’What The F–k’: The Safdie Brothers Admit To PT Anderson They Once Called The Real Sex Infomercial Tom Cruise Made When He Was Prepping For Magnolia

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Written By Maya Cantina

The Safdie Brothers may be splitting up — yes, that means that anticipated follow-up to Uncut Gems is likely not happening — but that doesn’t mean Benny and Josh can’t still bond over their shared fascination for Tom Cruise and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia

The sibling directors joined fellow filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson on the A24 Podcast, where they detailed how as teenagers they came across an in-faux-mercial starring Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey, his pick-up artist character from one of the best Tom Cruise movies, the 1999 drama Magnolia. As Benny Safdie told Anderson: 

Here is an amazing story. So I was sitting at home and there was like the channel 35 in New York, and it was like the sex channel at nighttime. So I’m sitting at home and I’m watching it, and I’m watching the commercials, and all the sudden I’m like, ‘What is going on right now?’ I see Tom Cruise, doing an ad for this sex thing and I’m like, what the fuck. I’m like literally, like my head exploded, ’cause this is late night, New York, nobody is there. And this is like months before anything was even out there.

The fake commercial clip shows the movie star as “master of the muffin” Frank T.J. Mackey from Magnolia, one of PTA’s iconic films, flanked in bed by scantily clad women. Per the joking video, the motivational Mackey will teach you “how to have any hard-bodied blonde just dripping to wet your dock” with the help of his The Seduce and Destroy System and audio cassette, available at the “low introductory rate” of $29.95 (plus shipping and handling, of course.) 

Upon the Safdies’ inquiries, Anderson admitted that the “cool marketing” ploy was his idea to promote Magnolia, which he wrote, directed and co-produced. Ultimately, the film was well-recived and Cruise went on to earn an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor for the iconic character, and he took home the trophy in the same category at the Golden Globes in 2000. 

And clearly the marketing ploy worked too, because Benny revealed that he ended up calling the number from the infomercial (1-877-TAME-HER, naturally), which prompted a voice recording from Cruise himself. 

I clocked the number. I remembered the number and I was like, alright, when we got to a movie theater… I went into the payphone ‘cause I wasn’t gonna call from the home phone. … So I called from the pay phone, and I was like, ‘Josh listen, listen.’ And it was him doing the recording and I was like, This is insane!

Anderson, who noted that he first met Cruise as well as his co-star and then-wife Nicole Kidman on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, added that he would listen to the messages that people left at the fake infomercial number. This included one caller who was seemingly shocked to see where Cruise’s career had taken him:

I wish I still had it, ‘cause we would just listen to the messages all day long and some guy would be like, ‘Yo man, Tom Cruise, that’s fucked up that you’re doing these ads, man. You were cool before.’

Given how dedicated Cruise is to his performances (this is a man who rode a motorcycle off a cliff for a movie, remember?) the Seduce and Destroy System commercial is very on-brand for the actor. And clearly, it fooled more than a few TV viewers — Safdie Brothers included!

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