Byline: By Robin Walker
There aren't many stains on Tom Cruise's on-screen persona but that could change with Collateral, as Robin Walker explains.
He's an undisputed Hollywood superstar, an apparent Mr Nice Guy and an all-round onscreen hero. But the A-lister seems keen to show us a darker side ( on screen, at any rate.
Following his recent role as a haunted American civil war veteran in 2003's Last Samurai, he now plays a cold-blooded hitman in Collateral, delivering a performance that is shaking up his perfect smile and sex appeal.
As contract killer Vincent in Michael Mann's psychological thriller, Tom has gone for a significant career shift, playing his darkest role to date.
"I take on characters I feel are personal challenges and Vincent is definitely a role I've never played before," says Cruise, 42.
"It was different, it was definitely challenging. He was kind of an anti-social character, we just kept creating layers."
Set in a gritty and lurid Los Angeles after dark, Vincent is set on carrying out a series of hits, taking taxi driver Max (Jamie Foxx) hostage along the way.
But as the pair race through the night, they find they're on a dangerous trip which will alter both their lives.
Much of the action takes place inside Max's cab, and a lot of the film was shot on high definition video to lend it a more natural mood and tone.
Tom's own look is quite different this time around ( the hair is grey, the suit is grey, the smile is still there, but this time there's a threatening edge.
US audiences seemed to like the change of style ( the film took almost $25m in the first weekend.
Looking older suited the role, says Tom. "Michael came up with the look and it was cool. I thought it was perfect for Vincent.
"If someone is asked for a description, he might say, `Medium height in a grey suit'. It describes anybody and nobody. Being anonymous is what we strived for.
"Dressing the way I did, and then playing the character a certain way, was about uncovering who Vincent really is and then finding that point where things start to go wrong for him."
But the role is far from a one-sided killer. This is a complex character with a back story, he says.
"I always do a lot of research for a character, particularly someone like this, with that back story having to inform every scene.