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23 Unsettlingly Nice Tom Cruise Stories

The nicest man in the world, reportedly. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

This post originally ran after the release of The Mummy. Because Tom Cruise has continued to be a nice guy (unless COVID-19 protocols are being broken), we have continued to update this post to include more unsettlingly nice stories.

First things first: We get it. There’s an awful lot of unsettling Scientology stuff (a whole lot of stuff ) around Tom Cruise. But pay no attention to that: Cruise has a new movie out, which means it’s time for the latest round of absolutely gushing stories about Tom Cruise. They’re kind of like Prince stories — always unique and surprising, often exceedingly delightful, if you can ignore the odd feeling in the back of your spine. On a Hollywood press tour, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that Tom Cruise is a super-nice dude.

He taught Zac Efron how to ride a motorcycle.
In 2010, a young Zac Efron sat down with the now-defunct Details magazine for a cover shoot. He was in his post–High School Musical phase, trying to break out of the teen-star shell. Somewhere along the line, Tom Cruise asked him if he knew how to ride a motorcycle. “You wanna learn how?” Cruise asked, inviting young Efron to his house. According to Details, Cruise “taught him how a motorcycle engine works, showed him the hangar with his dozens of pristine bikes — including the Triumphs he rode in the Mission: Impossible movies.” When Details asked him why he thought Tom Cruise would do such a nice thing, he had no idea. “I don’t know. I don’t even want to know,” he said. “It’s just so cool that he gave a shit, the fact that he cared at all. No one else did that.”

He helped Mummy co-star Jake Johnson get in shape.
“Here’s a story that is very anti-Hollywood, but very Tom,” Johnson told Thrillist recently. “He wanted me to work out with him and get in shape for the movie. People have told me in the past, including New Girl, that I need to lose weight and stay in shape. But they don’t tell me how. It’s like, ‘Hey tubbo, fit into these slacks!’” Instead Tom Cruise invited Johnson to his gym (the “Pain Cave”). “He said, ‘You’ll be training with me and my trainers. If you want I’ll put you on a food plan with my chef. The food is great,’” Johnson recalled. When someone on Mummy set insisted that Johnson wait until after Cruise was done working out so the star could have the gym alone, Cruise was furious. “Let me make something crystal clear: I don’t care what anybody on the crew says to you, they don’t know what I’m saying to you,” Johnson remembered him saying. “And I’m saying to you that you are always welcome. I don’t care what I’m doing in there. You’re not other. You’re my castmate. Come in.”

He stayed in touch with the kid who dropped out of Jerry Maguire.
Before Jonathan Lipnicki, there was another kid set to steal the show on the Jerry Maguire set. He spent a few weeks filming, but after a certain point, he “ran out of gas,” Cameron Crowe told Deadline, and wanted to leave the production. The role was recast — Lipnicki stepped in — but Crowe got a call from the mother of the boy who almost took the role. “Weeks later, the mother of the first kid calls the office. I got on the phone and she says, ‘Will you please tell Tom Cruise thank you for the way he has kept in touch with my son, sent him letters and gifts, and just let him know all is well?’ I thought, wow, I had no idea Tom Cruise was doing that,” he said. Crowe continued:

“She said, ‘It really helped my son. He’s over it now, he’s fine, and Tom did a beautiful job helping him transition back to his life.’ I went to Tom, later, and said, you quietly helped this kid through what could have been a terrible transition. Thank you, but why did you never tell any of us? Tom said, ‘I just didn’t want that first actor to go to the movies, look at the screen and think he’d failed. I wanted him to love movies, his entire life.’ That is the quiet way Tom Cruise conducts his professional life.”

