Grantland logo

Who Will Replace Tom Cruise Next?


When news broke today that Tom Cruise had dropped out of the lead role in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim — a monster movie presumably starring creatures who peak-a-boo you to death — eyebrows were raised over the fact that his replacement looks absolutely nothing like Tom Cruise. The Wire’s Idris Elba got the call, instantly making the movie more interesting. But Elba is only the latest in a recent string of surprising recastings for the former top gun, who has been jumping on and off projects as if they were Oprah’s couch. In last year’s Salt, for example, the lead role (then named “Edwin” and no doubt possessing a killer smile and the ability to heal drug addiction with his mind) was Cruise’s before he bailed at the eleventh hour — only to be replaced by the not-at-all-Cruise-like Angelina Jolie.

It would seem Cruise’s departures provide a sort of psychological unburdening for Hollywood producers: free of the (diminutive, diminishing) charms of the one-time biggest star in the world, they are able to recast with creative abandon. With that in mind, we pored over Cruise’s slate of upcoming projects and prepared a list of potential outside-the-box replacements for when the star’s interest inevitably Cole Trickles away.

One Shot

Role: Jack Reacher, the star of author Lee Child’s best-selling thrillers. Described as a 6-foot-5 “giant,” Reacher is a former army brat (born on German military base) turned army star who now roams the country, helping the downtrodden and killing the uptrodden with single punches to the chest.

Suggested replacement: Newly minted NBA champion Dirk Nowitzki! Though he’s never acted before — unlike his recently vanquished opponents — Dirk ticks all the boxes that matter to Reacher fans miffed at Cruise’s casting: he’s tall (7-0!), was born in Germany, has lethal skills, and would definitely have no problem phonetically reciting the stoic Reacher’s wooden catchphrase, “That’s for damn sure.”

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Role: Ethan Hunt. The same guy as before, presumably with a brandnew haircut.

Suggested replacement: Actually, with pint-size powerhouse Jeremy Renner and Lost heartthrob Josh Holloway in the cast, it seems like Cruise has already been replaced.

Untitled Les Grossman Project

Role: Les Grossman. Cruise’s cameo in Tropic Thunder as Les, an obese, foul-mouthed, spittle-projecting Hollywood producer was, inexplicably, the most anti-Semitic popular thing he’s done in years. Of course, this small joke is being stretched into its own full-length feature.
Suggested replacement: Melissa McCarthy. Her fearless, plus-sized performance in Bridesmaids stole the film from her twiggier co-stars, instantly transforming the TV actress into the queen of big-screen gross-out comedy. Her only logical next move: a Big Momma’s House-style transgendered performance as Leslie Grossman.

Top Gun 2

Role: Aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, same as before. Only in the rumored draft that was circulating last year, Maverick would return older, wiser, and in a no doubt reduced role, this time leaving the homoerotic flying duties to a younger, maverick-ier replacement (Taylor Lautner?).

Suggested replacement: It’d be hard to replace Cruise in his most iconic role, but the passage of time — and the lowered prominence — offers us a way out. So what about Morgan Freeman? Not only will America accept him as anything (from a pimp to the president in just 11 years!), the role, as described above, is classic Freeman: a crusty-yet-kindhearted veteran who passes along sage advice and life skills before tragically dying in the third reel, thus inspiring the hero (who for some reason we’re calling “Rod”) and posthumously pushing him to victory.

Untitled Dan Fogelman Project

Role: A politician who returns to his hometown to repair relationships after an affair torpedoes his career. While the script — by heavily hyped (and paid!) screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Cars, Crazy Stupid Love) is otherwise a mystery, let’s just go out on a limb and call the character “Anthony Weiner.”

Suggested replacement: Little is known about the role (or, for that matter, the script; so far it sounds like Elizabethtown but with congressmen) so we’re just freeballing here, but what about Peter Dinklage? The guy has proven on Game of Thrones that he can maintain his charm while portraying a politically savvy, snakey insider whose fondness for, ahem, “women of the night” often lands him in hot water (not to mention in their beds). Of course, the dainty and dapper Dinklage has something else in common with Cruise, but it would be beneath us to mention it.