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Help me, help you



Автор: Holly Millea

Tom Cruise sits splay-legged in an overstuffed chair smiling at the ceiling, rubbing his chin: "God, the last movie I saw on a date?" he says, repeating the question. He smiles harder. "Casablanca!" Then he sets off that artillery-fire laugh of his. What’s so funny? "I’m remembering the date," he says, catching his breath. "It was a great date. Fun date. Really fun. Adventurous." Now we’re getting somewhere. If the movie was Casablanca, the date must have been at his house. "No, it wasn’t," Cruise says, shaking his head. "No more! No more! I was a good sport. I won’t tell you where I watched it . . ." Then it must have been . . . his plane. He put the plane on autopilot. "You’re bad!" the actor says, suddenly springing like a jack-in-the-box from his chair onto mine, bouncing my shoulders against the cushy back. He retreats, grinning. "I didn’t put it on autopilot." Sitting back down, he swears, "I’m not saying another word."

Three days later Tom Cruise flies to Rome and broadcasts his romance with actress Katie Holmes to the universe, issuing a formal dating announcement, lip-locking for photographers, and granting audiences to Extra and Access Hollywood. The response is a collective caterwaul of disbelief from media and fans alike—speculation that since both stars are opening big summer movies (Holmes in Batman Begins and Cruise in War of the Worlds), this was just about boosting their box office.

Tom Cruise sits splay-legged in an overstuffed chair smiling at the ceiling, rubbing his chin: "God, the last movie I saw on a date?" he says, repeating the question. He smiles harder. "Casablanca!" Then he sets off that artillery-fire laugh of his. What’s so funny? "I’m remembering the date," he says, catching his breath. "It was a great date. Fun date. Really fun. Adventurous." Now we’re getting somewhere. If the movie was Casablanca, the date must have been at his house. "No, it wasn’t," Cruise says, shaking his head. "No more! No more! I was a good sport. I won’t tell you where I watched it . . ." Then it must have been . . . his plane. He put the plane on autopilot. "You’re bad!" the actor says, suddenly springing like a jack-in-the-box from his chair onto mine, bouncing my shoulders against the cushy back. He retreats, grinning. "I didn’t put it on autopilot." Sitting back down, he swears, "I’m not saying another word."

Three days later Tom Cruise flies to Rome and broadcasts his romance with actress Katie Holmes to the universe, issuing a formal dating announcement, lip-locking for photographers, and granting audiences to Extra and Access Hollywood. The response is a collective caterwaul of disbelief from media and fans alike—speculation that since both stars are opening big summer movies (Holmes in Batman Begins and Cruise in War of the Worlds), this was just about boosting their box office.

It brings to mind the famous line from Jerry Maguire, "Help me, help you." A line Cruise actually ad-libbed. And when you spend a little time in the star’s ever more Scientology-centered orbit, you begin to realize that maybe he wasn’t just improvising. Maybe he was setting forth his mission statement.

"I’ll have you know you are christening the back of this bike," Cruise says, picking me up on his new Honda Valkyrie Rune. Decal’d with War of the Worlds creeping red alien vines, the motorcycle was a wrap gift from Steven Spielberg, who in turn received a black 1966 Shelby GT in mint condition. Before arriving, Cruise unexpectedly and thoughtfully sent an assistant to the hotel with a choice of helmets, jackets, gloves, and boots. But even without the gear, the overriding feeling in the company of Cruise is one of safety. Physically he is solid. Emotionally he is clear. Intellectually he is certain. Universally he is known. He so projects the warmth and enthusiasm of a long-lost high-school friend you begin to wonder why you haven’t kept in touch over the years.

A sanitation truck blocks the back-alley entrance to the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project (H.E.L.P.). Cruise leaves his bike in the middle of the alley and walks around the truck, where he’s instantly recognized by the garbagemen, who offer to move. "No, please, you guys are doing a job," Cruise says, passing around presidential handshakes. "I appreciate that."

H.E.L.P. is a learning center based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Technology, which Cruise credits with curing his dyslexia. After a tour of the place, we go upstairs to a nondescript room and sit around a coffee table filled with platters of nuts and cookies and raw vegetables. Cruise takes off his tan leather jacket, revealing a T-shirt that’s the same deep-green color as his eyes. In jeans, with his short helmet-mussed hair, he looks a good 10 years younger than 42. He cracks open a bottle of water and grabs a handful of cashews. It’s easy to see the five-foot-seven, squarely built Cruise as Ray Ferrier, the blue-collar deadbeat dad he plays in War of the Worlds, Spielberg’s $135 million take on H.G. Wells’ classic science-fiction novel.

