The only thing weirder than Tom Cruise coming to Pelham? Exiting the Pelham Picture House, after the event — a screening of his movie “Lions for Lambs,” directed by Robert Redford and also starring Meryl Streep — to find a swarm of fans and paparazzi shreiking uncontrollably. For about a half hour.
The movie itself was a thought-provoking, if slightly depressing, take on the current war on terror. In it, Cruise plays a Machiavellian senator trying to persuade a journalist (Streep) that his new military strategy will yield better results; Redford is a college professor attempting to motivate a lazy student to take a more pro-active stance on what he believe in; and two soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke), who turn out to be former students of Redford’s professor, fight on the front lines of Afghanistan.
After the credits, the flood lights came on and Travers took the stage. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have two people here to talk to us tonight,” he said. “First is a young actor looking to get his big break: Tom Cruise.Ã¢â‚¬?
The thunderous applause almost drowned out the second introduction, for the filmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s screenwriter, Matthew Carnahan (who also penned the recent No. 1 hit, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The KingdomÃ¢â‚¬?). Carnahan and Cruise walked up the aisle together, but it all eyes were on Jerry Maguire. The actor wore a blue blazer, blue jeans, and boyish Prince Valiant haircut (presumably from his new WWII Nazi film, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ValkyrieÃ¢â‚¬?). Surveying the scene, Cruise remarked — without a hint of irony — Ã¢â‚¬Å“What a beautiful theater.Ã¢â‚¬?
To which Travis replied: Ã¢â‚¬Å“You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to say itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too beautiful, Tom, because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really trying to change it.Ã¢â‚¬?
The rest of the evening had its share of witty banter, and a few heartfelt responses to the movie’s two central themes — guilt over not doing anything to challenge the war, and apathy towards the state of political discourse in our country these days. If you’re interested in listening, here’s a full recording of the evening:
More photos of the event, courtesy of Jay Ackerman and the Picture House, are after the break.
UPDATE: Check out my extended article on the Cruise visit in this Sunday’s Journal News.
Still want more of Tom in Pelham? Extra has video of Cruise outside the Picture House.
(all photos courtesy Jay Ackerman / Pelham Picture House)