The past few weeks have been full of excitement for Tom Cruise. “Today” host Matt Lauer sat down with the actor and talked about his new love, his new movie, “War of the Worlds,” and the recent firestorm he caused when he commented on Brooke Shield’s use of therapy and drugs to cure her postpartum depression.
Matt Lauer: Anything at all interesting happening in your life these days?
Tom Cruise: Well, you know, same old, same old.
Lauer: Same old you know what?
More from TODAY.com
President Obama lights National Christmas Tree
Despite dreary weather, President Barack Obama and his family got into the Christmas spirit Friday at the annual National ...
- TODAY’s Takeaway: Remembering Mandela, Twitter’s future
- Duchess Kate recycles gown - with $36 costume jewelry
- TODAY producer: Mandela is why I'm a journalist
- Is Sriracha overrated? Andrew Zimmern, others talk hot sauce alternatives
- President Obama lights National Christmas Tree
Cruise: Same old you know what.
Lauer: How are you handling this? I mean every magazine, every newspaper, and every entertainment show. What's it like for you to be living through this right now?
Cruise: I have to tell you. It's just a great time in my life. I'm really happy. And, you know, I'm engaged. I'm going to be married. I can't restrain myself.
Lauer: It's like you've got two little cords on your mouth and you can't stop smiling. I was thinking about it. On the one hand, it's got to be a little hard to see yourself everywhere, splashed across the pages. Another aspect of this, though, is, how many actors 20-something years into a career can generate this kind of interest still?
Cruise: You know, I just do what I do. I love making movies. And I feel privileged to be able to do that, always. And it's something that — I'm just living my life, you know.
Lauer: We talk about life in a second. Let's talk about the movie, though. Okay, “War of the Worlds.” I mean, I've always been fascinated by this whole concept, the "we are not alone in a big way," concept. Do you remember your first exposure to it, to the story?
Cruise: I remember, I was a kid. And I heard about the Orson Wells radio play. It was my first exposure to this story.
Lauer: This is not just an alien movie. The story breaks down on a lot of different levels. And on one of the levels, your character is a father?
Lauer: Not the best father in the world.
Lauer: Tell me how that plays into this whole scenario.
Cruise: When we were working on this story three years ago, [director] Steven [Spielberg] and I came up with this idea of making it about a family. And so now, he is forced in these circumstances to rise to the occasion. Will he rise to the occasion? And I just think it's very human. I think the — you know, you're a father.
Cruise: I'm a father, you know. I always wanted to be a father. Remember when you first held your child? It's like wow, tremendous sense of responsibility.
Cruise: Yeah. And we talk about it. But not until you experience it can you really know it. We wanted to imbue the story with that journey.
Lauer: Is this a scary movie in the traditional sense of Hollywood scary?
Cruise: I think it's Spielbergian scary.
Lauer: Is that a word?
Cruise: It now is. I think, you know, I tease him. 'Cause I say, I know your movies better than you [do]. You know, I studied his edits so many times. I've studied his movies. And having worked with him, it's not analytical. He's just creating. And he has tremendous power because he understands the medium. And he's just that great, great, great storyteller. I think he's the greatest storyteller cinema has ever known.
Lauer: Let’s talk about selling this movie. You've just toured around the world, getting the story of “War of the Worlds” out there. And at the same time, you've got this great thing happening in your personal life that has become the subject of so many headlines and stories.
Lauer: Yeah. From what I've seen. You want to count? Three thousand, four hundred and four.
Cruise: Are you serious?
Lauer: No. Made that up. Is there any fear in your part that what happens personally overshadows the movie?
Cruise: Nah, it never does.
Lauer: Has it helped the movie?
Cruise: I don't know. You know what? It comes down to the movie. It always comes down to the movie.
Lauer: You are being so much more open. You've been on this show in the past at times where you were in other relationships. And I'd kind of broach the subject of a personal life. And you would very gingerly steer it away. That was how we came to know Tom Cruise. And now, you're saying, "You know what? I'm okay with it." So, it does seem like a different guy.
Cruise: Yeah. But they're still writing it. You got to understand. All that stuff, they'd still write it. They'd still talk about it. And the thing is, I still feel I will talk about what I feel, what I want to talk about.
Cruise: And I won't talk about what I don't want to talk about. And it just doesn't matter. It comes down to the movie, you know. And I also feel, Matt, I'm living my life. And I feel fortunate, you know. I feel really fortunate. And I'm excited.
Lauer: You just said something that made me think about something. And if you get out there and talk about it, it kind of takes away a lot of their power to make stuff up. Doesn't it? Because you're telling the real story. Where does it leave them to go?
Cruise: Yeah. But here's the point. I don't even get into that game. I'm just living my life, Matt. It's something that — I mean, I'm living my life. And I'm doing the best that I can, and doing it in a way that I feel is right. I like hearing good news, you know. I like hearing, you know, if something good happens to you, it's nice. I like sitting here talking to you.
Lauer: If you like hearing it, you must want to share it, too.
Lauer: So, when you hear the cynics, Mr. Cruise, and you've heard 'em, who say, "This is publicity for a movie, this relationship," or "This is Tom Cruise in his 40s trying to become or stay relevant for a younger audience, and that's why he's out there talking about this relationship with this lovely young lady,” who happens to be sitting right over there. How do you respond to that?
Cruise: You know what? There's always cynics. There always has been. There always will be.
Lauer: You laugh about it, or does it just bug you?
