In Knight and Day, Tom Cruise enjoyed the good fortune of working with co-star Viola Davis – an actress of exceptional talent and intensity who has stood out in supporting roles over the last 10 years. Currently co-starring in the new romantic drama, Eat, Pray, Love alongside Julia Roberts, Davis adds another memorable performance to an already noteworthy resume.
In a new regular feature here at TomCruise.com, the Creative Collaborators Series, we’ll give fans insight into the profiles of Tom’s collaborators throughout his career, starting with Davis. Stay on the lookout about once a week for features of other brilliant actors, writers and directors Tom has created movie magic with.
Davis has made a career out of intense dramatic roles supporting some of Hollywood’s most prominent actors. Her work in Knight and Day as Director George – head of the agency Tom’s character is running from – carries the kind of dramatic gravity she’s best known for. Using the power of her serious glare and smoky voice, she convincingly owns her scenes throughout the James Mangold directed action comedy.
However, in Eat, Pray, Love, Davis takes a departure from her typically severe characters – trading more along the softer, feminine qualities as a new mother and close friend of the character played by Julia Roberts. Nonetheless, Davis is powerful in whatever role she plays, with the Eat, Pray, Love reviews calling out the stamp she puts on the character from the ease of changing a diaper to calmly giving a friend clear-eyed relationship and professional advice. Davis exudes strength through these seemingly regular actions, giving her character depth.
You can check out a small piece of her performance in the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love below:
It was the same strength of gesture and physical performance on the stage that earned Viola Davis a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play this year. Playing opposite Denzel Washington in the August Wilson play, Fences, Davis exuded depth in the role as Rose Maxson. Her subdued intensity is noted by reviewers as the crux of the performance: “Ms. Davis draws extraordinary power from that reticence; you never feel that Rose is any less deep than her husband.” It marks the second Tony for Viola, the first coming in 2001 for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play as Tonya in Wilson’s play King Hedley II.
Despite the strength of these stage and screen roles, Davis’ most famous performance could arguably be the one she showed the most vulnerability in. Her work in the 2008 film Doubt earned Viola an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Davis’ character, Mrs. Miller, struggles with pressure from co-star Meryl Streep to report an abusive priest. Uncertain and timid, she uses body language and halting speech to produce a moving portrait of a fearful mother.
All of these indelible performances by Davis stem from determined training early in her life – first at Rhode Island College and then four years at the celebrated Juilliard School. She refined her skills to the point of earning her first film role for director Steven Soderbergh in his 1996 film Out of Sight, with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Davis’ collaboration with Soderbergh continued into the directors’ more cerebral films, such as Traffic in 2000 and Solaris (again with Clooney) in 2002. She also enjoyed success on the small screen, landing recurring dramatic roles on the television series The United States of Tara and Traveler in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
An amazing career thus far for a Tom Cruise co-star! We look forward to the new projects Viola has in the works, including the upcoming release of It’s King of a Funny Story in October. A busy year for a great actor.
What’s your favorite character or movie Viola Davis has been in? What about any other actors Tom Cruise has worked with? Let us know in the comments section!