LOS ANGELES — Just turned 50, Tom Cruise is eligible for membership in the American Association of Retired Persons. Just split from third wife Katie Holmes, Cruise is the object of told-you-so cynics who simply knew that romance wouldn’t last. Just finished with his stab at something really different as a heavy-metal rock god in “Rock of Ages,” Cruise is coming off one of the lowest-grossing movies in his career.
Yet just out with his latest action flick, “Jack Reacher,” Cruise remains one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
He’s weathered ridicule, intense speculation about his family life, bumpy stretches at the box office brought on by audience disdain over his personal antics and some ill-considered movie projects.
And Cruise is right where he was when 1986’s “Top Gun” vaulted him to superstardom: On top. Maybe not the same level of on top as the 15-year stretch that began in the early 1990s, when practically every Cruise film was bound to be a $100 million hit.
But for a guy his age, with his baggage, in a business that deifies youth and excommunicates talent when it goes off the deep end, Cruise still prospers.
“None of us can stay in the spotlight that long without some issues and some controversy. Tom has stayed committed all along to finding great projects,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman at Paramount Pictures, which released “Jack Reacher” on Friday. “What you see over time is that Tom has been in such a great list of movies that are of such high quality, that ultimately, people come back to the work and the talent.”
Fans seem to agree. In a poll of nearly 1,000 people buying movie tickets at Fandango.com, 82 percent said Cruise’s personal life does not influence whether or not they will see his movies.
“The target audience for ‘Jack Reacher’ probably doesn’t care whether he’s married, separated or divorced,” said Fandango.com chief correspondent Dave Karger. “As long as teenage guys tell their friends that they liked it, that’s all that matters. These aren’t people that are reading Us Weekly. They just want to know how the action is.”
Box-office expectations are modest for “Jack Reacher,” which debuted in second-place with a modest $15.6 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday. Paramount executives hope holiday crowds will give “Jack Reacher” an extended shelf life after opening weekend.
Adapted from “One Shot,” part of Lee Child’s series of best-selling books about a mysterious ex-military investigator, “Jack Reacher” features colder, crueler violence than the typical Cruise action film, which could hurt its prospects after the school shootings in Connecticut.