In a performance that was unlike anything else in his career, Tom Cruise was stunningly transformative in his performance as Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia. Starring as a sex guru who emotionally unravels when the truth of his past is revealed about him, this is perhaps Cruise’s most vulnerable performance. The level of psychology he applied to the character is clearly established in his representation of the character, who conveys himself in a particular setting to compensate for a past that he has never emotionally resolved. The film takes place in the span of a single day, to which the viewer is able to see Cruise’s character conducting his sex seminar before and after he is revealed to have been lying about his past, and the difference in presentation is stunning to observe.
Tom Cruise was slated to win the Oscar for his performance, having won the Golden Globe, which put him a good position to win an award many felt he was due. When the winner was announced, Cruise wasn’t the one rising from his seat.
Lost to: Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules (1999)