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Bill Hader.

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Bill Hader Has the Best Tom Cruise–As-Hero Story

It's a common question asked of everyone in Tom Cruise's orbit: "What's it like to work with him?" And this week at the Friars Foundation Gala honoring the Rock of Ages star, Bill Hader provided the best answer we've heard so far. When the two of them were in Los Angeles to shoot promos for the 2010 MTV Movie Awards as their Tropic Thunder characters — Cruise as movie mogul Les Grossman, Hader as his lackey  — the SNL comedian heard some unfortunate news, which especially worried him as a new dad. "I hear a crew person say, 'Did you hear what happened in New York?' And I'm like, 'What happened?' 'A guy tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square.'" Hader, who had already been "a little anxious" because it was the first time he had been away from his infant daughter, Hannah, had a "full-on panic attack." He desperately tried to call and text his wife Maggie, when Cruise noticed his concern. "He comes over and he's like, 'Are you okay, man?'" Hader explained the situation. Cruise then asked when Hader was supposed to return to New York. Not for another two days.

"He thinks for a second. 'No,' he says. 'We'll get you home tonight.' And in that moment, Tom Cruise, as Les Grossman, in a karate gi, began to direct all my coverage," Hader recalled. "All my footage, all my close-ups. Boom! We do three perfect takes. Boom, boom, boom. Everyone's chest-butting each other, some people are chest-butting themselves, people are going insane." Two days' worth of work, Hader said, "and he got it done in 45 minutes." Then Katie Holmes came up to him and handed him a piece of paper with his new flight information. "You're on the red eye tonight," she told him. "I'm like, 'What?!'" Hader said. Because Cruise got him out of work and on a plane that night, he was able to surprise his wife and daughter by 7:45 the next morning and check in on them in person. "So that's what it's like to work with Tom Cruise," Hader said.

Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty