movies

'I urgently need to talk about Tom Cruise's behaviour over a four week period in 2005.'

It's the single most uncomfortable celebrity encounter I have ever witnessed.

You see, when people think of 59-year-old actor Tom Cruise, a few vivid, haunting flashbacks come to mind. 

The 60 Minutes Australia interview where he got mad at journalist and national hero, Peter Overton

That time he had very strong opinions about Brooke Shields' postnatal depression and how she chose to treat it. 

The Oprah interview where he not only performed a weird couch jump TWICE that he had clearly rehearsed, but then went backstage and manhandled Katie Holmes onto the set, before kissing her passionately in a position that was far too close to the studio audience. 

But I have a theory. And it's absurdly important

Almost all our cringeworthy memories of Tom Cruise took place within a four week period in 2005. And I'm fairly certain I know why. But let's start at the beginning. 

***

"All new, and exclusive..." comes the soothing voice of Oprah Winfrey, catapulting me back to those hours spent watching daytime TV when I'd chucked a sickie from school. Her voice alone evokes the taste of a silly amount of Weetbix.  

"...Tom Cruise like I've never seen him."

Yes, well. That's putting it kindly.

A montage shows Cruise announcing to a screaming audience, "I'm in love," and jumping on Oprah's couch like an excited toddler who's learnt a new trick. 

And then we begin. The audience yells hysterically and honestly, I get it. All I wanted in 2005 was to sit in the studio audience of Oprah (or Dr Phil, or to a slightly lesser extent, Jerry Springer). Add to that the starpower of Tom Cruise and you have grown women crying

Cruise is wearing a black skivvy and black pants, a true drama student who needs to be prepared to participate in a theatre game at any point. 

He takes too long to sit down.

'I can't build rapport when you refuse to stop... moving.' Image: Harpo Studios. 

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And when he does, he gets back up again. And again. 

Poor Oprah is stuck in the uncomfortable position of trying to calm her studio audience and also deal with the man beside her, who suddenly grabs her hands and starts... shaking them. Mid-conversation. 

It's immediately obvious: oh. This man takes himself far too seriously. He talks about going to an event with Oprah and it being 'not great, but historic'.

The audience laughs. It wasn't a joke.

The conversation moves to Cruise's new relationship with Katie Holmes, and suddenly, the 42-year-old cannot speak. He can only fistpump. And do a Mark-Holden-style touchdown. 

I'm not saying Tom Cruise WASN'T inspired by a judge on Australian Idol.  

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Oprah asks very basic and not all that interesting questions about how they met, and Cruise won't stop... laughing. He won't share how they met, probably because one of his weird Scientology friends introduced them or some s**t. 

"I met her and she's... extraordinary," he says, before doing another touchdown. 

"I can't be cool... I can't be laid back," he says and no, Sir. You really cannot. 

At one point, his laughter gets so... annoying, that Oprah has to yell at him to "LISTEN TO ME, let's focus here." While Oprah is MID-SENTENCE, Cruise suddenly jumps in the air, landing upright on the couch.

'If you touch me with a rogue limb, I'll sue.' Image: Harpo Studios. 

Oprah simply repeats, "the boy is gone, the boy is gone," while Cruise continues to smile maniacally and give frustratingly vague answers. But then he pretty much tells Oprah he's going to marry Katie Holmes and idk should you chat to her about it first?

At this point, Cruise had been dating Holmes for a total of one month.

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He jumps on the couch again. He grabs Oprah's hands again. He mentions speaking about Katie to his friend 'Steven', who, yeah, is Steven Spielberg.

They talk about his new movie War of the Worlds, briefly, before Cruise runs very deep backstage to pull Katie Holmes in front of the studio audience. He. Cannot. Stop. Touching. Her. And kissing her hand. 

Then they pash. 

It's horrifying. 

And the scene is set for the weirdest press tour Hollywood has ever seen. 

***

Despite his behaviour, Cruise is somehow legally allowed to participate in more interviews.

This time, it's with someone whose profile couldn't be more similar to Oprah Winfrey's: Peter Overton from 60 Minutes Australia.

Listen to CANCELLED on Tom 'silent birth' Cruise. Post continues after audio.

In order to interview Cruise, Overton was required to attend a four-hour crash course in Scientology. Much of the interview involves Cruise singing the praises of his Church, and Overton asks: "Do you feel discriminated against when people say 'this is what Scientology is.' That you're a bunch on the lunatic fringe?"

"Peter," Tom says. 

"Tom," Peter says. 

"No one's ever said that to me," Tom replies. 

Okay. I don't want to be rude but I feel like that's a... lie. Also. I think maybe Peter is a little bit saying that to you. 

'Because I don't believe you.' Image: Channel 9.  He's. Too. Serious. About everything. 

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The conversation then turns to Nicole Kidman. Overton asks if Nicole was the love of Cruise's life, and he's mad. Because he wants to talk about Katie. Didn't you see him on Oprah.

Overton asks if he wants Nicole to remarry, and then asks whether they have a relationship where they talk professionally about each other's work.

Tom. Doesn't. Like. It. 

"Listen, here's the thing Peter," Tom says. "You're stepping over the line, you know you are."

But Overton is a seasoned journalist and knows it's his job, nay, his obligation, to get Australia the gossip. "I suppose it's a question that people want to know..." he says, but Cruise is already repeating, "Peter, Peter," over the top of him. 

"You want to know. Take responsibility for what you want to know. Don't say what other people... this is a conversation I'm having with you right now. So I'm just telling you right now, put your manners back in."

"Do you think I was out of line?" Overton asks.

"Yes, absolutely," Cruise responds.

