If you’re one of the millions of people who are seen “Top Gun: Maverick,” you know that Tom Cruise is a pretty athletic guy.
If you’re a Cruise fan, you know just how athletic Cruise is, especially when it comes to doing the daring stunts that are part and parcel of his movies.
But those same stunts raise an obvious question-is Tom Cruise really an athlete, or is it all just movie magic? The answers will surprise you in at least a couple of ways, so let’s explore.
High School Hero
Back when he was in high school, Tom Cruise was fairly serious about sports. He played soccer, wrestled, and ran track, and he was slated to be a star middle linebacker for his high school football team in Glen Ridge, New Jersey when he was caught drinking beer before a game and bounded from the squad.
That kind of risky business didn’t seem to hurt Cruise’s career in the long haul, though. The one big obstacle Cruise faced when he was younger was dyslexia, which he hide the fact that he was functionally illiterate from his classmates.
Even Cruise himself didn’t know at that point that his athleticism would play a prominent role in his success as a movie star.
A lot of that was about his stunning handsomeness, but Cruise worked hard to hone his skills as an actor, and using his athleticism to his advantage was a major part of that.
The Ultimate Athletic Action Hero
It was during his roles in action movies that Cruise’s athleticism truly began to emerge. He’s always taken care of himself, but he quickly acquired a reputation as a daredevil when he insisted on doing his own dangerous stunts.
Many of those stunts are legendary, especially the ones that have him leaping from buildings in the “Mission Impossible” series. Cruise may not be a competitive athlete on the professional level, but every stunt man who’s ever done what cruise is done knows the strength and speed that goes into those kinds of stunts.
There’s serious danger involved, too. Taking a hit in the NFL or a charge in the NBA might hurt, but those kinds of hits are rarely life-threatening.
The stunts in the movies are. Plenty of safeguards are put in place, but stuntmen live with broken bones as a factor of life, and Tom Cruise took on the same kind of risks they did.
The one element of Tom Cruise’s athleticism that has come under scrutiny recently is his speed, especially now that Cruise has turned 60.
Based on his role in “Top Gun: Maverick,” several media outlets have done some probing interviews about the speed Cruise has shown in his most recent movies.
Those interviews were revealing, to say the least. It was Cruise himself who brought attention to his speed when he finally joined Instagram, and his self-assessment steered clear of obvious choices like “three-time Oscar nominee,” or “sold $10 billion worth of movie tickets.” Instead, Cruise cited himself as an actor and producer, but the tag for those two jobs was shocking: “been running in movies since 1981.”
ESPN was curious about this, of course, so they asked some telling questions to some very high-level track stars to analyze Cruise’s technique.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee was one of those who analyzed Cruise’s style, and while she said that certain things he said were designed to make him look good on film, his stiff but disciplined running style actually wasn’t bad at all.
But track stars like Joyner-Kersee weren’t the only ones who broke down Cruise’s style. Given the vagaries of modern video technology, various video experts have clocked Cruise at just over 15 mph when he runs, and Cruise himself has said he’s hit 17 mph.
The final words were put in by marathoner Will Blase, who claims that Cruise might be the fastest actor ever to hit the silver screen. He broke down Cruise’s speed against that of Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” Harrison Ford’s sprint to escape from a builder in “Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Stallone’s staircase spring in “Rocky II,” and Cruise won the imaginary gold medal.
Don’t expect Cruise to stop going for the gold, athletically speaking. His ambition doesn’t seem to have diminished much at all, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him running for his life and for big box office receipts-in whatever movie he decides to do next.