Reporter: Peter Overton
Producer: Lincoln Howes, Sandra Cleary
As a reporter, you dream of filing a story that will grab the world’s attention.
Well, Peter Overton certainly achieved that when he interviewed Tom Cruise back in 2005.
Peter’s encounter with Hollywood's biggest star created international headlines. Unfortunately, what got people talking was Tom's reaction to what Peter thought were perfectly reasonable questions about ex-wife Nicole Kidman.
Peter’s experience goes to show how quickly the coolest guy in movies can turn to ice.
PETER OVERTON: There's a saying in Hollywood name three actors who can guarantee you a box office smash. Answer: Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise. For half his life, he's been the biggest movie star in the world. His films, even the bad ones, routinely rake in more than $250 million. In a business where the bottom line is the only line, Cruise is king.
TOM CRUISE: I feel … I feel privileged. That's how I feel. I feel I live a privileged life.
PETER OVERTON: At 42, he's one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, in control of everything and everyone he encounters.
TOM CRUISE: How are you? Hey. How you been?
PETER OVERTON: Nice to see you.
TOM CRUISE: Good to see you.
PETER OVERTON: Long time.
TOM CRUISE: I know.
PETER OVERTON: Take a seat.
But today, that famous Cruise control will be tested.
TOM CRUISE: You're stepping over a line now.
PETER OVERTON: Okay.
TOM CRUISE: You're stepping over a line, you know you are. I'm just telling you right now put your manners back in.
PETER OVERTON: Tom Cruise is used to getting what he wants. He was still a child when he first set his sights on Hollywood.
TOM CRUISE: I wanted to be an actor when I was about four years old. Yeah, four years old was the first time I thought of being an actor. I was living in St Louis. That was the first time I thought about being an actor. It just evolved. I wasn't necessarily thinking of this, I didn't plan this out. This just happened.
PETER OVERTON: This boy from a broken home set himself a deadline to achieve success and he didn't have to wait too long. In 1981, in his first film, Taps, the director was so impressed with the young Cruise, he gave him someone else's part. He never looked back. In more than 30 films, he's given us some of the most iconic movie moments of the past two decades. But off screen, Cruise has devoted much of his power, influence and substantial wealth to the Church of Scientology. It's a controversial religious philosophy based on the teachings of L Ron Hubbard. Scientologists believe we are spiritual beings in control of our own destiny and that therapies like psychiatry wrongly label individuals. The message struck a chord with the young Cruise at a time when he was struggling with dyslexia.
TOM CRUISE: I had absolutely what they defined as learning disabilities, dyslexia.
PETER OVERTON: That is what you were diagnosed that you had?
TOM CRUISE: Sure, absolutely. That's what they do. "You've got ADD, ADHD." You go, "What is the solution to that?" "Well, there isn't a solution." And today it's take drugs. They actually wanted to put me on drugs. My mother wouldn't let them, back then. And then a friend of mine gave me this picture book about suppression and social and antisocial personalities and I was like, "What is this?" He said, "Scientology." I said, "Oh, I'm very interested." That's when I became a Scientologist, about 20 years ago.
PETER OVERTON: It's obviously had a massive impact on you.
TOM CRUISE: Significant. You look at, you know, as a father, as an actor, as a businessman, I mean, every level. It's something, these tools that I apply absolutely every day.
PETER OVERTON: I've done my fair share of celebrity interviews and often you'll be asked to meet certain requirements, like watch the movie that the star is promoting. But this is something new Tom Cruise's office has asked me to come to the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles to embark on a four-hour crash course in Scientology and what it's all about. Why, then, was it a condition of me talking to you today that I had to spend quite an intense four-and-a-half hours in the Church of Scientology here in Los Angeles?
TOM CRUISE: You didn't have to. You could have said no.
PETER OVERTON: I felt I had to.
TOM CRUISE: Okay. Well that's how you felt. People are interested in Scientology and I find that people wanted to know. They want to know about it. It's also... There's people out there that want help and that need help.
PETER OVERTON: Would you also agree there's a perception out there that it gets bad press cult-like secrecy, controlling and you almost have to defend it?
TOM CRUISE: You know, I don't feel... Ignorance breeds bigotry, breeds racism, okay? You have been there and you've seen it for yourself. Okay?
PETER OVERTON: Do you feel discriminated against when people say this is what Scientology is, that you're a bunch of lunatic fringe or whatever?
TOM CRUISE: Peter?
PETER OVERTON: Tom?
TOM CRUISE: No-one's ever said that to me.
PETER OVERTON: No, I mean that perception out there.
TOM CRUISE: But that's not the perception out there. That is absolutely maybe from your perspective.
PETER OVERTON: This isn't my personal opinion, I'm just saying, how do you feel about that when people...
TOM CRUISE: Well, how would you feel?
PETER OVERTON: If it was my faith, I'd feel really...
TOM CRUISE: Not even your own faith I find that appalling when people who don't know what they're talking about say things like that. I think it's ... I think it's appalling. I think it's appalling that they're still burning synagogues in France. I think it's appalling how certain Muslims are being treated. I think it's absolutely appalling when we talk about freedom of speech and human rights. I think it's appalling that they electric shock people. I think it's appalling that they drug children. I think it's appalling that they say that there are no solutions for those things. I think it's appalling that people have to live a life of drug addiction when I have personally personally helped people get off drugs.
PETER OVERTON: It's obvious Tom Cruise is a passionate man especially passionate when it comes to his own family. He's determined his adopted kids Isabella and Connor will have as normal an upbringing as possible.
