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Will Tom Cruise Ever Win an Oscar?


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At sixty-one years old, Tom Cruise is now approximately the same age as the late Paul Newman was when a younger Cruise co-starred with Newman in the 1986 drama film The Color of Money, which brought Newman his first and only competitive Academy Award win after seven previous unsuccessful nominations. However, while The Color of Money reveals a Newman who had embraced the old man persona, with gray hair, prescription glasses, and a tired body, Cruise doesn’t seem ready to make such a transition.


Indeed, as Cruise seems to be intent on maintaining the action hero persona that Cruise first cultivated in 1986 with Top Gun, which was released just several months prior to Color of Money, it’s as if Cruise exists in a time warp, and as Newman appears old beyond his years in The Color of Money, Cruise presently doesn’t appear to be a day over fifty. Accordingly, the most recent Oscar nomination that Cruise received as a producer for Top Gun: Maverick highlights the fact that it’s been over twenty years since Cruise received his last Oscar nomination for acting.

Updated January 14, 2024: This article has been updated by Jessica Peerez with more information regarding Tom Cruise’s Oscar chances and the actor’s Warner Bros. deal.


Tom Cruise Has Gotten Very Close to Oscar

Tom Cruise’s most recent Oscar nomination, as a producer, for Top Gun: Maverick was his fourth Oscar nomination, following his previous nominations for his performances in the films Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire, and Magnolia. Many were shocked that Cruise did not land a nomination for Best Actor for Top Gun: Maverick, as many thought the film’s positive word of mouth and major box office haul, along with the perception of “saving theaters,” would be enough to land him a nomination.

Cruise received his first Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance as real-life paralyzed Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic in the acclaimed 1989 anti-war drama film Born on the Fourth of July, in which Cruise, who was twenty-six years old when filming began, portrays Kovic over a twenty-year period, beginning in Kovic’s senior year of high school. Indeed, the stark transformation Cruise undergoes throughout the film undoubtedly represents the most impressive acting achievement of Cruise’s career. However, while Cruise was considered a serious Oscar contender for Born on the Fourth of July, Cruise was defeated by Daniel Day-Lewis, who won the Oscar for Day-Lewis’ memorable performance in My Left Foot.

Cruise received his second Oscar nomination for his comedic titular performance as a love-starved sports agent in the 1996 comedy-drama film Jerry Maguire but was defeated by Geoffrey Rush from Shine, while Michael Caine’s performance in the 1999 drama film The Cider House Rules won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar over Cruise’s emotionally-charged performance as a misogynistic motivational speaker in the 1999 ensemble drama film Magnolia.

No More Risky Business

In pursuing the role of Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July, Tom Cruise said that while he had already achieved major film stardom with Top Gun, he nonetheless felt the need to test himself as a dramatic actor, to essentially find out if he was more than just a pretty face and was capable of becoming a truly great film actor. Indeed, Born on the Fourth of July marked the beginning of an intensive testing period for Cruise, who had already proved that he could more than hold his own alongside Paul Newman in The Color of Money and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and then did the same against screen giants Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men and Gene Hackman in The Firm.

However, while Cruise has certainly demonstrated a willingness to take physical risks since his last Oscar-nominated appearance in Magnolia and has certainly broken new technical ground in the action and science-fiction film genres over the past twenty years, Cruise has also stopped taking creative and dramatic risks, certainly compared to the 1980s and 1990s, and has stopped testing himself as an actor, as Cruise has seemingly stopped pursuing character-based film roles in favor of maintaining his lucrative standing in his now well-worn genre spaces.

Related: Top Gun Maverick: 10 Reasons it Surpasses the Original

Except for his performances as foul-mouthed Hollywood studio executive Les Grossman in the 2008 action comedy film Tropic Thunder and icy professional killer Vincent in the 2004 action thriller film Collateral, Cruise has shown an increasing unwillingness to leave his comfort zone as an actor and a star, and this has made his path to winning a competitive Oscar much more difficult. Since 2010, the actor has mainly stayed within the action genre with four Mission: Impossible films: Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, The Mummy, and Top Gun: Maverick. The closest thing he has done as a character drama in the past decade was American Made, which received mixed reviews from critics.

In many ways, Cruise has now prioritized box office over awards recognition, and it has not been a bad call. Following a very public fallout with Paramount Pictures in 2006, he dipped his toe into dramas like Lions for Lambs and Valkyrie, but both disappointed at the box office and also failed to land box office success. Meanwhile, Misson: Impossible became a much bigger action franchise in the 2010s as he made the death-defying stunts he was attempting part of the marketing campaign, and Top Gun: Maverick became the biggest film of his career and currently is the twelfth highest-grossing film worldwide. Cruise seems to have decided his legacy is now in being one of the last few movie stars who can bring audiences out to the theater over potentially winning an award.

A New Deal: Could It Mean An Oscar?

Broadening his horizons and kick-starting 2024, Cruise has now signed a deal with Warner Bros. As per the agreement, Cruise will be developing and producing theatrical films with Warner Bros. Discovery. The actor is set to star in both original films and franchises through the deal. As per Warner Bros. chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the agreement’s main intent is to take Warner Bros. back to its glory days. Cruise has also expressed his commitment to making great films together with the studio.

The deal between Cruise and Warner Bros. may also yield benefits other than great films. It may possibly pave the path to Cruise winning an Oscar. The actor’s last original film was 2010’s Knight and Day, in which Cruise starred alongside Cameron Diaz. Despite the reputed talent leading the film, Knight and Day did not see much success. However, with the experience the actor has gained since then, future original films could take a different route.

Related: 12 Directors That Tom Cruise Should Work With Next

The deal also provides Cruise the chance to step away from his action comfort zone and instead delve more into dramatic, theatrical work. Doing so would allow Cruise to portray himself as a truly dynamic actor with a skill set more impressive than what his action-centered films have brought viewers. However, whether Cruise chooses to do so remains to be seen.

While Cruise will likely return for Edge of Tomorrow 2, it is curious if any of the major Warner Bros. IPs that the studio has would draw Cruise in. Fans might want Crusie to be Green Lantern in the DCU, but does he want that? As Cruise gets older and the past decade is defined by action films, maybe he is looking for a return to the character dramas of the 1990s like Jerry Maguire and A Few Good Men, which were hits with both critics and audiences without needing explosions.

The Sentimental Favorite

If Cruise chooses to stick to his tried and tested genre of films, even with the Warner Bros. deal, there is still the possibility of sentimentality bringing Cruise an Oscar. The actor has the chance of winning an honorary Oscar, which Tom Cruise, as a four-time Oscar nominee and one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history, is certainly more than qualified to receive but one has to ask: would Cruise be happy instead with receiving an honorary award?

Moreover, if Cruise does win a competitive Oscar in the future, for the same sentimental reasons that surrounded Newman’s Oscar for The Color of Money and John Wayne’s win for True Grit, would this alter Cruise’s legacy significantly or merely highlight how much more deserving Cruise was of an Oscar for his performance in Born on the Fourth of July?

Indeed, it seemed that sentimentality might bring Cruise an Oscar nomination, if not a win, for his nostalgia-tinged performance in Top Gun: Maverick, although it did not happen. It now remains to be seen if the new deal with Warner Bros. might broaden Cruise’s prospects of an Oscar. However, with the actor involved in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two until 2025, it might be some time yet until we see the outcomes of Cruise’s deal with Warner Bros. Now that Paramount Pictures is developing Top Gun 3 as well, that might be the Cruise’s chance at getting the sentimental Oscar vote if the film can play its cards right.

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