When actors become real-life action heroes
The pattern is more than coincidence, says this documentarian
A few years back I came across a newspaper article about actor Tom Cruise rescuing a woman who was being violently mugged. That’s weird, I thought. Seems like a scene from a movie. A Tom Cruise movie.
But that’s what happened in real life on a street in Regent Park, London, in 1998. A woman, socialite Rita Simmonds, had parked her Porsche and was then viciously set upon by two men. She was wearing more than $100,000 worth of jewelry. As they literally ripped the diamonds from her fingers and ears, she screamed. Cruise happened to be down the street and reportedly leaped into action. The muggers took off when they heard Cruise and his bodyguard’s racing footsteps.
“Tom was brilliant,” the rescued Simmonds later told the media. “As soon as he heard the commotion, he rushed out.”
Cruise hasn’t just done this kind of thing once, but possibly as many as six times. He came to the aid of a young woman in a hit-and-run during a rainstorm in Santa Monica, Calif. He helped rescue a family from a burning boat in the south of France. He even tried to rescue then-wife Nicole Kidman during a hiking mishap by climbing a volcano.
But it’s not just Cruise. Jamie Foxx smashed a window and pulled a man out of a burning overturned truck. Kate Winslet once helped drag Richard Branson’s mother out of a burning house after it was hit by lightning during a hurricane. This year, Benedict Cumberbatch jumped out of a car and saved a deliveryman from being mugged in London. Tom Hardy vaulted a series of backyard fences before tackling a moped thief. It seems like in a pinch you might want an actor nearby.
When I began researching the documentary You Are What You Act, I saw there was an even more precise pattern. Sure, many stars play heroes, but only some perform outstanding heroic acts in public. It was most often actors who do their own stunts, people likely into the physical culture of stunts and action.
There’s an emerging field of science, called embodied cognition, that might help explain how actors, and others, become their roles.
One theory suggests that acting can prime the body for certain behaviours. Acting brave, although arguably READ MORE AT AT THESTAR.COM/MOVIES
Tom Cruise isn’t just an action hero in Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation. He’s a real-life hero who has rescued people on at least six occasions.
faked, might cause us to be more likely to act that way in life.
American psychologist Philip Zimbardo is studying practised heroism, partly as redemption, he jokes, for producing the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment, a psychological study that gave rise to perhaps cynical views of human nature. More recently he coined the term “Heroic
Imagination.” It’s the concept that people who have images of actions they can take in a crisis are more likely to act them out rather than freeze, as the average person is likely to do in a traumatic situation.
The most intriguing part to me is the idea that courage could come with practice, along with a host of other states, like confidence, happiness and even love. Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, partly nspired by “the world we’ve been living in.” Story at Actor Jamie Foxx helped rescue a man trapped in a burning truck.