MOTW: The Life and Career of Tom Cruise

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The hit action drama starring Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a daring young flyer who's out to become the best of the best. Kelly McGillis sizzles as the civilian instructor who teaches Maverick a few things you can't learn in a classroom. Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards & Meg Ryan also star.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
November 7th, 2013

MOTW: The Life and Career of Tom Cruise

Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, the American actor most commonly known as Tom Cruise, was born in Syracuse, New York, on July 3, 1962. The son of an electrical engineer and special education teacher, Cruise is of Irish, German, and English heritage. Raised as a Catholic during his childhood, Cruise grew up in a poverty-stricken environment where he received constant beatings from his father. Cruise and his family lived in Ottawa, Canada, for a time, and it was there in fourth grade at Robert Hopkins Public School that he first showed an interest in acting. Cruise was also an avid sports player and was especially good at floor hockey. While he was in the sixth grade, his parents split up and his mother took Cruise and his sisters back to the United States.

While in Cincinnati, Cruise attended a Franciscan seminary on a church scholarship for a short time. He dreamed of becoming a Catholic priest, but this ambition did not last long. In high school, Cruise changed his mind and decided that a career in acting was for him after all. Straight out of high school, Cruise headed for New York, where he quickly found a bit part in the film "Endless Love." Later in 1981, Cruise landed a major supporting role in "Taps." The following few years involved several small-time roles for Cruise onscreen, but it wasn't until the release of "Top Gun" in 1986 that he really became a household name.

Following on from the success of "Top Gun," Cruise discovered in 1988 what Hollywood was really like; one of his next films, "Cocktail," bombed completely. Cruise won a Razzie Awards nomination for Worst Actor for his part in the film. However, Cruise bounced back almost straight away, earning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his portrayal of Ron Kovic in "Born on the Fourth of July." Cruise was also nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, and although he did not pick up the gong, he had reestablished himself as one of the great up-and-coming male actors in Hollywood.

While filming "Days of Thunder" in 1989, Cruise met Nicole Kidman, who would later become his second wife. Cruise had been married to actress Mimi Rogers previously, although the marriage broke up after only two years. However, Rogers introduced Cruise to Scientology during the relationship, and the religion would go on to play a large role in Cruise's life. In December of 1990, Cruise and Kidman married. They had their first child together two years later.

In 1994, Cruise showed that he could handle an unfamiliar role when he starred alongside Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas in the gothic horror film "Interview with the Vampire." Many critics were skeptical that Cruise could look natural enough in such a film, but he surprised many with his performance; some critics even formally apologized to him for doubting his talents.

The reboot of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise in 1996 gave Cruise's acting career a new lease of life. Being cast as superspy Ethan Hunt helped Cruise become the face of the franchise, one that would release several films over the following fifteen years and become a worldwide box-office success.

In February 2001, Cruise filed for divorce from Kidman and soon after appeared in "Vanilla Sky" with Penélope Cruz, who would become his partner for the next three years. During that time, Cruise starred in blockbuster films "The Last Samurai" and "War of the Worlds." During 2004, Cruise's relationship with Cruz came to an end, and there were rumors that the Church of Scientology set out to find Cruise a new girlfriend. This was later refuted by both Cruise and the Church in later years, although some within the religious group have confessed that such a search did take place.

In early 2005, Cruise began dating Katie Holmes. Not long after, Cruise appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where he proceeded to jump up and down on the couch while professing his love for Holmes. Later that year, Holmes gave birth to a daughter, Suri, and the following year, the two were married in Italy.

After a few lean years, Cruise returned to the spotlight big time in 2011 with "Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol." The film became Cruise's biggest commercial success to date, and it showed the world that Cruise's acting career still had some legs in it. In the summer of 2012, a big shock came: Holmes filed for divorce from Cruise. The terms of the settlement were not released, but both parties worked out agreeable terms.

During 2013, Cruise has appeared in two big hits: "Jack Reacher" and "Oblivion." So far throughout his career, Cruise has been nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor three times, but he is yet to win one. Now into his early fifties, time may be running out for Cruise to pick up that elusive prize. Whether he finally wins it or not, however, it cannot be denied that Tom Cruise will go down as one of the acting legends of the present time.