On This Day: Tom Cruise Opens in ‘Risky Business,’ the Movie That Made Him a Star in 1983

by Suzanne Halliburton

Let’s throw it back 39 years to the day when Tom Cruise stepped into superstardom. All it took was a dance, wearing nothing but a button down, briefs and a pair of socks while lip synching to Bob Seger.

Yes, we’re talking about Risky Business, which premiered on this day (Aug. 5) in 1983. Tom Cruise was 21 when the movie debuted. And if you don’t remember any other detail about the movie, you probably recall that one key scene, when Cruise strutted around the family home, blasting some old-time rock and roll. As testament to Cruise’s acting skills, it all was improvised.

So pour yourself a Coke and Chivas and let’s take a trip down Tom Cruise memory lane.

There doesn’t seem to be a time when Tom Cruise wasn’t one of the best-known actors in the world. The 60-year-old starred in Top Gun: Maverick, the year’s biggest movie. And he earned a hefty $100 million to reprise Maverick from the 1980s classic. Plus, he’s got more Mission Impossible movies on the way.

But if you go back to the early 80s, Cruise was merely a young actor waiting for superstardom to find him. He moved to Los Angeles to try his luck at acting. soon enough, he was booking roles. He first earned a tiny part in Endless Love, the teen romance starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. The best part of the movie was its theme song performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Cruise followed up that movie with Taps.

By 1983, Cruise appeared with an ensemble cast of The Outsiders. He followed up that movie with All the Right Moves. That’s when he was a high school football star in western Pennsylvania.

Rebecca DeMornay and Tom Cruise starred in Risky Business. (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection)

And then came Risky Business. Cruise was brilliant playing a rich kid named Joel Goodsen from the suburbs of northern Chicago. He was 20 when he made the movie. Before production started, he worked out seven days a week to drop 10 pounds. Then he quickly adapted a high calorie diet to give him a baby face look for filming. The plot line was a simple one. His parents took a trip, leaving Joel at home to take care of himself. Joel did the typical teenager bad boy stuff. He drove his father’s Porsche 928, wrecking it. Later in the movie, it falls into Lake Michigan. And he threw a big party at his home, all without the approval of his parents.

But there were tweaks to the conventional home-alone theme. Cruise got involved with a call girl named Lana. Rebecca DeMornay, who portrayed Lana, also became a star in the early 80s after Risky Business. She and Cruise had sizzling chemistry. And behind the scenes, the two also had a fling.

In the movie, Joel and Lana turn the house into a brothel to pay for the repair of his dad’s car. Then in a whacky development, the recruiter from Princeton showed up. And because it’s a teen movie, the film ended with Joel and Lana realizing their relationship is real.

The movie made almost $63 million at the domestic box office. That’s about $180 million in today’s dollars.

And Ray Ban also probably is grateful to Tom Cruise. After all, he made Wayfarer sunglasses a trendy accessory in 1983. Thanks to Risky Business, sales skyrocketed by 2000 percent. Then Cruise did the same for Aviators three years later with Top Gun.

Like we said, it’s difficult to remember when Cruise wasn’t dominating Hollywood. And it all started on this day 39 years ago.