12/22/1986 at 01:00 AM EST
"People love to watch him...Men want to be like him, and women want to be with him...He's like Three Mile Island inside, just ready to blow...I think he's going to be a heterosexual Montgomery Clift." That's what movie biggies are saying about Tom Cruise
, 24, a fave rave of the teen scene (remember him in Risky Business?) who has suddenly grown up to be the box-office champion of 1986. In Top Gun, the year's biggest money-maker ($170 million so far), he dominated the screen as a cock-o'-the-cockpit jet jock. But the dreamboat with the Kewpie smile also proved he could cut the mustard with an old pro. In The Color of Money he wound up even-steven in a memorable acting match with Paul Newman—who sees him as "the prince" who will inherit his crown. "I feel good to be alive," says Cruise. "Yeah, I do. I've been lucky." He has also been ferociously determined—he researches roles exhaustively "to keep my characters fresh." But he likes to play too: He has been linked with beauties from Rebecca De Mornay to Cher, and nowadays with actress Mimi Rogers, 31, formerly Tom Selleck's date. You'd never guess the boy once spent a year in a Franciscan seminary.