Biography

Tom Cruise is:
1) An adherent of Scientology.
2) The fanatically devoted husband of actress Katie Holmes.
3) One of the most bankable movie stars of his generation.

Tom Cruise -- public domain photo from .gov
Politically active actor with Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay

The answer? 4) All of the above.

Despite a run of bad publicity in 2005 and 2006, much of it self-inflicted, Tom Cruise remains one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures.

Cruise was born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV in Syracuse, New York. His parents divorced early in his childhood, and he and his family moved 15 times before he turned 18. Cruise started performing in plays during high school; shortly after graduating from New Jersey’s Glen Ridge High School in 1980, he began pursuing acting jobs.

Cruise’s screen debut came in 1991, with a small part in the Brooke Shields vehicle Endless Love. Bigger roles followed in Taps, as a cadet captain involved in his school’s rebellion, and The Outsiders, as one of a band of troubled teens, but it was his Ray Ban-wearing, lip-synching turn in Risky Business that put Cruise on the map. A couple of films later, he nabbed the lead in 1986’s Top Gun, which rocketed straight to box office heights.

A mix of crowd-pleasing thrillers and more serious fare followed. Cruise got good notices for his work opposite Paul Newman in The Color of Money, but was criticized for playing another hotshot in Cocktail (earning a Razzie nomination). His well-received part in Rain Man, however, proved he could do a stellar job with the right material. In 1989, Cruise received the first of his three Academy Award nominations for playing a Vietnam War veteran in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July.

Cruise continued mixing serious fare with popcorn flicks during the 1990s. He scored two more Academy Award nominations for his sports agent in Jerry Maguire and self-help guru in Magnolia, and received good notices for A Few Good Men. But he also starred in the widely-panned Interview with a Vampire and Stanley Kubrick’s final and highly controversial film Eyes Wide Shut (co-starring then-wife, Nicole Kidman). No matter what his box-office numbers, though, Cruise himself fared extremely well, becoming one of the first actors to earn $20 million per film. He also kicked off a lucrative film franchise in 1996, producing and starring in Mission: Impossible.

The 2000s so far have brought bigger movies and bigger paychecks, if not always bigger grosses. Cruise also hit a rough patch in his personal life. In 2001, his marriage to Kidman was dissolved; he subsequently dated Vanilla Sky co-star Penelope Cruz and Katie Holmes. His relationship and eventual marriage to the latter provided plenty of tabloid fodder, especially after Cruise’s infamous couch-jumping incident on Oprah. Cruise’s image also took a hit after he criticized Brooke Shields for using an antidepressant when she was suffering from postpartum depression; this directly led to another disastrous PR incident, an on-air argument with Today’s Matt Lauer.

Despite the success of Mission: Impossible III, Paramount Pictures announced in August 2006 that it was discontinuing its 14-year relationship with the production company co-owned by Cruise and Paula Wagner. Studio head Sumner Redstone cited Cruise’s public behavior, and the economic damage it caused, as the reason for the decision. Three months later, Cruise and Wagner announced that they would revive United Artists, first incorporated in 1919 by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. Helping bankroll the venture is Dan Snyder, owner of football’s Washington Redskins.

Cruise will produce and star in movies for the present-day UA, currently a subsidiary of MGM.

–A. Wu

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