“None of us have that egg. What were we thinking?!”
Scientology is back in the news, and when you think Scientology you think Tom Cruise. (Well, I do… some of you might think of Kirstie Alley.) So with that in mind we gave a listen to Cruise’s commentary for his first real feature in a lead role. The track was recorded in 2008 for the 25th anniversary of…
Risky Business (1983)
Commentators: Tom Cruise (actor), Paul Brickman (writer/director), Jon Avnet (producer)
1. The trio start off by thanking David Geffen who financed the film after every other studio they approached declined.
2. Brickman points out the opening credit scene ‐ a late-night/early morning shot from a moving Chicago train ‐ and says he recalls riding the train to get this footage and freezing while Cruise and Avnet slept warmly in their respective hotel rooms. He went AWOL around 2am, exited the train, and went to a still-open Blues club until he eventually felt guilty and returned to “work.”
3. They praise the choice of Tangerine Dream for the score as a bold one seeing as no one had previously dared to pair a comedy with such a dark and haunting score.
4. It took eighteen hours to film Joel’s shower dream. “This poor girl looked like a raisin by the time this scene was over.”
5. The poker game was Brickman’s first scene as a director. He also blew smoke into the shot from just outside the frame.
6. Cruise recalls the solo dance scene to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and says Brickman would toss him props. “You told me to jump on the couch. ‘Jump on the couch, go crazy go crazy!’” Clearly this is one lesson Cruise took to heart for future couch-related endeavors.
7. The teacher is played by Nathan Davis, father to director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Chain Reaction).
8. If you’re wondering who was in the Porsche while it’s seen backing out of the garage the answer is ‐ wait for it ‐ Sean Penn. Obviously. The stall was unintentional, and Cruise blames Penn. “He was laughing, and it distracted me.”
9. Cruise, who now counts race cars among his hobbies, wasn’t that familiar with driving stick shift during production, so Avnet gave him some lessons along with a warning that the Porsche was both expensive and the only one they had.
10. The original title was apparently White Boys Off the Lake. It’s a real shocker that they changed it.
11. The morning after scene with Joel (Cruise) and Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) was a re-shoot.
12. The re-watch reminds all three about the film’s pace saying it’s not slow but it’s also not fast like many contemporary comedies. They agree it gives the actors and characters time to breathe while also creating a more natural suspense between scenes.
13. Brickman points out an impressive move by Cruise when he drops his left ear at the 43:20 mark.
14. The school doors are locked, but they weren’t meant to be. Brickman decided to use it for the film though.
15. Brickman recalls the film was tough for the marketing department. “I remember the first poster was a cartoon Joel with all these buxom bikini girls in bed with him and money raining down.” They went to an outside company and created the poster of Cruise looking over the sunglasses.
16. Joe Pantoliano kept sticking toothpicks in his mouth as a prop while delivering lines, and Brickman kept throwing them away saying “Do it with your character, you don’t need the toothpicks.”
17. Brickman asks Cruise if he channeled Joel into Jerry Maguire saying that could have been Joel all grown up. Cruise says if he did it wasn’t intentional.
18. They initially went to the prop department for a pair of sunglasses, but they “opened up this box and had leftovers from In the Heat of the Night” so they decided to go shopping instead.
19. Megan Mullally is one of the nameless call girls first appearing at the 1:06:10 mark.
20. Brickman recalls Cruise’s screen test being a near-miss as scheduling meant it had to be at 5am. He arrived to pick up Cruise at an apartment building, but with no cell phones and no idea which apartment was his he was forced to wait. And wait. And wait before the actor eventually exited the building well past the pre-arranged time. Brickman jokingly credits his “infinite patience” with helping jump start Cruise’s career. “I thank you for waiting,” says Cruise.
21. The iconic shot of an open-mouthed and smiling Cruise was born from him not understanding how to play the line “Looks like University of Illinois!” Cruise thought it was a dumb line so when he stood and said it he followed it with a big goofy look as if to say “How’s that? I’ll dance for ya!” Brickman loved it and used it.
22. The train-set scene was added at the end and filmed while Cruise was in production on All the Right Moves. This memory triggers Avnet to recall his surprise at how difficult it was for that film’s producers to finally sign Cruise as their lead. Avnet showed them Risky Business footage, but they were still slow to be convinced.
23. The big train sex scene originally featured green-screen work as the train car left the tracks and flew over Chicago, but they all agreed the execution was “embarrassing” so they scrapped it.
24. They shot the egg-catching shot multiple times, and it “knocked the wind out of” Cruise each time.
25. Brickman hates the last scene with Joel and Lana walking in the park. “It’s just banter,” he says, but the studio made him add it so things finished on a more upbeat note. He wanted to end it with Joel’s “Isn’t life grand” line. His preferred ending is available on the Blu-ray.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“For me at that age it was ‘what the fuck?’”
“Boy they don’t make ’em like this anymore.”
“It’s not about prostitution, it’s about capitalism.”
Risky Business [Blu-ray]
Brickman only directed one other film, 1990’s Men Don’t Leave, and that’s a shame. His commentary offers insight, as do Cruise’s and Avnet’s, and it’s clear the three made for a good team. Cruise’s contributions are mostly balanced between observations and praising everyone who worked on the production. The track is one of those video commentaries meaning the three of them are in a small window in the corner of the screen. It’s a distracting way to offer a commentary, but it’s fun watching their faces during the sex scenes.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.