For his birthday, he’s getting a divorce, sprung on him by his younger, had-enough wife Katie Holmes, who is claiming sole custody of their six-year-old daughter, Suri.
The reasons for her filing divorce remain undisclosed, but it may have something to do with Cruise’s devotion to scientology. At a guess. Never mind (this is his third divorce, so he should be quite practised ) — but how did such an eternally boyish movie star become middle-aged? Why doesn’t he look it? In a shoot for American magazine W, to promote his latest film, Rock of Ages, Cruise is all fake tattoos, real abs, and a face that looks nearer 30. A British gossip rag attributed his youthfulness to facials made from nightingale poo. That chimes with how Cruise is perceived — a bit batshit.
The epitome of Hollywood hair, teeth and talent, Cruise is the ultimate homogenous movie star. That’s homogenous, not homosexual. He sues anyone who suggests he’s gay. Although he has been around forever, Cruise remains ageless Hollywood wallpaper, popping up in an endless stream of inoffensive mainstream movies (with occasional heroic exceptions, like Magnolia), a byword for actorly competence and efficiency. He’s your consummate pro.
“Does refuting things help?” he said in a US interview, of the rumours about him. “Not really. There comes a point when you just have to go, ‘You know what? Here’s how I’ve lived my life: I’ve never been late to a set. I make films I believe in. I feel privileged to be able to do what I love.’ You just have to keep going and remember that.’’
What’s fascinating is not his film career, but his life. Some day, the life of Tom Cruise will make a brilliant, oddball biopic, far more compelling than his own movies. Perhaps most interesting of all is his devotion to Scientology.
Cruise follows a belief system invented in 1954 by science fiction writer, L Ron Hubbard, which suggests that 75m years ago an intergalactic bad guy, called Xenu, deposited a group of aliens on the edge of a volcano on Earth, then nuked them. Their souls — ‘thetans’ — inhabited the souls of humans, causing physical and mental problems that can only be resolved by the Scientology practice of ‘auditing’. L Ron Hubbard, a tax evader, said that if you want to get rich, start a religion. So he did, and became very rich.
So did Cruise, from a career that began in 1983 with Risky Business. His appearance three years later in the jingoistic Top Gun propelled him to global stardom, and despite recent attempts to ambush himself, he has remained unshakeably A-list. This seems to be the key word with Cruise — ‘unshakeable’. Not from a pampered, nor even stable, background, he possesses an internal drive and conviction that has left him bulletproof. So, who is he? More to the point, what is he?
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV was born in New York state in 1962. He has three sisters. His mother left his abusive father when Tom was 12, dumping her husband’s surname on her way, and settled the family in Kentucky. During his early childhood, Cruise lived all over the US and attended 15 different schools; once they reached Louisville, his mother worked three jobs, and successfully raised her family alone. He was dyslexic, which further compounded his outsider status. After a scholarship year at a seminary, Cruise decided he did not want to pursue life as a clergyman, and instead launched himself as an athlete — but this trajectory was cut short by injury. So he got into drama.
In 1980, he turned up in New York, aged 18, and got a job waiting tables. His determination was fierce, nor was he in awe of moving to a new place — he’d been doing that all his life. And it turned out he was talented. Within a year, he’d landed a role in the Brooke Shields movie Endless Love. He has since made 40 or so films, including some good ones — The Color Of Money, Rainman, A Few Good Men, Magnolia — some incomprehensible ones — Eyes Wide Shut, Vanilla Sky — and lots and lots of forgettable ones — the Mission Impossibles, the Cocktails, the Jerry Maguires.
But you know all that. It was only when Cruise’s personal life began overshadowing his professional life that things became more interesting.
His first marriage, to actress Mimi Rogers, which came after a two-year, mid-1980s relationship with another actress, Rebecca De Mornay, lasted from 1987 to 1990. It was Rogers who introduced Cruise to Scientology.
In the same year, Cruise married an unknown Australian actress he’d met on the set of Days of Thunder. When they parted, 11 years later, Nicole Kidman was a household name, her fame supplanting his.
Their parting was acrimonious — she was three months pregnant, despite the couple never having had biological children together. The couple’s two children, Isabella and Conor, now aged 20 and 18, are both adopted. Their last film together, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, is all about sexual jealousy and obsession.
Kidman later miscarried. Cruise then got together with his Vanilla Sky co-star, Penelope Cruz, in 2001, in a relationship which lasted two years.
But it was 2005 when things began to get publicly screwy. This was the year he fired his publicist of 14 years, Pat Kingsley, one of Hollywood’s most respected PR agents, and replaced her with his Scientologist sister, Lee Anne DeVette. And then came his most serious error of judgement to date — with nobody to tell him not to, he launched a sustained personal attack on actress Brooke Shields in response to her claims that she had suffered from post-natal depression. There was no such thing as depression, he said. She should have taken some vitamins, not anti-depressants. When Shields expressed hurt surprise at his uninvited intervention, he ramped it up. Psychiatry, according to Scientology, was a “pseudo-science” that “kills”. He alienated half of America in a handful of sentences.
To counteract this massive blunder, and persistent rumours about his sexuality, Cruise then lost credibility entirely by jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s talkshow sofa. He was, he said, in love, with the woman who is now divorcing him.
This woman was the exceptionally beautiful but not enormously successful actress, Katie Holmes, 16 years his junior.
The sofa-jumping was odd behaviour for such a highly professional and controlled character, and much was speculated about the authenticity of the Holmes/Cruise relationship.
They met in Apr, 2005, he proposed in June; their crazy-in-love thing backfired, as rumours abounded that Holmes had been one of several women who had ‘auditioned’ for the role of Mrs Cruise in return for instant A-list status.
In light of this sudden divorce action, could this really have been the case?
The following year, Paramount fired Tom Cruise, essentially because they thought he was losing the plot. Happily, Cruise and Holmes had their new baby to promote, who was photographed by Annie Liebowitz for Vanity Fair magazine that September. People began to forget Cruise’s 65% disapproval rating, which he’d gained from ranting at Brooke Shields and banging on about Scientology. They got married, and Holmes vanished from Hollywood as Cruise kept working — until Holmes re-emerged this week waving divorce papers and demanding custody. Today, he and film executive Paula Wagner continue to run the United Artists studio. His career shows no sign of abating, anymore than his face shows any sign of ageing, even as his personal life collapses around him.
Could it really all be nightingale poo?