One of today’s must-reads is Vulture’s new interview with Thandie Newton, the veteran actress who’s currently one of the best parts of HBO’s Westworld. The English performer’s enjoyed a number of highs in her long career, but she’s also been forced to reckon with ingrained cultures of racism and sexism from an early age—her stories about Flirting director John Duigan are particularly harrowing. She’s also got plenty to say about Paul Haggis’ Crash and crime drama Rogue, but one particularly fascinating anecdote concerns her “nightmare” experience working on John Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2.
Newton isn’t as critical of Cruise as she is some of her other former collaborators, but, as often happens in Cruise stories, the actor comes across as more of a being than a human in her telling.
“I was so scared of Tom. He was a very dominant individual,” she says. “He tries superhard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done.”
She goes on to describe a frustrating night shoot packed with extras and pyrotechnics and, per Newton, a zit on Cruise’s face that was ballooning before her very eyes. That, coupled with Woo’s decision to not speak English on set—“[V]ery helpful to him, but it was extremely unhelpful to the rest of us,” she notes—caused a testy Tom to rather forcefully take matters into his own hands.
“So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines,” she says. “And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, ‘Let me just — let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.’ So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, ‘I’ll be you. You be me.’ So we filmed the entire scene with me being him—because, believe me, I knew the lines by then—and him playing me. And it was the most unhelpful… I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.”
After describing the “nightmare” shoot to her pal Jonathan Demme later on, she received a call from Cruise. “I thought, Oh, this is it. The apology. No, he was just like, ‘We’re going to reshoot this next week.’ I’m like, ‘Way brilliant.’ And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the—because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone.”
Newton clarifies that Cruise “wasn’t horrible,” but rather “really stressed.” He even gave her a Christmas present, though not one anyone in their right mind would want. “Christmas gifts would be something to do with Scientology,” she recalls. “Like a book with the greatest hits of Scientology, a bit like a Bible kind of thing. I was curious, because it’s like, Wow, if it’s going to attract people, powerful, high-profile people, there’s got to be some glue that sticks this shit together. Didn’t find any.”
Read the full interview here.