December 25, 2020 Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s hard to imagine now since he’s the world’s highest paid actor, but there was a time when Robert Downey couldn’t get a movie made. Talented as he was, attaching him to a film was the path to a red light in an industry full of artists searching for the proverbial green light.

The problem was Downey’s difficulties with drugs and alcohol. Both made each day with the actor uncertain. Would he even show up to the set? Would he die mid-production? Figure that Hollywood history is littered with talented people who passed way too early thanks to substance abuse. 

Downey ultimately couldn’t get movies made because films must be insured ahead of time against, among other things, death. Since insurers didn’t trust the actor, neither could movie directors and producers. 

Downey’s past arguably helps explain Tom Cruise’s present. Cruise, like Downey, is one of the world’s highest paid actors. In truth, he’s more than that. Probably a good way to understand the eccentric force of nature is to consider fellow actor Rob Lowe’s description of him in his book, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Lowe and Cruise were part of the cast for The Outsiders, and Lowe noticed something different about the actor. In his words, Cruise had “an almost robotic, bloodless focus and an intensity that I’ve never encountered before.” Cruise’s ambitions always extended well beyond acting. He would be a moviemaker.

Which brings us to his recent well-chronicled rant on the set of Mission Impossible 7. Apparently two crew members were close talking against production guidelines related to the virus, only for Cruise to threaten their jobs if they were seen doing so again.

Up front, the coronavirus aspect of Cruise’s meltdown would logically read as ridiculous to most reasonable readers. In a lethal sense, the virus is most associated with people who are very old, and already suffering from some other malady with lethal qualities. In short, people on a movie set run by someone as energetic as Cruise are probably not threatened even if it’s true that close talking makes spread of the virus more likely.

Does Cruise know this? The speculation here is that he doesn’t. Someone as maniacally devoted to his craft as he is probably hasn’t spent a lot of time searching for truth and reason beyond all the media hysteria about the virus. But whether Cruise has or has not wholly misses the point.

Precisely because he answers to financiers and insurance companies when he makes his blockbusters, ideology or reason always and everywhere take a back seat. The financiers and insurers of a movie production need the film to be made. Period.

What this means for Cruise is that even if he secretly finds the alarmism about the virus nonsensical, and worse, a tragic global human rights violation, he can’t let what he knows personally get in the way of a very expensive production. The movie once again has to be made. And since it must be made, crew members on the set who violate wacko coronavirus norms threaten the production. Insurers could pull out, and so could financiers assuming a corona-breakout on set, plus reliably obtuse government officials could force a total shutdown of a film set seen violating hysterical rules.

Which means Cruise had to rant. To be fair, all reading this have experienced something similar in a local sense with business owners and their employees. They politely tell customers to put on their masks, and to wait longer for tables with “social distancing” in mind not because they necessarily buy into all the thumbsucking, but because they fear being reported by busybody customers as being in violation of corona-rules; that they fear a government official showing up to their business with an eye on shutting them down.

Consider the above with Cruise in mind. Hollywood actors and actresses practically invented alarmism. Assuming crew members violate corona-mindlessness on a set full of the emotional, there’s no telling what the reaction might be. If the artistic stay true to their hysterical stereotype and leak rampant or even minor corona-violations, who’s to say the latter wouldn’t trigger contractual outs for all-important insurers and financiers once again?

Some reject the financial angles mentioned, and speculate that Cruise did as he did in search of publicity. Others think he acted wildly as a way of establishing how many thousands of film jobs are a consequence of him. While it’s possible that the aforementioned motives were in play, it doesn’t alter the sad reality of the times in which we live. The virus has fostered a massive global delusion, which means operating any kind of business in today’s world is a tenuous concept.

In short, Cruise had no choice but to lose it on set. Doing so ensures that crew members will take the rules more seriously in the future, plus it’s established to all that arguably the world’s biggest film production is corona-compliant. It’s sad that businesses must waste time, money and brain space on compliance, but businesses ultimately must be bloodless and ideology-blind in pursuit of profits. Thank goodness they must.

Reprinted from RealClearMarkets

John Tamny


John Tamny, research fellow of AIER, is editor of RealClearMarkets.

His book on current ideological trends is: They Are Both Wrong (AIER, 2019)

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