Under the Radar

Maverick, Movies & Fighting in Afghanistan

Tom Cruise gives the thumbs up in "Top Gun." (Paramount)


Why would an actor with career-defining roles in Top Gun, A Few Good Men and Born on the Fourth of July compare his life on a movie set to the dangers faced by men and women fighting in Afghanistan?

The sensible answer is that he wouldn't, but social media is not a sensible place and Tom Cruise's opponents in a civil lawsuit used the online community's impulse to get offended first and ask questions later to put some heat on the actor this weekend.

Tom Cruise is suing supermarket tabloid company Bauer Publishing, who put out In Touch and Life & Style magazines, for publishing an article that claims he abandoned his young daughter when he went overseas to make Oblivion. In a threatening letter to Bauer, one of his Hollywood attack-dog attorneys did what they do and tossed the following grenade:

"But the truth, as you know, is that Mr. Cruise is a devoted father, who simply happens to be working in London on film. By your reasoning, any actor who is shooting on location in a foreign country could be charged with child abandonment, as could all of the mothers and fathers serving overseas in the military."

Best choice of words? Probably not. But it does reflect the kind of high-drama brinksmanship and colorful language that $800 an hour attorneys are known for. And it gave the Bauer attorneys ammunition for the questions they asked when they deposed Tom Cruise.

Attorney: "Now your counsel has publicly equated your absence from Suri for these extended periods of time as being analogous to someone fighting in Afghanistan. Are you aware of that?"

Cruise: "I didn't hear the Afghanistan. That's what it feels like and certainly on this last movie it was brutal. it was brutal."

Attorney: "Do you believe that the situations are the same?"

Cruise: "Oh, come on. You know, we're making a movie."

Even with hearing the audio, almost anyone who's seen a Tom Cruise movie can imagine the way he might say. "Oh, come on."

Just in time for Veterans Day, Bauer's attorneys planted a the "Tom Cruise thinks making a movie is like fighting in Afghanistan" story with TMZ and they blew it up. That would be the same TMZ who has a strong vested interest in discouraging celebrities from suing them over the kinds of stories they publish every day.

Folks who've had to deal with Hollywood tabloids knows that they've always dealt in a distorted version of reality. Even when the stories aren't completely made up, they do a masterful job of shading the facts in the most sensational light possible.

Even by TMZ's loose standards, connecting what Tom Cruise believes to his attorney's choice of words in a threatening letter is a stretch. Still, millions of retweeters and rebloggers jumped on what seems like a juicy story.

Tom's attorneys issued a statement decrying the story and Jake Tapper wrote a takedown of TMZ and Bauer over on his CNN blog this weekend. Are there folks in the military blogging and tweeting community who aren't interested in the truth? Sure.Will Tom Cruise's crusade for truth in the tabloids do anything besides line lawyers' pockets? Probably not. Tom Cruise's problems with the media will continue and he has to work that out for himself.

Here's the bottom line, though: Bauer Publications and their attorneys (along with the folks at TMZ) believe that members of the military community are gullible enough to believe a half-cocked story and they can use that gullibility to put pressure on Tom Cruise in civil court. There's a contempt for the collective intelligence of men and women who serve their country and that's what should offend anyone who's looking to take offense.

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