Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages: Giving Until It Hurts
by Kelli Marshall — DePaul University
June 15, 2012 – 00:00
Toward the end of Rock of Ages, washed-up club owner and band promoter Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) receives a bag of cash from Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), an eccentric, sex-crazed, and perpetually bare-chested, strung-out veteran of rock-and-roll. Upon seeing the $3000, which Jaxx’s manager initially confiscated, Dennis utters, "That Stacee Jaxx, he gives until it hurts." This line, like much in Rock of Ages, makes little sense. First, nothing in the narrative suggests Jaxx is philanthropic. Second, who’s hurting here? Certainly not Jaxx with his limos, Hollywood mansion, and groupies. The statement does, however, make sense when it’s ascribed to Cruise’s star persona.
Some see Tom Cruise as a(nother) weird Scientologist, a closeted gay man, a fake husband, and/or a surrogate father. Similarly, my colleagues regard "post-TomKat" Cruise as "skeevy," "Level-15 creepy," and someone who "freaks me the hell out." But the star is also widely recognized for his work ethic and performing his own stunts. See, for example, his (alleged) eight-month training ritual for The Last Samurai and firearms/combat training for Collateral; there’s also his daring motorcycle maneuver in Knight and Day and running atop the world’s tallest building in MI: IV. Finally, whether fabricated or not, Cruise’s co-stars also frequently praise him for giving his all during production.
Thus, it’s no surprise to learn that Cruise purportedly spent months preparing for Rock of Ages, that his contract allowed him an out if he couldn’t sing, and that this preparation, like his stuntwork, was promoted heavily alongside the movie—at least in words. Significantly, unlike his co-stars, Cruise’s Stacie Jaxx isn’t featured prominently in the original trailer; rather, he’s mostly in long-shot, face obscured, back turned, not singing (the second trailer offers a tad more).
Indeed, like Spielberg’s dinosaurs, mostly concealed during marketing to lure audiences into theaters (697), Cruise’s musical performance and, thus, the question on everyone’s mind—can he pull this off?—is unveiled almost only via the movie. And even then, Cruise/Jaxx doesn’t perform until nearly 40m in. That the spectacle is withheld this long, in these ways is interesting. But perhaps more notable is that because of his appearance (exposed nipples, roving tongue, tattoos emphasizing his crotch), Cruise/Jaxx remains a spectacle even after his numbers end (31-33). Ah, Mr. Cruise, still giving…