Fat, follicle-free, and funny, Tom Cruise may yet get back in favor with his formerly rabid fans in his role as Les Grossman, the overweight, foul-mouthed, bald studio head in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, a big budget movie satirizing big budget movies, opening August 13th.

Buzz is that Cruise totally steals the movie from super stars like Stiller as a fading action star; Jack Black, a fat comic in a hairpiece; and Robert Downey, Jr., an Australian method actor who has an experimental skin-color procedure in order to play a black soldier.

Cruise has always looked like a Hollywood heartthrob, but not in this movie. Stiller told Contact Music it was all Cruise’s idea:

“The role was his idea. It wasn’t even in the script. I didn’t have to persuade him. Tom is amazing. We’d be talking about the characters, and in the middle of the conversation he’d say something like, `My character should have these giant hands.’ I seriously believe the man is a movie savant.”

Paramount/Dream Works has tried to keep this a secret, but photos were leaked of Tom Cruise in a fat suit with a bald head back in November.

Cruise does some hip-swiveling moves that have The New York Observer raving that it may well be ready to again give a stamp of approval to Tom Cruise, getting fans over the past few career and personal blips. They write in the August 11th edition:

“Tom Cruise has managed to completely flip our perceptions of him upside down and inside out. It doesn’t spoil a thing to say that the film is worth seeing for Mr. Cruise’s performance alone, or that we hope this might usher in a new era for the strange, secretive actor. Could it be that, in fact, Tom Cruise actually gets it? Is it possible that Tom Cruise has a sense of humor about being Tom Cruise? Can we love him again without also feeling creeped out?”

According to Tom Cruise’s article in this month’s Men’s Vogue, when he first met Stiller in 1992, “We shared common ground in a love of cinema and a desire to tell stories and challenge ourselves and develop as artists.”

Having Stiller as director can’t hurt, and neither can Tropic Thunder’s script co-written by Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen.

It would appear that Hollywood has rediscovered that raunchiness sells. Look at the randy girls of Sex and the City, the exposed giblets of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell in Step Brothers, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s hairy ass in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. In Thunder, Cruise’s character spews out the most lewd and colorful X-rated words heard in Hollywood since Tom Sizemore’s last bust, leaving the MPAA no choice but to rate the film R for “pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.” That should confuse quite a few Scientology students who may not be able to discern which one is the real Tom.

Cruise is reportedly so effective in his comedy turn that a supporting actor Oscar nom has been mentioned more than once. Scuttlebutt says it’s the best work he’s done since his role as Frank T.J. Mackey in 1999′s Magnolia, for which he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor (but lost to Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules).

Considering the bombs Tom’s made lately, this role could raise his popularity to former heights. Just think what would do to Sumner Redstone’s blood pressure — It makes me smile just to think about it.

Audiences are traditionally loyal but occasionally, an actor’s personal life can screw things up. It would be nice to see Tom Cruise win an award or two for playing an obnoxious, hirsute, blobbed-up studio head, even if the fat is fake.


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