Thandie Newton Was "Scared" of Tom Cruise on the Set of 'Mission: Impossible II'

The Westworld star described shooting a scene with Cruise that pushed her "further into a place of terror and insecurity."

Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise
Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Thandie Newton has been acting for decades, and oh, does she have stories. In a recent interview with Vulture, the Westworld star opened up about her Hollywood experiences, which, unfortunately, have included instances of sexual abuse, racism, and general hostility. Among the A-list actors, she’s worked with is Tom Cruise, with whom she appeared in Mission: Impossible II. And her recollection of her time on the set of the action sequel? Well, it was a lot.

“I was so scared of Tom,” Newton told the outlet. “He was a very dominant individual. He tries superhard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done.”

The Emmy winner recalled a trying scene she filmed with Cruise on a balcony. “I don’t think it was a very well-written scene,” Newton explained. “I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. And we’re looking out over Spain. It wasn’t going well. And [director] John Woo, bless him, wasn’t there. He was downstairs looking at everything on a monitor. And John had made a decision at the beginning of the movie, unbeknownst certainly to me, that he didn’t speak English. Which I think was very helpful to him, but it was extremely unhelpful to the rest of us. So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines.”

“And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, ‘Let me just — let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.’ So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, ‘I’ll be you. You be me.’ So we filmed the entire scene with me being him — because, believe me, I knew the lines by then — and him playing me. And it was the most unhelpful … I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.”

Complicating matters further, there was an unplanned dermatological cameo. “I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not — this is how his metabolism is so fierce — he had a big whitehead where that red dot was,” Newton continued. “It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger.”

Later, Newton received a call from Cruise, which she assumed would be an apology. “No, he was just like, ‘We’re going to reshoot this next week.’ I’m like, ‘Way brilliant.’ And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the — because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone.”

But despite the negativity of the experience, Newton stressed that Cruise “wasn’t horrible.”

“It was just — he was really stressed,” she explained. “I had the most extraordinary time, and you know who got me that role? Nicole Kidman. I’ve never actually outright asked her, but when your husband is like, ‘Who would you mind me pretending to shag for the next six months?’ You know what I mean? It’s kind of nice if you can pick together. Nicole was a huge advocate for me.”

Newton remained on the Cruise Christmas list, and as she explained, “gifts would be something to do with Scientology.”

Had Mission: Impossible II been filmed 20 years later, Newton says that the balcony scene would have gone down very differently. “If it was me now, I would want to go in and go, ‘Hey!’ I’d be it. You wouldn’t need to play me and I play you on that balcony. And I would have squeezed that spot. Bam!”

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