Your family life was difficult. You were estranged from your father and your mum and dad were divorced. Has that had an impact on you as a dad, how you bring up your children?
TOM CRUISE: Do you have children?
PETER OVERTON: I'm hoping to. I hope I can.
TOM CRUISE: Good. Good. Uh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I've got a great mother and a very close family. And it's something that ... I always wanted to be a father and I think that one of the great things that we've done with our children is allowing them to be themselves.
PETER OVERTON: Is that hard, to give them a perspective that they are like the kids down the road even though their parents are who you are?
TOM CRUISE: Here's a point everybody's different, Peter. I don't buy into this whole thing of being 'normal'. There's no such thing as normal. When you look at someone's life and you look into their life, everyone has a story. Everyone has something that is going on that is very unique to them. So that, with regards to our children, it's, you know, I think they feel very fortunate for the life they have and they're really good people. I'm really proud of them.
PETER OVERTON: Of course, the Cruise children are Australian citizens and spend much of their time here with their mother, Nicole Kidman. But it was when our conversation turned to Nicole that the cool man of Hollywood turned icy.
TOM CRUISE: Mm-hmm.
PETER OVERTON: When you were married, it was like you were an adopted part of Australia. Do you still have a connection to Australia?
TOM CRUISE: Yeah. My children are Australian. Absolutely. Absolutely. I have a lot of friends in Australia. I love Australia.
PETER OVERTON: Was Nicole the love of your life?
TOM CRUISE: What do you mean, Peter?
PETER OVERTON: You were married for 10 years.
TOM CRUISE: Listen, we raised children, I ... you know ... I mean, how do you answer that question? She's someone that I ... I plan on getting married again.
PETER OVERTON: You do?
TOM CRUISE: Absolutely, yeah.
PETER OVERTON: And having kids?
TOM CRUISE: Absolutely.
PETER OVERTON: But Nicole was a major part of your life and a love of your life at the time?
TOM CRUISE: I loved Nic very much, there's no question.
PETER OVERTON: Would you like Nicole to remarry?
TOM CRUISE: Yes. I want Nicole to be happy. That's what I want.
PETER OVERTON: And do you have a relationship where you talk a parenting relationship and talk professionally about each other's...
TOM CRUISE: Listen, here's the thing, Peter. You're stepping over a line now. You're stepping over a line, you know you are.
PETER OVERTON: I suppose they're questions that people want to know.
TOM CRUISE: Peter, you want to know. Take responsibility for what you want to know. Don't say what other people… This is a conversation that I'm having with you right now. So I'm just telling you right now, okay, just put your manners back in.
PETER OVERTON: Do you think I was out of line?
TOM CRUISE: Yes, absolutely.
PETER OVERTON: Well, I apologise for that sincerely.
TOM CRUISE: Good, good.
PETER OVERTON: Yet seldom a week goes by where Tom Cruise's private life isn't very publicly displayed. In this recent appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he openly and some have said over-enthusiastically declared his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes. Do you believe in your role that there is a place where the world does want to know about your personal life and there is a line that you have to draw?
TOM CRUISE: Absolutely. I mean, I know people are interested. I don't have a problem with that and I also don't have a problem to say, "Hey, listen, where I am with Nic is in a great place." I don't mind answering questions, but there's a way of phrasing something that's polite and has manners. And things that I say, you know what, I wouldn't answer that to someone coming up to me at a party. Of course I know people want to know about my life.
PETER OVERTON: But when I read so much about you, Tom, these are questions you answer.
TOM CRUISE: Peter, you want to waste your time on this right now or do you want to ask some other question?
PETER OVERTON: Twenty years time, where will Tom Cruise be?
TOM CRUISE: You want to move on? Come on Peter, let's go, man.
PETER OVERTON: And so we did, to Cruise's new movie, War of the Worlds a $200 million remake of the HG Wells classic. Teaming up with the most bankable director in the world, Steven Spielberg, Cruise plays a father trying to save his family amid an alien invasion.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: I love him as an actor and he's a very under-appreciated natural actor. I mean, he plays, you know, bigger-than-life hero characters in many of his films, but he's never played a dad. And he's a great father. And I know him more as a father than in a professional work experience. I've known him since '83 and I knew Tom when he first adopted his first two kids and so I really felt that this part suited Tom to a t.
PETER OVERTON: Who's the star in this? Is it the aliens, the Martians or Tom Cruise?
TOM CRUISE: I don't know. I never kind of look at it like that. It's a story it's a story about this family. The aliens are spectacular, the tripods are spectacular, secrets are spectacular. But at the bottom of any story, if you don't have those characters that you want to follow as an audience that's really what I invest in when I'm seeing a movie.
PETER OVERTON: It's been an extraordinary life so far. Cruise's wealth is estimated at $450 million and his 10 percent take from War of the Worlds could add another $100 million. But he insists it's not the fortune, nor fame, that drives him.
TOM CRUISE: I wanted an adventurous life my whole life. I want to know people, I want to understand what life is about, Peter. And I really ... I want to help people. It's not something that I just say. It's something that I actively pursue. And that's how I feel. I feel privileged, truly.
PETER OVERTON: Tom, thank you.
TOM CRUISE: Peter, thanks.
PETER OVERTON: What I call an interesting interview.
TOM CRUISE: Thanks pal. It was terrific. Thank you. Thank you.
PETER OVERTON: It was terrific?
TOM CRUISE: It was terrific.
PETER OVERTON: Even after you told me to learn some manners?
TOM CRUISE: That's alright. You stepped out of line, I whacked you, we got on with it.
PETER OVERTON: Good on you.
TOM CRUISE: Thanks mate.