It was, as expected, a bit of a lovefest as Tom Cruise greeted 1,500-plus Pittsburghers at the SouthSide Works Cinema Wednesday night.
In the ninth of nine auditoriums and with his teenage son, Connor, in the wings, a casually clad Mr. Cruise responded to whistles and applause with, "Hey, you all, how are you? How you doing?" to which more than a few yelled out, "We love you!"
He, in turn, flashed the famous smile that's kept under wraps in "Jack Reacher" and said, "I loved shooting here. I loved it. It was wonderful that everyone just was so warm and gracious with me and to be part of this community for that time period meant a lot to me, and I hope that you're proud of the way your city looks in the film.
"I'm very proud of the way it looks, I think it's stunning. I think it's a beautiful city, the people are amazing. I just really want to thank you all very much."
Wearing a checked shirt, tie and sweater with dark trousers, he closed his brief comments with the same sign-off as non-celebrities: He wished everyone a very, very merry Christmas.
By 8 p.m., an hour after the start of the event, Mr. Cruise slipped out a side door and theater employees who had pulled off a last-minute event with ease shared the news: "He has left the building."
Mr. Cruise was the closing act of what was a five-minute round of speeches by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and director-writer Christopher McQuarrie, who quipped of his star: "I'm proud to say he's my discovery, expecting great things from him."
Mr. McQuarrie thanked a long list of people, many by name, taking care to salute the crew. "It was a difficult shoot, it was a very long shoot, a very cold shoot and the schedule was very tight, and I've never seen people work harder or have a more positive attitude in the face of that sort of adversity."
He recalled reading a post online from someone who lived within sight of the 10th Street Bridge where a big slice of the movie's centerpiece car chase takes place.
"They said, 'You know, they've been shooting on that bridge for, like, a month. They must be having a lot of problems.' The truth of the matter is, we didn't have any -- everything that we asked for was given to us, every bridge, every tunnel, every street corner, every apartment building, every office building, people who let us into their homes."
Even the neighbors of houses doubling as locations were gracious.
"We had helicopters flying all over people's houses, about 20 feet over their rooftops. I got in trouble for that. ... Not to mention all of the traffic snarls we created, and the local reception we had here from beginning to end was absolutely extraordinary."
People both without and with silver "Jack Reacher" wristbands granting them admission to the theater were gathered several hours before the 7 p.m. event.
One was a bouncer dressed as Santa, another was an extra who hoped to slip Mr. Cruise her business card and another still was 11-year-old Chenoa Eirene, who loves Mr. Cruise's movies, especially the fourth "Mission: Impossible."
Initial plans, of course, had been for a splashy, fun-filled premiere at the theater on Saturday, complete with a red carpet. High-end prizes that would have been given away are now bound for various Pittsburgh charities.
The celebration was scrapped after Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and tents and barricades were packed up and carted away. The few fans who showed up, unaware of the change in plans, were sent away like wedding guests who don't realize the ceremony has been canceled.
On Wednesday night, the director said, "As you know, we left here on Friday because we didn't feel it was an appropriate time to be celebrating anything. But we were determined to come back here because we wanted to celebrate all of you and this city."
Local actor David Whalen, who is in the film for a few seconds, was about to see it for the first time.
"My day I was called onto the set at 5:30 and by the time we hit it, Chris McQuarrie was so quick and so gracious that we finished in probably less than an hour. Nicole Forester who plays my wife, Nancy Holt, I actually performed surgery on her when I was doing 'The Guiding Light.' "
Sophie Guest, a 7-year-old in the second grade at Avonworth Elementary School, plays a child in harm's way in the movie. Looking red-carpet ready in an Ooh! La, La! Couture dress from Nordstrom, she was accompanied by her parents, Steve and Amy, and a sister, Jenny, 15.
Her toughest task may have been putting in the earplugs she had to wear to keep her tender ears safe from the noise. Yes, she met Mr. Cruise during filming and he advised her: "Sophie, there's some doughnuts up there," referring to some homemade ones he had brought for the cast.
"We met with the director before we accepted the role and he explained how everything would be filmed," Mrs. Guest said, and he reassured Sophie's parents she would be shielded from the harsher elements of the story.
Sophie, the youngest of four children, and her parents had discussed the difference between pretend and real life. That came in handy when she was cast in a TV pilot, "Those Who Kill."
She plays the daughter of the lead pathologist and that party dress just might come in handy again.