It’s the festival’s kickoff event: American superstar Tom Cruise walked the red carpet in jubilation to present “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to the cult film that launched his career. A return to the Croisette, after thirty years of absence, scrutinized by many fans willing to do anything to get closer to his idol.
A huge three-meter-high helmet stands in front of the Grand Hotel de Cannes, on the seafront. Inside, a giant screen shows the trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to the legendary 1986 film that launched one of Hollywood’s most successful careers.
“Tom Cruise is one of the actors in the history of cinema who, in his choices, in his projects, in his work, has the highest rate of success”, said the director of the Festival de Cannes, Thierry Frémaux, honored to receive to the American star this year.
The visit is all the more significant as it marks his return to the Croisette, thirty years after his only appearance on the steps for Ron Howard’s 1992 film ‘Far Horizons’. Named after Tom Cruise, who came to Cannes the day before, is on everyone’s lips.
“A great artist, an inspiration”
At 11 in the morning, in front of the Festival Palace, there were already several dozen fans in line, ready to do anything to get closer to their idol, even if it was only for a few seconds.
“Nothing would have prevented me from coming,” says a smiling Tania López-Palayo, a “super fan” of Tom Cruise. The 17-year-old from Grenoble drove five hours with her mother the night before to be front row at Cannes. They arrived at 7 in the morning behind the barriers of the Croisette, a few steps from the famous red carpet of the Festival, hoping to get a “selfie, an autograph, even a kiss… even from afar”.
When asked about her favorite films, Tania mentions, not surprisingly, ‘Top Gun’, which she has seen “countless times”, but also the war film ‘Walkyrie’ (2008), the love melodrama ‘Cocktail’ (1988) or the multi-award winning road movies ‘Rainman’ (1988). “He is a great artist, an inspiration. He embodies freedom in choosing his roles and a great respect for the cinema”, comments Nathalie, his mother, sharing her daughter’s enthusiasm.
Tom Cruise, the main protagonist
A few meters behind Tania and Nathalie, two septuagenarians sitting on footrests are sweating from the heat. “It’s hard, but it’s a passion,” Martine sighs, under the amused gaze of her friend Nicole.
For almost thirty years, this citizen of Cannes has been following and photographing “every American” on the red carpet. Each photo is religiously archived in his albums. “The French interest me a little less, they are more derogatory. Americans take selfies, photos… It’s part of their job, they know it’s thanks to us that they’re here.
For Martine, this day is a big day, a rare opportunity to add the ‘Top Gun’ star to her snap list. “I started taking photos in 1994. I have George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Sharon Stone, but I never had him!”
defender of the big screen
At 4:00 p.m., the ‘Debussy del Palais’ room was full. Tom Cruise held a meeting with the public before the international premiere of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. After the projection of a compilation of fragments of his best films, the star was received with a double ovation and made a long and emotional bow.
“After everything we’ve been through in the last two years, it’s such a beautiful time, such a privilege to be here with you,” he said.
When asked about the growing importance of platforms, Cruise said he was an advocate of the art form: “There’s a very specific way of making movies and I always make my movies for the big screen. I love that experience and I want to let others share it too.
The actor also explained that his choice to do his own stunts was a way to go further in the cinematic experience. “If I do a musical, I want to sing. If I do a dance movie, I want to dance (…) When I made ‘Mission: Impossible’, everyone told me it was a bad idea. But I wanted to push the art form and make it entertaining”.
Tribute of the Patrouille de France
Outside, around the red carpet, the tension was overflowing to welcome the film crew. After Omar Sy climbed the steps for the premiere of ‘Tirailleurs’, there was a hubbub of voices. Tom Cruise would appear, walking down the aisle to exchange a few words with his fans, take selfies and sign autographs. A lavish ascent of the steps, marked by the double passage of the blue, white and red formation of the Patrouille de France, above the red carpet.
In the front row, Tania, the young Tom Cruise fan, didn’t miss a thing. “I was able to talk to Tom Cruise, take a selfie and congratulate him on his work,” she said excitedly. “He approached us with a smile, he was attentive to his fans, it was really worth it! It was a surreal and wonderful experience.”
As soon as the climb up the stairs was over, Tania and her mother Nathalie packed their bags and headed for Grenoble. Five hours on the road, again, after a long day of waiting. Tom Cruise did not stay on the Croisette either. Once her screening was over, the superstar left for London, where she is expected on Thursday for a new presentation of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, this time in the company of members of the British royal family.
*Adapted from its original French version