“Tom Cruise like I’ve never seen him!” is how Oprah Winfrey described it on May 23, 2005, at the top of an episode of her show that would go on to become its most memorable: the one with the couch jumping. She wasn’t lying. Cruise was known for being guarded and tight-lipped about his private life, and his effusive display was enough to overshadow his career and to redefine his star status. Reporting on Paramount’s decision to sever its 14-year production deal with Cruise in 2006, the New York Times described the post-Oprah events as, “Tom Cruise’s yearlong metamorphosis from pure box-office phenomenon to pop-culture punch line.”
Today, the episode turns seven years old, and it is still everything you remember it to be. Go back and watch it – the entire episode is on YouTube, as is TVGasm’s 69-second highlight reel, which set the footage to Guster’s “Center of Attention” and helped inaugurate this as one of the first TV-to-Internet crossover viral moments.
The awkwardness hasn’t aged a day. In a declaration of love to the woman he’d go on to marry just under a year and a half later, Katie Holmes, Cruise grins maniacally and leaves the couch over a dozen times to kneel in proto-Tebow glory (six times), clasp both of Oprah’s hands and vibrate her in her in her seat (three times) and nimbly leap from a seated position on the couch to a standing one (twice). The maligned move is nothing short of athletic. Intermittently throughout, Cruise shakes his fists like a campy god. He doesn’t so much as mention War of the Worlds, what he was supposedly booked to promote until the end of the second segment. (Though he had the entire episode devoted to him, so who knows what they would have done to fill the time were there no Katie Holmes.)
What you might not remember is Oprah’s goading. She laughs, touches him back, gasps in jubilance and refers to him as “gone,” about a half a dozen times. The way she says the latter sounds out of admiration, though she’d later clarify (slash revise) the sentiment on Good Morning America:
It was wilder than it was appearing to me. I was just trying to maintain the truth for myself because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And what I was prepared for was the dance that happens when you’re doing celebrities — when you know they’re not going to tell you, but you’re going to ask anyway, and then you try asking another way…I was not buying — not buying or not buying. That’s why I kept saying “You’re gone, you’re really gone.”
You also might not remember the crowd’s ecstatic reaction to Cruise’s mugging. They ate it up like it was a new car or a school for girls in South Africa. They screamed, they applauded, they embraced. They never tired of the rhythmless interpretive dance. A terrible barometer for the rest of the world and conduit for whatever Cruise was selling that day, alike, they loved it unconditionally. In 2010, Cruise explained his couch-jumping motivation to Esquire: “I wanted the audience to be happy just like I wanted to make my sisters and my mother happy when I did those skits as a kid.” It’s maybe the only thing he succeeded at with the entire stunt, and it was a home run.
So what does that mean? He wasn’t the only crazy person in the room.
Continue reading the rest of the story on Gawker