The Cannes Film Festival literally kicked into overdrive (overflight?) on Wednesday as Tom Cruise and his Top Gun: Maverick team touched down on the Palais for a high-octane premiere that included eight fighter jets zooming above the event, expelling smoke in red and blue to match the colors of the French flag.
The actor was already destined to be the biggest draw of Cannes 2022 long before he hit the Croisette, where Top Gun: Maverick is getting splashy promotion by Paramount ahead of its global rollout on May 25. But even by the festival’s own standards, Cruise received the sort of rapturous reception that could only befit one of Hollywood’s most successful and globally renowned stars. And after the final frame hit the screen close to 10 p.m., the audience responded with a six-minute standing ovation that brought Cruise to tears, closing out an epic day.
Having taken part in a career retrospective earlier in the day — a “MasterClass Conversation” with French journalist Didier Allouch in the 1,000-seat Debussy Theatre — Cruise was gifted with another tribute before the screening, led by Canned festival director Thierry Fremaux, in honor of his long-running career at the center of international pop culture. Fremaux delivered remarks (in French) and introduced a 13-minute clip reel that showcased every entry on his filmography.
Cruise hugged Fremaux (who encouraged the audience to put down their phones and put their hands together) before taking the microphone to share remarks, inviting all the filmmakers in attendance to stand and be recognized and shouting out his close collaborators at Paramount. “They all worked so hard to bring this to the big screen, and it’s a dream to be here,” Cruise said. “I’m never going to forget this evening.”
Elle Fanning may not either. The actress, a L’Oreal ambassador and frequent Cannes attendee, was seated in the Palais and received a special shout-out from Cruise. He recalled meeting her while working with her sister, Dakota, on the 2005 blockbuster War of the Worlds.
He then turned his attention back to the festival and his love for cinema. “Thank you for this time,” he said. “I make these movies for all of you.” Fremaux then offered a special surprise, announcing that the festival was presenting Cruise with a Palme d’Or. Cruise, looking speechless, accepted with a “Wow,” as the audience stood up for another standing ovation, one of the only times in recent memory that an actor has received multiple standing ovations prior to the first frame of a film hitting the screen.
But before all that took place, Cruise arrived at the Cannes red carpet just before 7 p.m. and spent a healthy 10 minutes cruising up and down the street to greet fans, some of whom had been waiting for hours under the blazing Côte d’Azur sun for the movie star to emerge. He made it worth their while by signing autographs and DVDs and posing for selfies.
As seen on the Palais big screen, he had to be pulled away from the crush of admirers to make his way in front of the swath of photographers and pose alongside his director, Joseph Kosinski, and blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer. They were joined by fellow Top Gun: Maverick stars Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm (who straightened Cruise’s bow tie on the carpet), Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis, Lewis Pullman and others.
Top Gun: Maverick has been winning rave reviews from critics since it made its world premiere earlier this month in San Diego atop the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway.
“Your enjoyment of Top Gun: Maverick might depend on how much you’re willing to shut out the real world and surrender to movie-star magic,” wrote THR chief film critic David Rooney. “Which this superior sequel — directed with virtuoso technical skill, propulsive pacing and edge-of-your-seat flying sequences by Joseph Kosinski — has in abundance.”