EW's advice for the popular actor on choosing his scripts carefully

TO: Tom Cruise
FROM: People Who Care

Since you are, after all, the most popular actor on the planet, it’s not surprising that your name’s been popping up a lot lately. We’ve perused the press and noticed no fewer than 14 projects to which you are reportedly attached as the star (plus others that you’re just producing). Seems everybody wants you, big fella, but as you’re weighing your options, remember this: The stakes are high.

You scored an Oscar nomination for your last release, Jerry Maguire, and you really impressed us by teaming with the elusive Stanley ”Did Somebody Say, Take 47?” Kubrick in the nearly completed Warner Bros. thriller Eyes Wide Shut. Your resume is really pumped up, and you want to keep it buff. Herewith is our advice.

First of all, about these movies you’re only producing — like Without Limits, about the champion runner Steve Prefontaine (starring Billy Crudup) being released next spring: Just stop it right there. You can sit around and spend money in a few years when you’re wrinkled. Now, about your next acting job: Since Kubrick’s perfectionism stretched the Eyes Wide Shut shoot to nearly a year, think twice before you sign up for that proposed Mission: Impossible sequel with that other high-maintenance director, Oliver Stone. But there’s also talk that you and Stone are kicking around Alexander the Great, which actually sounds promising. You would look fine in ermine, and biopics are hot right now. If they can take Larry Flynt to the Oscars, imagine how far you could go with a subject who didn’t use pink as a dirty word.

Speaking of bios, we hear you also may do Houdini with director Paul Verhoeven, who’s also pretty intense (did you see Basic Instinct?), and you’ve already done the sleight-of-hand thing in Cocktail. Why not go ahead instead with Universal’s untitled Phil Spector story, about that legendary 1960’s rock & roll record producer? It’s got it all: chicks, music, retro outfits. And your Jerry Maguire bud Cameron Crowe might direct. You guys complete each other.

Of course, Crowe’s not the only director in town. John Woo — Mr. Two-Fisted Slow-Mo Gunfight, hot off of Face/Off — wants you to play this white guy who goes to China in the 19th century to crush a rebellion. It’s a Paramount movie called The Devil Soldier. Plus, it might be fun to hang out in another country for a while, but if they even think about making you do it with an accent, say you’ve got two words for them: Far and Away.

Then there’s Buena Vista’s Air Reno, about a world-class pilot who trains a young female flier. Could be sexy, and Ridley Scott (Alien) may direct. You’ve also been mentioned to star in Earth, Wings and Fire, about the World War II Flying Tigers, and In the Blue Light of African Dreams, about the first attempt to fly across the Atlantic. They all seem legit, but haven’t you done enough airplane movies already? You’re Tom Cruise, not Julie Hagerty.

Another Paramount movie, The Mark, about a superhero who receives his powers from a magical tattoo, looks too kooky. Save yourself the hassle. Get a temporary ”Nicole Forever” heart on your arm instead. If you want to go a little kooky, well, all right. Timejumpers, about a pair of time-traveling federal agents, seems pretty cool, but it’s also got Emilio Estevez attached. If you wanna do a buddy pic, we have one suggestion: Find out what Will Smith’s up to.