The Last Samurai Was A Challenge Tom Cruise Wasn't Sure He Could Overcome

Fair or not, A-list actors tend to come with an added burden of expectations on their shoulders, at least among those who can still be counted among the rapidly dwindling ranks of bona fide movie stars these days. Not only do they have to maintain an extraordinarily high level of performance from movie to movie — or risk the dreaded accusations of "sleep-walking" through a role — but they can also feel even more pressure to go above and beyond the call of duty, delivering a movie that will turn a profit and also avoid shattering their perceived aura as top-tier performers at the same time. Hollywood can be a cruel and ruthless game, folks.

Tom Cruise has seemed utterly unbothered by those challenges over the years, even managing to overcome some early-career controversies in his pursuit of cultivating a certain image. Rather than thinking of that infamous couch-jumping moment with Oprah, the vast majority of audiences only see him as a driven actor (now a Palme d'Or recipient!) who will stop at nothing to create the perfect shot and the most high-wire thrills.

But even someone who casts as large a shadow as Cruise has experienced moments of doubt and uncertainty along the way. While he continues to gear up for the release of "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning," two blockbusters that will only add to his mystique, perhaps a trip to the past is in order to remind ourselves of a time when the impervious Tom Cruise seemed downright vulnerable during filming of 2003's "The Last Samurai."

'I needed that kind of time to absorb the film'

Tom Cruise is nothing short of a machine, pouring all of his energy into the production of a given movie — along with all those demanding press cycle obligations — before turning around to do it all over again with the next blockbuster on his docket. Between his insistence on doing his own stunts and the boundaries he keeps pushing at his age, it's a wonder that he's even able to stand up on his own two feet when he's given half a moment to relax off the clock.

But who knows if he'd ever have reached this point, if not for the ability to overcome certain obstacles earlier in his career. During filming for the Edward Zwick-directed historical epic, "The Last Samurai," Cruise once opened up (slightly) to about how he found himself working incredibly hard in order to bring the sweeping epic to life. Having been deeply involved with the film for 3 entire years, Cruise explained:

"It was different in that it took me almost a year to physically be able to make this picture. I love and take great pride in what I do; so I can't [just] be involved in something, I go all the way."

Much of the difficulty came down to acting in a much different film than he was used to. Cruise said, "I haven't really found or made an epic film and I knew what that was going for, so I needed that kind of time to absorb the film and to work with Ed and [writer/producer] Marshall [Herskovitz] and I enjoyed it."

All these years later, the movie star shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.