'And for that, I am deeply proud.' Image: Channel 9.  "Well I apologise for that sincerely," Overton assures him and you Sir deserve an Order of Australia for the last 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds alone. 

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Later, the conversation turns to the extent to which the public is interested in Cruise's personal life. 

"Listen, where I am with Nic is in a great place. I don't mind answering questions but there's a way of phrasing that's polite and has manners," Cruise says. 

"But when I read so much about you Tom, these are questions you answer..." Overton argues (his dedication to his craft is second to none). 

"Peter, do you want to waste your time on this right now, or do you want to ask some other questions?" Cruise responds and okay he obviously wants to push this because it's really very good television? 

Watch Tom Cruise's uncomfortable exchange with Peter Overton. Post continues after video.


Video via Channel 9.

The entire thing is excrutiating. And it's a sign of what's to come. 

***

Just over a week later, Cruise attends the War of the Worlds premiere in London. 

He's being interviewed by a red carpet reporter when he's suddenly squirted in the face with a water pistol disguised as a microphone. 

He. Doesn't. Like. It. 

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Cruise was trying to talk about his very important movie where he has the very important task of saving the world from the brink of collapse. Why would you pull a prank? It's not like red carpets exist solely for entertainment purposes?

At first, Cruise appears to laugh. But then he... turns. 

"Now why would you do that?" he asks the reporter. 

Errrr because in 2005 everyone was pranking each other? Punk'D was at its peak and every awards show seemed to involve someone getting slimed. 

???? Image: Channel 4. 

Cruise's people are nervous. The woman beside Cruise tells the reporter, "it's not very funny," and the guy is clearly like: fml my boss told me to do this and I knew Tom Cruise wasn't the right... target.

The man tries to give an excuses, and Cruise says, "Do you like thinking less of people, is that it?"

As the reporter tries to walk away, Cruise reaches across the barrier and grabs his arm. "Don’t run away. That’s incredibly rude. I’m here giving you an interview and you do that... it’s incredibly rude."

Okay but obviously he wants to run away now because he's embarrassed and you're super mad.

Cruise is visibly irritated and tells the man, "You're a jerk." 

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I am not okay. This poor person thought he'd spray some harmless water in a celebrity's face and they'd laugh. Together. Instead, HE WAS ALMOST CHARGED WITH ASSAULT.

No but actually.

Four men involved with the prank were questioned by police. Can you imagine.

But Cruise's four weeks of trolling everyone wasn't over.

***

A few days later, Cruise took a break from filing a police report (??) about a prank involving water (??) and sat down with Matt Lauer on Today.

Weeks earlier, Cruise had told Access Hollywood he thought Brooke Shields was "irresponsible" for using antidepressants to treat postnatal depression. "When someone says (medication) has helped them, it is to cope, it didn't cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever," he said.

Shields told People the actor should "stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them," which is honestly very good advice.

So when Cruise appeared on Today, Lauer had some... questions. 

"I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever," Cruise says, with a hand on his hip. "Before I was a Scientologist I never believed in psychiatry, and then when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I started realising more and more why I didn't agree with psychiatry."

Okay. So I don't think psychiatry is something you can just choose to... not agree with. Or... believe in. It's like saying you don't agree with medicine. 

Wait. It's literally exactly like saying you don't agree with medicine. Which is kinda a big problem in 2021 but I disgress. 

'I didn't think so.' Image: NBC. 

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He goes on to tell Lauer, "you gotta understand, I really care about Brooke Shields. I think she is a wonderful and talented woman. And I want to see her do well".

...With postnatal depression? That she's not allowed to treat? Or?

"I know," he continues, "psychiatry, it's a pseudoscience." 

It's really not though.

Lauer asks if the fact it's helped Shields is "enough" for Cruise, to which the actor responds with references to "psychiatric abuses," and whether Lauer knows ritalin is being used as a street drug. When Lauer tries to talk, Cruise speaks over the top of him, repeating "No, Matt, Matt, Matt, I'm asking you a question."

It's. A. Ridiculous. Question.

"Here's the problem," Cruise continues. "You don't know the history of psychiatry, I do."

WHY. Why does he think he knows the history of psychiatry, and does he think he's going to disprove an entire branch of medicine on Today

"There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance," Cruise says, and SIR THERE IS ALSO NO SUCH THING AS A THETAN. BUT NO ONE'S YELLING AT YOU ABOUT YOUR BELIEFS.

Cruise explains that vitamins and exercise would cure Shields' postnatal depression and I'm done here. 

***

Four weeks. Four interviews. Each as bizarre as the next. What the hell was going on with Tom Cruise between the end of May 2005 and the end of June?

It was the press tour for War of the Worlds. And I believe deep in my soul that Cruise simply got confused.

He was starring in a science-fiction action film. It seems as though he maybe thought he was actually living in a science-fiction action film. And his job was to save the world.

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He definitely thought he was very, very important. That's why he was taking himself so seriously. 

Addressing people by their first names to get them in trouble is something you'd do if you were stressed about trying to protect us all from alien invaders. You might also jump on a couch. To distract the aliens. From their plans. 

It's genius, really.

In all seriousness, over a decade on, it's easy to forget that most of the moments that shape how we see Tom Cruise occurred over a very short period of time. It's no coincidence that they were during a press tour where he was trying to convince us to see a movie. Which we all did. 

By early July, War of the Worlds was number one at the Box Office in the US. It grossed over $600 million. 

Tom Cruise had a weird few weeks in 2005. But who got the last laugh?

Tom... pls. 

For more from Clare Stephens, including her v. important celebrity investigations, you can follow her on Instagram.

You can listen and subscribe to CANCELLED - Mamamia's podcast that tells the stories of celebrity cancellations - on Apple or  Spotify

Feature Image: Nine + Mamamia. 

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