"Ray is more of a child than his children," Cruise says. "His back story is kind of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’—first love, got married, had children, ended up getting divorced. And parents, if they tend to not do well with children, they love them, but they just step back."

The family dynamic is familiar to Cruise, whose parents divorced when he was 12, leaving him the man of the house with three sisters and a mother who worked three, sometimes four jobs at a time. Cruise didn’t see his father, an electrical engineer, for about 10 years. "Emotionally, he was having a tough time in life," Cruise recalls. "But I also know that in his own way, he was trying to help. He just was incapable of doing it. And, you know, some people hurt when they help, and when that happens, they feel bad and withdraw."

In 1983, newly famous thanks to Risky Business and All the Right Moves, Cruise received a call from his grandmother, who told him his father was dying. "So I went and saw him," Cruise says quietly. "It was very powerful, because the last time I saw him I was a boy, and now I’m a young man. I felt bad for him." He sighs a heavy sigh. "You know, it happened. Whatever. I’m gonna live my life and be the person that I want to be. And do the right thing. That’s what I felt—I want to do the right thing."

That weighted relationship is in sharp contrast to the one he has with his mother, a devout Catholic who became a Scientologist two years ago. Even during the most trying times she never wavered in seeing the world sunny-side up.

"We called her Merry Mary Lee because she just laughed, a big beautiful southern laugh," remembers Cruise. "If I got lost or separated from her, I would just wait in the mall, wherever we were, and I’d just close my eyes and wait for her to laugh." He closes his eyes, hearing her now. "It was so loud and distinct that I would go to that laugh. Where is she, where is she, where is she?"

"We instinctively revere the great artist, painter or musician, and society as a whole looks upon them as not quite ordinary beings. And they are not. They are a cut above man. . . . He who can truly communicate to others is a higher being who builds new worlds."
—L. Ron Hubbard

Increasingly, Cruise is as eager to spread the word on his religion as he is to promote his movie projects. For all his proselytizing, it’s getting harder to distinguish the Superstar from the Scientologist. So when, in anticipation of an interview, the actor extends an invitation through his publicist (and sister), Lee Anne De Vette, to take a Scientology tour, it is an intriguing and curious enticement. Would Mel Gibson’s publicist take you through the Vatican? Would Madonna invite you to a bris?

"There’s so much interest," Cruise explains when asked why he invites not only journalists but also studio executives and co-stars to go on tours. "People want to know—how did I do what I’ve done? I don’t believe in hiding things. A lot of people want to hide things and not let people know the truth because they feel that there’s a kind of control or power in that. See, I believe the opposite. If I’ve done something and it’s helped me I’ll turn to anyone and say, ‘Look, I’ve gone this way.’"

The crash course spans six hours and three facilities and includes lectures and exhibits on the evils of psychiatry, drug abuse, and illiteracy ("crimes against humanity," Cruise calls them); a swing through the church’s Celebrity Centre International; and "a gift from Tom"—a pricey black nylon computer bag with a card embossed with TOM CRUISE on one side and your name on the other. Inside are various Scientology materials and DVDs, including This is Scientology and How to Use Dianetics, plus a bright-orange pamphlet titled The Way to Happiness, whose cover features in large letters the sentiment YOUR HAPPINESS MEANS THE WORLD TO ME, with Cruise’s name printed beneath it. There’s also a wrapped and ribboned box containing a plasticized Code of Honor—Scientology’s equivalent of the Ten Commandments, only they have 15. It is the same plaque Cruise sent to industry executives for the holidays. Among the precepts:
3. Never desert a group to which you owe your support.
5. Never need praise, approval or sympathy.
6. Never compromise with your own reality.
8. Do not give or receive communication unless you yourself desire it.
12. Never fear to hurt another in a just cause.
13. Don’t desire to be liked or admired.

Cruise’s amped-up openness about his beliefs and willingness to spread Hubbard-brand happiness were very much in evidence during the filming of War of the Worlds, where he pitched a Scientology tent staffed by "volunteer ministers"—well-groomed men in suits offering "assists" to anyone on the cast and crew. Justin Chatwin, who plays Cruise’s son in the movie, jokingly called them Men in Black, but was not above exploring what they had to offer.

"They said, ‘Do you want an assist?’" says Chatwin. "And I was like, ‘What’s an assist?’ And they said, ‘It’s kind of like a back massage.’ So I said, ‘Of course, I’ll take an assist! Can this be a 45-minute assist?’ So I lay down on the table and they assisted me. It’s really relaxing."