He gave Kanye West advice on his fledgling comedy career, but declined a role in Kanye’s HBO pilot.
Once upon a time, Kanye made a comedy pilot for HBO. When Vulture saw the pilot, Wyatt Cenac revealed overhearing a conversation between Kanye and Cruise: “Kanye had been trying to get Tom Cruise to be in the pilot. And he had asked him because they were friendly. And we’re shooting a scene [in the Escalade] and at one point Kanye’s like, ‘Shut the fuck up, it’s Tom Cruise,’ and because he couldn’t get out of the car, he had to take the phone call smashed between people,” Cenac said. “You can hear Tom Cruise laughing [does a Tom Cruise laugh] as Kanye goes, ‘Yeah, man, I’ve been working on the improv stuff, you know, all your suggestions were great.’ [Does another Tom Cruise laugh.] That went on for like 15 minutes. Tom Cruise never did the show and we had to hire a Tom Cruise look-alike that was like five-feet taller than Cruise.”

He’s a good sport on set.
“I think there’s something very right with him in that he cares so much about the audience experience,” his Mission: Impossible co-star Simon Pegg told Jimmy Fallon. “It’s like he’s obsessive with giving people an authentic experience.” Actor-director Todd Field, who acted with Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, said something similar of working with Cruise and Stanley Kubrick: “You’ve never seen [an actor] more completely subservient and prostrate themselves at the feet of a director.”

He convinced the Black Eyed Peas to do a song for Knight and Day.
Tom Cruise, a self-described “big fan of the Peas,” was almost done with filming Knight and Day when he, co-star Cameron Diaz, and ex-wife Katie Holmes saw them play over Super Bowl weekend. He was struck with a brilliant idea: “As we were watching, it occurred to me that this is the perfect time, so I called up Will [], and he doesn’t have any time, but I asked, ‘Are you interested [in doing a song for the film]?’” They were, so they did.

He totally did not get mad at Cuba Gooding Jr.’s dad when he asked about his sexuality.
During the filming of Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Sr. impolitely inquired about Tom Cruise’s sexuality. “He gave Tom Cruise a hug and said, ‘I love you, man. Now seriously, are you gay or not?’” Gooding Jr. recalled, years later. “I almost fainted. And thought, Please, lord, let me disappear.” Cruise was so chill dealing with the prying parent: “Tom just laughed and said ‘No,’” his co-star reported.

He gave Kevin Pollock a $500 pen (and then a second pen).
During rehearsals for A Few Good Men, Kevin Pollock noticed Tom Cruise making notes in his script with a ridiculously huge pen. At first, they joked about it. Then, Cruise convinced Pollock to try writing with it. “It’s like an angel wing floating on a cloud. It was a magical pen,” Pollock recalled to the Chive. Even Demi Moore agreed the pen was a total joy to use. When Pollock learned the pen cost $500, he was crestfallen. Later, Cruise’s assistant showed up with a gift: the luxury writing utensil itself. When Pollock admitted to his co-star that he hadn’t used the pen because he felt it deserved a special spot on his mantle, Cruise bought him a second $500 pen — one for the mantle, and one for Pollock’s pocket.

He personally arranged for Bill Hader to leave a set and get home to New York after an attempted bombing in Times Square.
As Bill Hader and Tom Cruise were in Los Angeles filming promos for the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, word reached the set that a car bomb had just gone off in Times Square. Hader was a new dad at the time, concerned about his wife and infant daughter in New York. Cruise noticed Hader’s concern, and asked when he’d get to go home to check on them. Hader wasn’t due back to the city for two more days, and so, Tom Cruise took over the set and got Bill Hader home by 8 a.m. the next morning. As Hader recalled:

“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.

He rescued a family from their burning sailboat.
While vacationing with then-wife Nicole Kidman and their kids on their luxury yacht in 1997, Tom Cruise spotted a sailboat going up in flames. The actor sent the yacht’s skiff to rescue the people aboard — French “paper tycoon” Jacques Lejeune, 68, his wife, Bernadette, 42, daughter Eugénie, 7, and two crew members — according to People.

