For what it's worth, "Ages" director Adam Shankman says he can (and without Autotune or other electronic fudging). Tom's rendition of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" has been praised by no less than Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, who was on the set when Cruise performed it.
Today, viewers will find out for themselves whether Cruise can really rock, or whether he belongs on the list of movie actors who stretched too far in trying to impress filmgoers with their golden throats. It's the kind of stretch that even some top thespians haven't been able to pull off, as you'll see in this list of 20 films featuring horrifyingly grating (or unexpectedly good) singing performances by actors not known for their vocal skills.
Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Wagon" (1969)
Two of Hollywood's toughest hombres show their softer sides (really soft, in the case of the wispy-voiced Eastwood, who was not discouraged by this movie's reception from singing again in "Honky Tonk Man" or rasping out the self-penned theme from "Gran Torino") in this wacky Western musical. As for Marvin, he must have regretted passing up "The Wild Bunch" in order to show off his drunken warble in "Wandering Star" -- though that song did become a hit single in England.
Jack Nicholson in "Tommy" (1975)
NIcholson is amusing as the quack doctor in the Who's rock opera, but his limited vocal range can't handle the melody of the pivotal tune "Go to the Mirror." Nearly 30 years later, he'd croon "La Vie en Rose" in "Something's Gotta Give." His singing wasn't any better, but now his limitations played as charmingly self-deprecating.
Renee Zellweger in "Chicago" (2002)
Unlike costars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, Zellweger had no musical theater background; in fact, she'd never performed a song before. Nonetheless, by the time director Rob Marshall put her through her paces, she could belt out a convincing showstopper, or at least do so in character as fame-hungry nobody Roxie Hart.
Ethan Hawke in "Reality Bites" (1994)
Hawke plays a jaded aspiring rocker in this '90s time capsule. Now, you don't have to sing well to cover the VIolent Femmes (as Hawke does, ably), but the actor's throat-ripping performance of his own tune "I'm Nothing" may be one reason grunge died.
Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth, Edward Norton, and Natalie Portman in "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996)
In his jukebox musical, Allen included some trained song-and-dance performers (Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn), but most of the cast, including the writer/director himself, were amateur singers. (Drew Barrymore was so terrified of singing on film that she demanded that Allen hire a ringer to sing her number while she lip-synched, but everyone else sang their own tunes.) Of the performers, Norton and Roth proved surprisingly adept crooners. Allen's voice was thin but at least on key (he'd sing again in "Antz"). The only one who really grated on the ears was Roberts, who wasn't really up to the demands of her low-pitched ballad.
Albert Finney in "Scrooge" (1970)
As you might gather from his speaking voice, Finney has a robust baritone as a singer (something he'd demonstrate to better effect a decade later as Daddy Warbucks in "Annie"), but here, as a 40-year-old man playing an elderly miser, his vocals are curdled into a cranky old man voice that doesn't suit him.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, and Judi Dench in "Nine" (2009)
Having made a singer out of Renee Zellweger in "Chicago," director Rob Marshall bet he could do the same for these four here. (The cast also included such proven singers as Nicole Kidman and Fergie.) Day-Lewis, once again, demonstrated that he can do anything, while daughter-of-two-singers Hudson proved that the genes had lined up. Cruz made up in smolder what she lacked in polish. The less said about Dench's Pepe LePew-like rendition of "Folies Bergere," the better.
Meryl Streep in "Postcards From the Edge" (1990)
Streep, too, can do anything, but she had yet to prove her vocal versatility when Mike Nichols had her belt out two numbers here, a torchy "You Don't Know Me" and a twangy "I'm Checking Out." Nailed 'em. (That's why no one was surprised 18 years later that she could take on "Mamma Mia.")
Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, and Pierce Brosnan in "Mamma Mia" (2008)
Everyone knew Streep and the gals could sing, but could these three suave character actors carry campy ABBA tunes? As it turned out, Firth and Skarsgard had plaintive, pleasant voices. Brosnan, not so much; his lugubrious pipes weren't the only ones bellowing "S.O.S."
Marlon Brando in "Guys and Dolls" (1955)
Brando may have been the greatest actor of the last 60 years, able to pull off unlikely feats (ice skating in "The Freshman," buttering up Maria Schneider in "Last Tango in Paris," playing a transvestite Western bounty hunter in "The Missouri Breaks") with surprising grace. But could he croon alongside Frank Sinatra? Uh... not really. His "Luck Be a Lady" has all the full-throated swagger of Vito Corleone in his hospital bed.
Burt Reynolds and Charles Durning in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1982)
Dolly Parton did most of the heavy lifting here, while Reynolds' charm carried what his modest voice could not. The real surprise, however, was veteran character actor Durning, who not only delivered a stunning show-stopper but showed off a stellar soft-shoe shuffle as well. No wonder he earned an Oscar nomination.
Sylvester Stallone in "Rhinestone" (1984)
Parton did the heavy lifting here, too, as a country maven who tries to makeover Noo Yawk lug Stallone into a Nashville warbler. Guess she stopped too soon, as the results sound less like Faron Young than "Young Frankenstein"'s Peter Boyle blurting out "Puttin' on the Ritz." Listen at your own risk.
Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)
Hepburn's rendition of "Moon River" is thin but plaintive, which is apt for her country-gal-adrift-in-the-big-city character. Still, it's no wonder that, three years later, her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon in "My Fair Lady."
Robert Duvall in "Tender Mercies" (1983)
Duvall's Oscar-winning performance as a hard-luck country crooner is pitch perfect -- except for his singing, which is a little pitchy. Still, his cracked, high-lonesome warble fits the character like a comfortable old pair of broken-in boots.
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart" (2009)
Emulating Duvall, Bridges won an Oscar for playing a similarly down-and-out country singer, but with a lot more vocal polish. It's easy to imagine Bridges actually taking his act on the road -- especially if Oscar-winning composers T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham are penning his tunes.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Giamatti, and Maria Bello in "Duets" (2000)
Giamatti and Bello are rough, as befits a movie about karaoke, but Paltrow (crooning alongside pro Huey Lewis) surprised by proving she really can belt. So viewers were less stunned a decade later when Mrs. Coldplay proved her twangy bona fides by going the Duvall/Bridges route in "Country Strong."
Ronee Blakley, Henry Gibson, Karen Black, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles, and Keith Carradine in "Nashville" (1975)
How deeply did Robert Altman's cast get into their Music City characters? So deeply that they not only sang their own tunes, but composed them as well. The standouts were Blakley, with her heartbreaking onstage meltdown, and Carradine, who won an Oscar for penning his seductive ballad "I'm Easy."
Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line" (2005)
Witherspoon got the Oscar glory for learning not just how to sing, but how to sing like June Carter Cash. But Phoenix deserves credit, too for his reasonable approximation of Johnny Cash's earthy rumble. Their vocal chemistry together is a reminder that the country patriarch and matriarch were once a young duet pair that was combustibly dangerous and sexy.
Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Georgia" (1995)
Leigh's singing is memorably awful in her role as failed rocker Sadie, trying to glom onto the spotlight of her more successful sister, folkie Georgia (dulcet-toned Mare Winningham). Granted, she's supposed to sound needy, overzealous, and desperate. But do we have to listen to her flog Van Morrison's "Take Me Back" into hamburger for eight interminable minutes?
Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation" (2003)
Viewers might have expected Murray to fall back on the vocal stylings of his goofy "Saturday Night Live" lounge lizard character for his karaoke number here. Instead, his muted, subtle rendition of Roxy Music's "More Than This" becomes the emotional heart of the film.