Oprah: You've been described as the most uncommon common man anyone has ever known. Is that who you feel you are?
Tom: No—there isn't any great mystery about me. What I do is glamorous and has an awful lot of white-hot attention placed on it. But the actual work requires the same discipline and passion as any job you love doing, be it as a very good pipe fitter or a highly creative artist.
Oprah: When I mentioned to a few people that I was going to interview you, they said, "What a decent guy!" How close are you to that image?
Tom: Pretty close. I try not to lie to people—the only way to control the way you're perceived is to tell the truth. No journalist has ever been in my house and no photographs have ever been taken of where I live. I don't parade my family out for display, which is the way it will stay. Yet I have a reputation for being cooperative with the press. That's because when I do give an interview, I'm willing to tell the truth about what I do for a living and how goofy it is sometimes—and how volatile it can also be.
Oprah: The theme of this issue is success. Have you wrapped your brain around your success?
Tom: No—it still takes me by surprise. When I used to come here to Chicago, for example, I could walk around and do everything I wanted. That's difficult now that I am instantly recognizable.
Oprah: What happens when you go out?
Tom: Sometimes pandemonium busts loose—like in stores. I don't cause riots, but I do cause confusion. People freeze when they spot me.
Oprah: Does that make you uncomfortable?
Tom: It does. And it doesn't allow me to have a realistic interaction with the world around me. Most people want to be able to go off and deal with their day—stop in here, run errands there—and when you can't do that, going out becomes a chore.
Oprah: I agree. Can you move around freely in Los Angeles?
Tom: Yes, and New York. In other places, it's harder. But I think eventually this will all peter out.
Oprah: I don't think it's going to peter out, Tom! With all the acclaim you receive after every movie, do you feel even more pressure for the next role?
Tom: No. I start at square one with every role. If I let myself feel pressure, it would crush me. The truth is that everyone pays attention to who's number one at the box office. And none of it matters, because the only thing that really exists is the connection the audience has with a movie. Sometimes that's a palpable thing, but other times it's not. No actor has control of that. All you can control is your own passion for doing the work in the first place.
We Hear You!