He helped rescue a victim of a hit-and-run, and paid her medical bills.
The year before the sailboat rescue, Tom Cruise was driving down Wilshire Boulevard on a rainy night when he watched Heloisa Vinhas, a 23-year-old aspiring actress, get hit by a car. Cruise commanded someone to call for help and accompanied her to UCLA Medical Center, according to People. He even picked up the $7,000 medical bill for her broken left leg and bruised ribs when he found out she wasn’t insured. “If he’s not Superman, he can be Batman — Batman doesn’t have superpowers,” Vinhas told the mag.

He saved a pair of his littlest fans during a crowded red carpet.
At Mission: Impossible’s West End premiere, Tom Cruise spotted preteen fans Laurence Sadler, 7, and Christos “Chris” Tzanetis, 13. As he and Kidman made their way through the crowd, he eyed Sadler being pinned against a steel bar. Cruise rescued both young fans from being crushed, and called for a police officer’s help. “Every night I say good-night to him when I pass his poster in my room,” Sadler told People at the time.

He never forgets Dakota Fanning’s birthday.
“He has sent me a birthday gift every year since I was 11 years old,” Fanning told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. “I always think, Oh, when I’m 18, he’ll probably stop. Oh, 21, he’ll stop. But every year. It’s really kind.” Fanning says he usually gifts her shoes.

He bought his publicist’s daughter so many wedding gifts.
Pat Kingsley and Tom Cruise had one of the closest talent-publicist relationships. They met after he’d finished work on A Few Good Men, and often talked every day. They parted ways, she later said, over a disagreement over The Last Samauri’s press tour: He wanted to talk more openly about Scientology; she thought it wasn’t a good talking point during the press tour. But before that, she said, “We talked constantly,” telling The Hollywood Reporter that they shared 11 p.m. calls almost nightly. “He was an insomniac. I liked the fact that he was so much fun. And he was so thoughtful. He remembered birthdays, my daughter’s birthday. He came to her wedding; she was registered somewhere for the china, and he bought out everything. They’ve got things they haven’t even opened yet, and they’ve been together 15 years!”

He sends Kirsten Dunst (and Jimmy Kimmel) a cake every year.
Kirsten Dunst acted with Cruise in 1994’s Interview With a Vampire. “I ran into Tom like five years ago, and now I get this cake every that’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. It’s from Dylan’s Bakery in Thousand Oaks,” she explained to Jimmy Kimmel in 2015. “We call it the ‘Cruise cake’ at my family’s house. We’re like, ‘Cruise cake’s here!’ And it’s gone within a day.” Kimmel agrees that the cake is good, and that he receives one regularly, too.

He gifted his lawyer a rare book of English history.
When Cruise’s longtime lawyer Bert Fields turned 86, the actor got him an especially thoughtful gift. Fields received a customized Cruise cake and “an extremely rare edition of [Raphael] Holinshed’s history of England,” Fields told THR. “He knows I write about English history, and this is a fantastic prize.”

He’s maintained a friendship with Billy Wilder in the director’s last years.
Cameron Crowe really wanted the legendary director to take the role of Jerry’s mentor, Dicky Fox. Crowe was inspired by The Apartment, and set a meeting with Wilder to offer him the role. When he arrived to Wilder’s office, the director started chatting about his old movies, mistaking him for a messenger. When Crowe offered him the role, he declined, finally saying yes after a long courtship.

When filming began, Wilder apologized and dropped out. Crowe told Cruise. “Cruise says, let’s go talk him into it. We drive to Billy Wilder’s office. Billy is there, and he lights up when he sees that it’s Tom Cruise. He invites us in,” Crowe recalled to Deadline. “He tells Tom these stories about Cary Grant, and Sunset Boulevard. He’s just magnificent. And I realize he is in full Hollywood director, getting-ready-to-make-another-picture-as-soon-as-possible mode, and he’s got Tom Cruise in his office. And I’m virtually invisible at this point, as that romance is happening.” Eventually, Wilder finally declined and the role was recast. Crowe told Deadline Wilder and Cruise remained friends until the director’s death. “He loved Billy Wilder and we talked about him, constantly. Tom wrote notes to Billy, and they developed a little bit of a friendship. When Billy passed away, Tom came to the memorial and really let everybody know how much he loved Billy. I think Tom got a big kick out of Wilder. How could you not?”

