is not a feature film. It's a short story and it's a wonderful short story, but when you talk about making it into a movie which runs two-plus hours there are different expectations and limitations and also doors opening. So, I feel that the (original) story is still there. It's a launching pad."

One of the aspects of the film that most appealed to Cruise was Spielberg's choice to set it 50, not hundreds of years in the future.

"That makes it a world that's accessible for an audience," Cruise added.

Admitting that the movie became a lot more realistic since Sept. 11 of last year, the 39-year-old superstar stated: "Look at what's happening today, right now, as we're doing this interview, in terms of privacy issues and what we're all going to be asked to give up. (The film) made it very immediate for me when I read it and I think it will be for the audience, too."

In addition to having a fun summer movie he is proud to promote, Cruise is also enjoying his relationship with gorgeous "Vanilla Sky" co-star Penelope Cruz.

Although he remains tight-lipped about specifics, he did manage to gush briefly: "What you see with Penelope is who she is. She's very generous and obviously very beautiful. There's a real sweetness and intelligence. She's funny and just a lovely person to be with."

So, what about all those wretched rumors that keep dogging him?

"Rumors. I live for the rumors. I live for that. It's ridiculous," he replied, adding that he never read the tabloids and gossip sheets before he was famous.

"It's irresponsible if it's not true," he continued. "And they know it's not true. They sit around and make stuff up. But it is what it is. I don't enjoy gossip, even in my private life. It just doesn't interest me and it never has. It is what it is and I don't lose a lot of sleep over it. They'll call and ask, 'Are you getting married?' 'No.' I don't even answer it. Pat Kingsley (his publicist) will say no. Then the paper will say, 'Tom Cruise Is Getting Married,' and in small letters it will say, 'But he denies it.' It's just ridiculous."

Asked how he might know about headlines since he claims never to read them, Cruise quipped, "Well, I only know from my previous lawsuits."

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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