Bret Michaels and Tom Cruise pose on the red carpet at "Rock of Ages." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )
When Tom Cruise popped up in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder,” barely recognizable in a fat suit as a loud-mouthed, crass Hollywood executive, many moviegoers were aghast.
After all, it had been only a couple of years since the actor had pulled his infamous couch-jumping stunt on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show and then, months later, called Matt Lauer “glib” during an interview on the “Today” show.
Cruise’s cameo in “Tropic Thunder” was the first indication that he had a sense of humor, and he soon began to regain public favor. Starting Friday, the actor has another lighthearted turn in “Rock of Ages,” a star-studded musical in which Cruise plays debaucherous hair rocker Stacee Jaxx.
The role allows Cruise to show off his comedic side yet again, though the actor insists he’s found humor in his more serious films as well.
“Comedy has always been part of the stuff that I’ve done,” Cruise said Friday evening in Hollywood at the "Rock of Ages" premiere, which was followed by a concert from '80s rockers Poison and Def Leppard.
“Even in serious movies or 'Risky Business'— even in 'Rain Man' — there's different kinds of comedy that you have even within drama.”
Still, Cruise wasn't the obvious choice to cast as a booze-swilling, sex-addicted musician, director Adam Shankman said.
“There was a lot of naysayers. There were a lot of people who were like, 'Oh, he's never going to pull that off.' But I knew he was, because I was there,” Shankman said.
Now, Cruise is earning rave reviews for his transformation — but perhaps the most important endorsement came from an actual rock 'n' roll star, Poison frontman Bret Michaels.
“Tom nailed it,” Michaels said of the actor’s performance. “What I think Tom did was combine a combination of Bret Michaels and Axl Rose — sort of my look and stage persona and energy, and he takes Axl Rose's intense attitude and mixes them together. It was great.”