At face value, Risky Business is a comedy about a college-bound prepster who turns his parents’ house into a brothel and along the way gets involved with a sweet, no-nonsense hooker. But as far as its place in movie history is concerned, it’s a one-minute short of Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear.
Before the film’s release Aug. 5, 1983, Cruise was merely an up-and-coming 21-year-old actor who had delivered standout supporting performances in films like Taps (1981) and The Outsiders (1983). But it was the role of boyishly ingenuous Joel Goodsen in Business that gave the star a natural showcase for his white-toothed cockiness; by the time he slid across the screen dancing to Bob Seger’s ”Old Time Rock & Roll” wearing an oxford shirt, tube socks, and tightie-whities, Cruise had arrived. As Business writer-director Paul Brickman puts it, ”He was off and running.”
In hindsight, the actor’s self-assurance and leading-man quality were always evident. ”Tom was really thinking on his feet,” recalls Brickman of Cruise’s audition. ”He stopped himself in the middle of the reading and said, ‘You know what? I can do that better.’ And he started again in a different direction. I thought, There’s a guy that’s confident. That impressed me.”
It impressed moviegoers as well. Business grossed $63.5 million and earned Cruise It Boy status. The Washington Post said he possessed ”the sulky appeal of Matt Dillon [and] the nice-boy nice of Matthew Broderick.” In weeks he’d landed features in PEOPLE and Interview. But his instant popularity was perhaps best measured by the sales of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses he sported in the film: They vaulted from 18,000 pairs in 1981 to 330,000 in 1983.
Sixteen years later, Cruise is again making headlines for cavorting while undressed, in Eyes Wide Shut. Meanwhile, Brickman, burned by Paramount’s insistence that he reshoot Business‘ ending (originally, Joel was rejected by Princeton), took an extended leave from moviemaking, returning only to direct 1990’s Jessica Lange drama Men Don’t Leave. As for Seger’s rollicking tune, it’s become the second-most-popular jukebox request behind Patsy Cline’s ”Crazy,” according to Seger, who has a plaque from the Recording Industry Association of America to prove it. Says the singer, ”Now, at every gym class for 4-year-old girls, they play ‘Old Time Rock & Roll.”’