He got Cameron Crowe back into directing.
After the failure of Elizabethtown, Cameron Crowe wasn’t sure about directing another movie. Then Tom Cruise took him for a drive, and the two of them ended up on the set of Knocked Up. “Mr. Cruise introduced Mr. Crowe to Mr. Apatow, who joked that he’d been stealing for years from Say Anything, the sharp-witted teen comedy that first established Mr. Crowe as a director in 1989,” the New York Times reported. “Cruise sidles up to me and goes: ‘See? Get out of your house, man, it’s fun,’” Crowe recalled to the Times. “And that’s when it felt like, yeah, it’s time to direct again.”

He released Jessica Chastain from her Oblivion contract so she could star in Zero Dark Thirty.
Jessica Chastain was set to co-star with Tom Cruise in the dystopian action movie Oblivion when she got a call from Kathryn Bigelow, who wanted Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty. Before even reading the script, Chastain told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, she agreed to star. Cruise came to Chastain’s rescue: “I was excited to do [Oblivion]. But when [Zero Dark Thirty] came my way, I realized I had to do this. And the person who made it possible for me to do this movie is Tom Cruise. Someone contacted him from my agency and said, ‘Listen, she wants to work with you. And she would love to, but there is this other film, and it’s so important.’ And he said, ‘OK, we’re going to let you out of your contract.’” Olga Kurylenko eventually signed on to Oblivion in Chastain’s place.

He always takes his kids calls, even in the middle of a scene.
“There were times that I was about ready to say ‘Action; and the phone rang,” Steven Spielberg told People in 2002 about working with Tom Cruise in Minority Report. “If it was Tom’s kids, everything stopped for that. Just when he was preparing for probably the hardest scene he has in the whole movie, the phone rang. Anybody else would have looked up with anger in their eyes, but he immediately broke character and walked off and took the call.” Spielberg was impressed by his star’s attention to his kids even when it came to minor emergencies: “Connor or Isabella had stuck an eraser in their eye or something like that. It was not serious, but Dad came to the rescue. I thought it was amazing. I have been known to say, ‘I’ll call them back after the shot.’”

He bought W. Earl Brown Elton John–Billy Joel tickets after a rehearsal ran late.
While shooting Vanilla Sky, a rehearsal ran late and Cruise’s scene partner W. Earl Brown (Deadwood, Preacher) missed an Elton John–Billy Joel concert he had tickets to in L.A. Once Tom Cruise found out, according to People, he made it up to Brown: “You didn’t give your tickets away? Why didn’t somebody tell me?” he reportedly asked. When Elton John and Billy Joel played in L.A. a few nights later, Cruise got Brown two tickets to the show, fourth-row center.

He danced to Yung Joc on BET.
Technically, this isn’t a nice thing Tom Cruise did for any one person in particular, but rather one very nice thing he did for the internet as a whole. For a short period of time, the Yung Joc motorcycle dance was the most important dance you could do. And Cruise, in an appearance on BET, did the dance. He sold it, committed completely. So here you have it: Tom Cruise dancing on 106 & Park during Mission: Impossible III’s press tour.

He helped Jennifer Connelly face her fear of flying.
Turns out Tom Cruise can help someone without even knowing he’s doing it. Jennifer Connelly told Graham Norton that she suffered from a “really crippling fear of flying” for years before she filmed Top Gun: Maverick. She didn’t realize her character had a scene in the air. But even though he was unaware of her phobia, Cruise gave her a reassuring heads-up from the cockpit: “He’s like, ‘It’s going to be very graceful, very elegant, just some very elegant rolls, you know. It’s going to be nice and easy.’”

23 Unsettlingly Nice Tom Cruise Stories