Long before the premiere of the latest Mission Impossible installment, studio publicity primed prospective filmgoers to anticipate another death-defying Tom Cruise performance. Cruise’s helicopter piloting, HALO jumping, and broken ankle dominated advertisements before (and after) the film’s release, framing his feats as continuations of his commitment to authenticity. In "The Authentically Bruised Cruise," I unpack Tom Cruise’s stunt-centric Mission Impossible performances as they accrue meaning in the paratexts orbiting these roles. Focusing specifically on the discourses that surround and construct his labor, I argue that de-centering film texts in pursuit of performance invites us to consider the broader stakes—and stakeholders—in making sense of screen acting. Cruise’s insistence on his own stunts or his ascribed mantra of “giving his all” in every scene, I illustrate, signals not the aging star’s contrived vitality but rather his only viable means to transparency in an interpretive landscape where previous acts have undermined his authenticity.

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