Cruise says there’s nothing more to the tents than simple goodwill. "My crew work very, very long hours," he says. "I’ll do whatever I can to help them." Or anyone else, for that matter. "I’ve always looked at things in terms of, Is this improving, helping people, or is it not helping people?" says Cruise. "And is it helping me, or not helping me? Is this helping the world?"

"The last time I saw Tom I was talking to him about some things," recalls his close friend and Collateral co-star Jada Pinkett Smith, who now home-schools her kids with Hubbard’s Study Technology. "Just the difficulty in helping people be better. How people will resist that. And he’s like, ‘Hell, no! You don’t ask permission to help somebody! No, no, no, no . . . That’s not how you go about that.’ I thought that was interesting."

Sydney Pollack, who co-starred with Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut and directed him in The Firm, sees Cruise’s strong embrace of Scientology as part of a personality that takes no half-measures. "He’s dead serious about what he gets into," Pollack says. "During Eyes Wide Shut, he didn’t know how to cook anything, so he would sit there and videotape everything I did and write it all down and practice them. And now he can cook every single one of those dishes. I’m quite sure there’s something in Scientology that works in a positive way for him—that he finds a sense of validity or encouragement or motivation—or he wouldn’t be doing it."

"Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism—whatever gets you through the night," says director Harold Becker, who gave Cruise his big break in Taps. "People look in from the outside at someone like Tom Cruise and they say, ‘How wonderful to be blessed that way, with everything.’ But nobody ever knows what torments anyone has to go through."

Cruise calls from 30,000 feet up in the air, somewhere over mid-America. He is on a private plane to Rome to accept a David di Donatello award—Italy’s Oscar—for lifetime achievement. It is two days after our meeting at H.E.L.P., and unbeknownst to me (and everyone else), he will shortly make a pit stop in New York to pick up Katie Holmes for their Roman holiday. On the phone, Cruise continues to try to explain his church and his beliefs, and it prompts an existential question—what does he think happens when someone dies? "They leave their body and go get another one," he says matter-of-factly. "I believe in reincarnation, absolutely. I believe that man is not his body. He’s a spiritual being. And he lives many lifetimes."

The cynics aren’t giving this new lifetime of Cruise’s, the one co-starring Katie Holmes, much of a chance. But Cruise, who was divorced from Mimi Rogers in 1990 and Nicole Kidman in 2001, and ended a long relationship with Penelope Cruz a year and a half ago, says he wouldn’t mind getting married again. "I’d like to have more kids," he says, referring to Isabella, 12, and Connor, 10. "But I’m not rushing into it. I like long-term relationships. Sex is great when you’re in a relationship with someone. I just don’t find it to be that interesting outside of that. It’s a little disconcerting."

Does he ever have that all-too-human reaction of getting jealous seeing his old flames photographed with someone new? "I don’t. I don’t!" Cruise says, laughing. "No, I don’t. But the relationship is in a different place. They can talk to me about boyfriends. I don’t make decisions lightly. When I’m with people, I really don’t stop caring about them. I really just want them to be happy."

He can’t help himself.

TOM BY DEFINITION
FATHER: "Emotionally, he [had] a tough time. He was trying to help. He was just incapable of doing it. Some people hurt when they help."

MOTHER: "If I got lost, separated from her, I’d close my eyes and wait for her to laugh. I would go to that laugh. Where is she, where is she?"

SELF-RELIANCE: "I don’t discuss things with anybody else. When I do something, I sit back and I think it out very carefully, and then I do it."

LIFE: "This world, it’s rough-and-tumble. It’s wild and ragged. And the point is, are you confronting life? Are you in present time?"

SUCCESS: "People want to know—how did I do what I’ve done? If I’ve done something and it’s helped me I’ll say, ‘Look, I’ve gone this way.’"

HEALTH: "Any drug you put in your system is a poison. It’s not a matter of morality. It’s a matter of scientific fact."

SALVATION: "I’ve always looked at things in terms of, Is this helping people, or is it not helping people? Is this helping the world?"

SEX: "Sex is great when you’re in a relationship with someone. I just don’t find it to be that interesting outside of that. It’s a little disconcerting."

WORK: "I always knew I could work, I can get a job. Some people think talking on the phone or reading is working. I don’t consider that work."

ART: "How Hollywood works, there’s profit in keeping an artist not knowing. It’s oppression. It’s suppression. It’s keeping them ignorant."

MIND: "When you really study psychiatry, it’s a pseudo-science. It’s not based on facts. You can interpret behavior a million different ways."

DEATH: "I believe in reincarnation, absolutely. I believe that man is not his body. He’s a spiritual being. And he lives many lifetimes."

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