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On Monday, October 5, Prof. Bruce Hay’s Entertainment Law class began with a slight twist: renowned lawyer to the stars Bertram Fields ’52 was there to discuss his experiences in Hollywood. But the real buzz began when, a little over 30 minutes later, Fields’ client Tom Cruise surreptitiously entered the classroom. Immediately met by nervous giggles and huge goofy grins, he flashed his megawatt smile in return, waved, and announced that he was there to see Bert speak; after all, he’d never had a chance to hear him lecture before.
Making his way to the very back row of the classroom, Cruise took a seat quietly amongst the other students, and assumed an attentive posture. After quick, smiley glances in his direction, students resumed their normal classroom activities–they raised their hands and asked questions; they GChatted; they took notes; they browsed Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman. From time to time they would steal a sidelong look at the glowing actor. He would sometimes lean over and share a quiet joke with the student sitting next to him, who, except for these moments, kept her eyes politely trained on her computer.
Throughout his discussion, Fields would refer questions back to Tom, and Cruise would also interject his own experiences. He spoke about tabloid magazines and issues concerning the propriety of celebrity images, working with directors such as the late Stanley Kubrick, and the business of how the rating on movies gets set in the U.S. as opposed to in Europe.
When Fields responded to a student’s question by constructing a hypothetical in which Tom demanded that his cat be shipped to Boston as part of a contract, Tom interjected with, “I don’t actually have a cat.” Throughout the two hours of class, there was a natural and comfortable exchange between Fields, Prof. Hay, Cruise, and the students.
At one point, Cruise referenced some of the characters he had played who had gone to Harvard Law School, notably Mitch McDeere, his role in the 1993 adaptation of John Grisham’s novel, “The Firm” . He joked that, when he was jogging, someone asked him if he had gone to Harvard Law.
He listened and responded to all student questions and comments, nodding in agreement many times, laughing at jokes at others. Twice during the class, Fields paused to remember the name of a movie and a particular line, and students helped him out by yelling, “A Few Good Men!” and “You can’t handle the truth!”
But things really got fun when class ended, and Cruise–waving and smiling–made his way to the front of the class to embrace Fields warmly. By then, a bush fire of text messages, emails, and IMs had alerted the school that *TOM CRUISE!!!* was sitting nonchalantly in the back row of Langdell South, and the room was crowded with students who did not regularly attend this class.
Despite this, Cruise was gracious and charming, staying for an hour after class to speak intimately with the students. He answered questions such as, “Is there a role you regret not taking?” (short answer: no) and explained the interaction between paparazzi and his three children.
As he put it, he does not want his children to be afraid of anything, and so he downplays the intrusion of paparrazi. As young children often do, his daughter Suri has, according to Cruise, some comical responses. For example, she will sometimes throw down her hands and say “Why is this person following me?” and has responded to encroachments on her privacy by raising a hand and declaring, “Personal space!”
Cruise probably devoted more time to HLS students than many professors are able to after class. Sharing advice, stories, high fives, handshakes, hugs, and even at one point an impromptu dance, he made this early autumn evening at HLS an especially entertaining one for all students lucky enough to greet him in person.