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Do you believe in aliens, Tom?

photo courtesy of PARAMOUNT PICTURES
"War of the Worlds" - Tom Cruise stars in Steven Spielberg's latest in what may be the summer's biggest blockbuster. Spielberg and Cruise decided to adapt the earlier film and novel while working together on "Minority Report."
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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Spielberg, Cruise battle martians

He's not the tallest leading man in Hollywood, but film stars don't get much bigger (or hotter) than Tom Cruise. Plus, considering the fact that he's super nice, Cruise has not allowed his fame, wealth or series of scandals go to his head.

Now in his early 40s, Cruise has managed to stay young in heart and mind. He really does love to laugh, he loves to shoot the breeze, and he even does a decent Napoleon Dynamite impression. (And dating Katie Holmes ain't bad either.)

Directors don't get much bigger than Steven Spielberg, who has joined forces with Cruise for a second time to create "War of the Worlds," which opens this summer.

Spielberg, a recent inductee to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and Cruise decided "WOTW" would be their next collaboration while working together on "Minority Report."

"It's the smallest, biggest film because it is the largest-scale picture I have ever been involved in, but also it is incredibly intimate," Cruise said of "WOTW."

Based on H.G. Wells' novel, the film is about Ray Ferrier (Cruise), a deadbeat dad who finds himself baby-sitting his own kids around the time aliens decide to invade their New Jersey town.

"I understand Ray because I have lived in those kinds of blue-collar areas growing up. He's their dad so of course he loves them, but he doesn't quite realize it yet," Cruise said. "He is a guy who is the total opposite of who I am. He's not taking responsibility for his family or the future.

"I always wanted to be a father. I was a guy who worked at YMCA camps as a kid and different camps to help kids. I was the baby sitter of my nieces and nephews."

As a devoted father of two, Cruise obviously didn't have to do much adjusting to play a parent. But when it comes to acting, the man does his research thoroughly.

"Obviously, someone such as (Stanley) Kubrick or Spielberg, I had seen their movies many, many times," Cruise said. "But before I work with someone, I will then brush up again because when I am working with them, I want to know how it is they create. For me, as an artist, it gives me the opportunity to be part of that process. We push each other in terms of growing and creating the story."

Though "WOTW" originally came to audiences in three doses - including a radio play by Orson Welles and the 1953 film - Cruise emphasizes his version is not a remake, but does pay tribute to the original book in terms of a modern story.

Written by screenwriter David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible" and "Spider-Man"), the draft of the "WOTW" screenplay is one of the best Cruise said he's ever read in his career.

While he battled the Lord of Darkness in "Legend," he stalked as a blood-sucking blood-sucker in "Interview With the Vampire," and he played a blood-sucking lawyer in "Jerry Maguire," "WOTW" marks Cruise's first encounter of any kind with aliens. He said he's not sure if aliens exist, but has not ruled it out as impossible.

"I believe what I know empirically, what I've seen myself and can observe," he said. "I think that it is truly arrogant to think that we are the only living sentient beings in all the universe for infinity."

As a staunch opponent of war, Cruise said he anticipates viewers to find parallels between "WOTW" and the war in Iraq, but believes every earthling is affected by other, subtler threats.

"My personal view is that when you look at mankind, we do have natural enemies. I just don't think that mankind is actually cognizant of it, which is the hidden enemies of illiteracy, of drug addiction, of crime and immorality," Cruise said. "It doesn't matter who you are, what color your skin is, what you believe in, what part of the Earth you live on - you will be affected by those things."

As a member of the Church of Scientology, Cruise said he "believes in uniting cultures and uniting people." And making blockbuster after blockbuster certainly doesn't hurt in furthering his cause.

"I make movies for audiences. But I do believe that films have different audiences," Cruise said. "A picture such as 'Collateral' is not going to have the same kind of broad audience as a picture of 'War of the Worlds' or 'Mission: (Impossible)' or 'Magnolia.'"

Even if "War of the Worlds" tanks, there's always next summer for Cruise. While coping with delay after delay, he's currently working on "Mission: Impossible III" with director J.J. Abrams, whom Cruise describes as "enormously talented."

"I think if you look at a pilot of 'Alias' or you look at the pilot of 'Lost' or look at the pilot of 'Felicity' you can really see the hand of J.J. Abrams and how much he likes character," Cruise said. "Now, you take that and there is going to be huge action sequences. It is actually going to be an epic action movie."

After starring in almost 30 films throughout his career, Cruise is confident that "WOTW" will strike a chord with audiences of all ages.

"I hope it just scares the heck out of everybody, you know what I mean?" he said. "It's scary and it is a ride. I hope you dig it."

The digging will commence on June 29 when "War of the Worlds" opens nationwide.

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