EW Staff
August 06, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx glow and gleam in the sleek, dark Los Angeles cityscape conjured in director Michael Mann’s ”Collateral.” Cruise as Vincent, a hitman out to snuff five lives in 10 hours, and Foxx as Max, the cabbie who gets Vincent as his nightmare fare, riff off each other like the jazz rhythms that punctuate the soundtrack. Jada Pinkett Smith completes the trio in a film that features one of summer’s most exciting action finales. The package is a pure, unexpected summer pleasure about, as Mann says, ”a stone sociopath.” Here’s how Foxx and Cruise pulled it off.

STAY LOOSE ”I’m pretty malleable,” says Cruise. You supply his big hearty laugh — you can hear it, can’t you? ”When a director like Michael Mann [auteur of ”Heat” and ”Manhunter”] comes to me and has a whole vision — how Los Angeles is going to be a full-fledged, down and dirty costar in this thriller; how I’m going to have gray hair and wear this tight suit to communicate that I mean business; how I’m going to have this darkly ironic sense of humor with Jamie just a few seconds after I’ve killed someone — that’s a vision I want to be part of.”

MAKE THE JOB YOUR VACATION ”Michael Mann’s got everything thought out,” says Foxx, ”but he lets you in on the playing, too. I told him I knew Max — he’s a specific guy who lives in Ladera Heights [an L.A. neighborhood].” Cruise’s Vincent wasn’t as familiar: ”I enjoyed shooting — I’d never fired a live round before…. And it was fun to find the cracks in Vincent’s behavior — a guy who’s doing very bad things at the moment when he’s falling apart inside.” Cruise also liked mixing it up with an actor whose method was different from his own. ”The first meeting I had with him, Jamie did his Ray Charles.” (Foxx’s biopic ”Ray,” about the late soul great, opens Oct. 29.) ”It was both awesomely moving and I pissed myself with laughter. Just the way Jamie likes it.”

PRETEND TO TAKE SOME DOWNTIME Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t exactly easy for Foxx, who’s prepping for a comedy special, ”Travelin’ Man.” ”You know the best way to try out new material? Sit around with your boys and talk the jokes, like conversation. If they laugh, you sneak into the bedroom, get the pad and pencil and say, That one goes into the act.”

AND ALWAYS SUPPORT YOUR COSTARS Forget Cruise plugging his next projects (we’ll do it for him — a ”War of the Worlds” remake and ”Mission: Impossible 3”). He’s recommending some new tunes: ”Have you heard Jada’s music? Will may be rap, but she’s, like, hard rock.” His promise: ”Her stuff will blow you away.” Our promise: So will the 80-plus items we’ve dug up to get you through the (once) slowest month of the year.


Have an Owen Gleiberman Film Festival

”The Girl Can’t Help It” (Unrated, 99 mins., 1956, VHS only), ”Summertime” (Unrated, 100 mins., 1955), ”Woodstock” (R, 240 mins., 1970), ”Summer” (Unrated, 98 mins., 1986)

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