Tom Cruise will get to his new movie in a minute. he'll tell you all about working with Steven Spielberg, about playing a cop in the year 2054, about going completely bald for the role. He may even let slip a word or two about his ex-wife (whom he still refers to as Nic) as well as his current girlfriend (whom he refers to as Penelope). But first, there's a more pressing matter...
''Do you mind if I turn on the TV?'' asks the movie star as he bounds into the room flashing his klieg-light grin (none the dimmer, incidentally, for all his recent adventures in late-life orthodontia). ''I just want to catch the last few minutes of the Lakers game. They're up by one point.''
Turns out you can learn a lot about Tom Cruise by watching him watch basketball. You learn, for instance, that he secretly wants to be Marv Albert. ''Twenty seconds to go,'' he announces for his guest, bouncing excitedly on the sofa as he stares straight into the TV. ''Sacramento's got the ball. They're going to try to take it all the way down. Are they going to win in the final seconds? Oh, my God. Thirteen seconds. What's going to happen? Incredible!''
Another thing you learn: Tom Cruise can't even watch a play-off game without being reminded that he's Tom Cruise. The Lakers call a time-out, and the network cuts to a commercial. Suddenly, that old familiar grin (pre-braces) is filling the TV screen in an ad for the movie he's here to talk about, Minority Report. ''Spielberg is as amazing to me as any of these athletes,'' he says, quickly attempting a segue during the break. ''He's absolutely on fire behind the camera. He's the Michael Jordan of directors.''
Which makes Minority Report (opening June 21) this movie season's biggest all-star game, teaming Hollywood's most commercially successful director (20 films over 30 years, grossing a total of $2.8 billion domestically) with one of its most bankable stars (23 films, $2 billion). No wonder the chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment (which cofinanced with Spielberg's DreamWorks and is distributing the movie) sounds like he's about to call his bookie. ''How are we marketing it?'' chuckles Tom Rothman. ''It's Cruise and Spielberg. What else do we need to do?''
Actually, Minority Report may require more finesse than that. Based on a 1956 short story by the notoriously trippy Philip K. Dick (whose work also inspired Blade Runner and Total Recall), this is no family-friendly sci-fi joyride filled with lightsabers and asthmatic supervillains. This is serious science fiction, a dark, sometimes violent contemplation of a future in which cars have minds of their own, breakfast cereals are packaged in annoying animated boxes, and privacy is so scarce you can't even walk into a Gap without running into a billboard that knows your name and underwear size.
It's also a future in which Cruise's character, Paul Anderton, heads an experimental police squad called Precrime. Tapping into the dreams of a trio of medically mutated psychics (Sweet and Lowdown's Samantha Morton is the only one who wakes up for some dialogue), Anderton zips around Washington, D.C., in a jet pack, popping in on people just before they're destined to commit their crimes. All that changes when the ''precogs'' predict his own murderous future and he becomes a fugitive (chased mostly by Hart's War's Colin Farrell). ''A whodunit before hedidit'' is how Rothman describes the movie.