Tom Cruise wraps up roles as Samurai and Samaritan in NZ
The Borneo Post - Sun, 6 April 2003

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AUCKLAND: From on-screen Samurai fighter to real-life good Samaritan, Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise (pictured right) has impressed locals in New Zealand's remote North Island province of Taranaki where he has been filming since January.

While working on the big budget Warner Bros epic "The Last Samurai", due to wrap up mid-April, Cruise has become celebrated for his down-to-earth habits, like eating fish and chips in newspaper from the local takeaway and catching the surf at nearby beaches.

And all without a paparazzi lens or mob of breathless fans in sight.

Then there have been his good deeds.

Far from mainstream cinematic gossip of sex scandals, diet fads, drug abuse and more among the stars, Cruise has become famous in Taranaki for stopping to help a local family change a flat tyre on a country road. He also helped a young girl catch her runaway horse and donated seven thousand New Zealand dollars (about RM14,560) to a tiny, rural school near his film set for a sun shelter under which pupils can play.

While he has rarely been seen in public - unlike his gregarious Scottish co-star Billy Connelly - Cruise has earned a reputation for being a genuinely nice guy.

Indeed, his niceness was a big theme during an unscheduled, 20-minute chat with two presenters on the local radio station, The Edge.

"Do you ever get sick of being so nice all the time?" cooed young JJ. "Because you really are a nice person and people always say such nice things about you when they've met you..."

"It's just who I am," replied Cruise. "I enjoy people and listen. I'm very fortunate, the life that I have. It was a dream of mine and it's something I enjoy. "I just enjoy life, enjoy my work, enjoy my family and everything, so it's just who I am..."

During the nearly four-month shoot at eight different locations, Cruise's wish - expressed during his only press conference in January - that he and his visiting children Connor, 8, and Isabella, 10, his parents and girlfriend Penelope Cruz be left in peace has been respected, said a local journalist.

Reporting on the film for the Daily News, journalist Rochelle West says New Plymouth - a town of 45,000 people - has been buzzing with excitement ever since the film crew and stars arrived in January.

As was expected, Cruise has "kept very much to himself."

He commutes by helicopter to film sets around the province from his rented rural mansion near the seaside hamlet of Oakura, about 15 minutes' drive from New Plymouth, offering locals few chances to encounter the 40-year-old megastar.

However one New Plymouth woman received a rare invitation to a "The Last Samurai" set after she caught the attention of key film crew by regularly stripping down to her bra and knickers whilst waving madly at passing helicopters.

But the monthly community rag, The Oakura Messenger - which coincidentally relaunched in January bearing its initials TOM, hasn't been able to come up with any Cruise scoops, despite being literally down the road from his home.

"The community has understood his wish to be left alone. There's been no threat to him and that's nice," said editor Tracy Lusk. She sent TOM T-shirts to his home with a note requesting an interview but has had no reply so far.

While he has maintained a low profile in Taranaki, a bungy jump with his children off Auckland's central city Sky Tower last month grabbed the headlines.

It seems you have to at least be the prime minister to get up close and personal with the star. Prime

Minister Helen Clark spent a day' with Cruise and his family on the film set, afterwards describing. Hollywood's highest paid actor as a "very attractive young man."

"He's very nice," she said. - AFP