WHY DO SO MANY ACTORS BECOME REAL-LIFE HEROES? THEY’VE BEEN PRACTISING

Kate Winslet once helped drag Richard Branson’s mother out of a burning house after it was hit by lightning during a hurricane. This year, Benedict Cumberbatch jumped out of a car and saved a deliveryman from being mugged in London.

A few years back I came across a newspaper article about actor Tom Cruise rescuing a woman who was being violently mugged.

That’s weird, I thought. Seems like a scene from a movie. A Tom Cruise movie.

But that’s what happened in real life on a street in Regent Park, London, in 1998. A woman, socialite Rita Simmonds, had parked her Porsche and was then viciously set upon by two men. She was wearing more than $100,000 worth of jewelry. As they literally ripped the diamonds from her fingers and ears, she screamed. Cruise happened to be down the street and reportedly leaped into action. The muggers took off when they heard Cruise and his bodyguard’s racing footsteps.

“Tom was brilliant,” the rescued Simmonds later told the media. “As soon as he heard the commotion, he rushed out.”

Cruise hasn’t just done this kind of thing once, but possibly as many as six times. He came to the aid of a young woman in a hit-and-run during a rainstorm in Santa Monica, Calif. He helped rescue a family from a burning boat in the south of France. He even tried to rescue then-wife Nicole Kidman during a hiking mishap by climbing a volcano.

I wouldn’t call myself a Tom Cruise fan, but it’s hard not to admire what seems to be an undeniable pattern of sometimes spontaneous heroic rescues — especially in the years since Cruise embarked on the action-based Mission: Impossible series.

But it’s not just Cruise.

Harrison Ford literally came to the flying rescue of a stricken hiker in Montana, with his own helicopter, in 2000. Last year, Ford jumped out of his car and helped pull a woman from a car wreck in Santa Paula, Calif. He rescued another stranded hiker, a 13-year-old boy scout, at Yellowstone National Park.

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