Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Cruise and Cameron reteam to create a cinematic delight for the senses

NEW YORK — They say the holiday season brings surprises, and one of the biggest may be “Vanilla Sky.” With Cameron Crowe directing and Tom Cruise starring, no one doubted it would be good; we just didn’t think it would be this good. It is hard to believe that the men who brought us the quality, yet fluffy and feel-good “Jerry Maguire” are the same masterminds behind the new genre-defying thrill ride.

“It’s a slightly different one than the last one, but it’s all different ways of telling a story that makes you feel something,” says director and writer Crowe. “We were definitely looking for something that we could do together, and we both loved ‘Open Your Eyes.’ It’s a great movie and a great jumping-off point for asking the questions in a different way.”

Remaking an already existing film worried the team only slightly. “This was a universal story that was still open-ended and still felt like it needed another chapter to be told,” says Cruise. “I loved Cameron’s approach to it. He says, ‘Look, I’m going to get my band together and we’ll cover this song.'”

Spanish filmmaker and creator of the original Alejandro Amenabar became somewhat of a third partner in the picture, a relationship Cruise and Crowe were very interested in maintaining.

“The way that Cameron designed the picture was to have a dialogue between the two films, and I’ve never seen that before,” says Cruise. “And when Alejandro saw it, he was amazed, actually. The first thing he said to Cameron was, ‘I feel like we are two brothers asking the same questions, but we have different answers.’ ”

In a statement issued with the press notes, Amenabar states, “[The two films] have the same concerns, but their personalities are quite different. They sing the same song but with quite different voices: one likes opera, and the other likes rock and roll.”

And Crowe is no stranger to rock and roll. “We played a lot of that music while we were making it. And that’s when the movie starts to get a feel — through the music — and that starts in the writing,” explains the former music journalist.

As a filmmaker, he takes his soundtrack, which on this film includes everything from Radiohead to Paul McCartney, as seriously as his dialogue. “Music is usually so much more eloquent,” he says. “Music is often the better movie than most movies because it plays in your head and it can be anything. The challenge is always to come up with the right images that can go with music that I love. You can’t always do it. But music and film make such a great marriage when it works.”

The ears are just one of the senses “Vanilla Sky” dazzles. In their previous separate works, both Cruise and Crowe have tended to pull on the heart and merely pacify the mind. But the sights and sounds of their latest not only entertain but captivate as well.

Crowe takes somewhat of a risk in scarring and masking one of People’s most beautiful people. (“I’m working my way up!” he says with a laugh.) But the disfigurement, coupled with Cruise’s acting, adds an unexpected depth to the picture.

“When people in real life have been through something like that, they work very hard to show you who they are inside. And that’s how he played it,” Crowe says of Cruise’s portrayal of a car-accident victim. “And very soon you start to go right past whatever physical infliction is present and you see what is going on in the person, and that’s a great thing. I like it how he always played it kind from the inside out — especially in the mask. That was amazing what he brought to the scene in the mask because it was a guy [who] was moving his hands more, more needy. It was riveting.”

“I really just take it off Cameron,” the actor says when explaining the difficulties of emoting in a mask. “While we’re on the set, he works in a way that it’s a workshop, so it’s very relaxed. So I’d often just kind of work. And sometimes we would just talk, or he would just watch me and he’d see different head turns and suggest things, and we’d just start rolling into it. It was tricky, but it was fun.”

Yet Cruise also had to contend with bringing a very complicated Crowe-like character to life. “His writing is so extraordinary for an actor to be able to have those words to say, these characters to play,” says Cruise. His David Aames is a victim of not only a car wreck but his own ego. “David Aames is a guy who doesn’t take responsibility for anything,” he explains. For every nice gesture and sign of heart, David also shows his flaws. His love for the playboy lifestyle results in the car accident, which results in his ultimate destruction.

“One of the things that I loved about the screenplay when I read Cameron’s version,” explains Cruise, “is that a lot of times we do things in our lives and we don’t realize the effect that it has, not only in ourselves, but the ripple effect on the people around us. And I loved that message in the picture. And a lot of times in life, people can blame people for their existence and where they are. But when they travel back, there is that moment when we can all take responsibility on some level for what has occurred. And I think that’s a very important thing in life. I found that very powerful.”

Thanks to Crowe the writer, his actors often have very real and powerful things to say. But thanks to Crowe the director, they sometimes can be real and powerful without saying anything at all. In “Vanilla Sky,” more than ever, he paints with silences as much as sound and images.

“I think what it comes down to is letting every character have their private moments where you could just be with them and see how they react to the world and see their private joy and pain,” he says. “Kate [Hudson] and Penelope [Cruz] both had this great ability to just make you feel like you were watching them live a whole life and say a whole huge speech, but really they were saying nothing and you were just watching their face. It’s so much fun to just play music and let actors have a chance like that because they give you gifts that you wouldn’t believe.”

Crowe also creates visually stunning scenes for his characters to inhabit. The opening sequence in “Vanilla Sky” is mind-boggling both in its camera movements, which start at ground level, then towers high above Cruise, and in the fact that it shows the usually viciously crowded Times Square completely deserted. New York City officials gave permission to shut down the area for one Sunday, and the result is one of the coolest sequences in film this year.

Yet with all the impressive sights and stirring sounds, “Vanilla Sky” still tells a romantic story and proposes a psychological riddle for two-and-a-half hours.
“In this movie, every little frame is packed with stuff,” Crowe says. “Everything the characters say does matter in this movie. The audience is always listening and always watching — don’t squander the opportunity. Two hours is a great opportunity to program your own radio station, play music that people are really going to hear and just get into the riches of the characters.”

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