Cruise: No. I have never worried, Matt, about what other people think and what other people say.
Lauer: Katie, close your ears for a second, okay? You have said that Katie is the real thing. She is sensational, she is magnificent. Can you explain to me what she's brought to your life that hasn't been brought to your life in the past?
Cruise: I don't want to compare things. I just say—
Lauer: I know—
Cruise: No, no, no. Because, you know, it — but what it is, it's that thing where you just — in life, when it just happens, Matt. You know? It just — you meet someone. And it's — I can't even describe it.
Lauer: Katie has mentioned that she is embracing, or at least exposing herself and opening herself up to, Scientology. At this stage in your life, could you be with someone who doesn't have an interest?
Cruise: You know, Scientology is something that you don't understand. It's like, you could be a Christian and be a Scientologist, okay. Scientology is something—
Lauer: So, it doesn't replace religion.
Cruise: It is a religion. Because it's dealing with the spirit. You as a spiritual being. It gives you tools you can use to apply to your life.
We asked Cruise to explain his recent comments regarding Brooke Shields. Cruise created a firestorm when he criticized Shields for revealing that she went into therapy and took antidepressants to deal with her postpartum depression. Cruise has said that, as a Scientologist, he doesn't believe in psychiatric medicine.
Cruise: I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever. Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed with psychiatry. And when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in psychology.
And as far as the Brooke Shields thing, look, you got to understand, I really care about Brooke Shields. I think, here's a wonderful and talented woman. And I want to see her do well. And I know that psychiatry is a pseudo science.
Lauer: But Tom, if she said that this particular thing helped her feel better, whether it was the antidepressants or going to a counselor or psychiatrist, isn't that enough?
Cruise: Matt, you have to understand this. Here we are today, where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people, okay, against their will, of drugging children with them not knowing the effects of these drugs. Do you know what Aderol is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?
Lauer: The difference is —
Cruise: No, no, Matt.
Lauer: This wasn't against her will, though.
Cruise: Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt —
Lauer: But this wasn't against her will.
Cruise: Matt, I'm asking you a question.
Lauer: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.
Cruise: No, you see. Here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
Lauer: Aren't there examples, and might not Brooke Shields be an example, of someone who benefited from one of those drugs?
Cruise: All it does is mask the problem, Matt. And if you understand the history of it, it masks the problem. That's what it does. That's all it does. You're not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.
Lauer: So, postpartum depression to you is kind of a little psychological gobbledygook —
Cruise: No. I did not say that.
Lauer: I'm just asking what you, what would you call it?
Cruise: No. No. Abso— Matt, now you're talking about two different things.
Lauer: But that's what she went on the antidepressant for.
Cruise: But what happens, the antidepressant, all it does is mask the problem. There's ways, [with] vitamins and through exercise and various things... I'm not saying that that isn't real. That's not what I'm saying. That's an alteration of what I'm saying. I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer, these drugs are very dangerous. They're mind-altering, antipsychotic drugs. And there are ways of doing it without that so that we don't end up in a brave new world. The thing that I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, okay. And she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt.
Lauer: But a little bit of what you're saying Tom is, you say you want people to do well. But you want them do to well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.
Cruise: No, no, I'm not.
Lauer: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn't that okay?
Cruise: I disagree with it. And I think that there's a higher and better quality of life. And I think that, promoting — for me personally, see, you're saying what, I can't discuss what I wanna discuss?
Lauer: No. You absolutely can.
Cruise: I know. But Matt, you're going in and saying that, that I can't discuss this.
Lauer: I'm only asking, isn't there a possibility that — do you examine the possibility that these things do work for some people? That yes, there are abuses. And yes, maybe they've gone too far in certain areas. Maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin. Maybe electric shock —
Cruise: Too many kids on Ritalin? Matt.
Lauer: I'm just saying. But aren't there examples where it works?
Cruise: Matt. Matt, Matt, you don't even — you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That's what I've done. Then you go and you say where's the medical test? Where's the blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to get?
Lauer: It's very impressive to listen to you. Because clearly, you've done the homework. And you know the subject.
Cruise: And you should. And you should do that also. Because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn't enough. You should be a little bit more responsible in knowing really —
Lauer: I'm not prescribing Ritalin, Tom. And I'm not asking anyone else to do it. I'm simply saying, I know some people who seem to have been helped by it.
Cruise: But you're saying this is a very important issue.
Lauer: I couldn't agree more.
Cruise: It's very — and you know what? You're here on the "Today" show.
Cruise: And to talk about it in a way of saying, "Well, isn't it okay," and being reasonable about it when you don't know and I do, I think that you should be a little bit more responsible in knowing what it is.
Lauer: But —
Cruise: Because you communicate to people.
Lauer: But you're now telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences.
Cruise: What do you mean by that?
Lauer: You're telling me what's worked for people I know or hasn't worked for people I know. I'm telling you, I’ve lived with these people and they're better.
Cruise: So, you're advocating it.
Lauer: I am not. I'm telling you in their case, in their individual case, it worked. I am not gonna go out and say, "Get your kids on Ritalin. It's the cure-all and the end-all."
Cruise: Matt, but here's the point. What is the ideal scene for life? Okay. The ideal scene is someone not having to take antipsychotic drugs.
Lauer: I would agree.
Cruise: Okay. So, now you look at a departure from that ideal scene, is someone taking drugs, okay. And then you go, okay. What is the theory and the science behind that, that justifies that?
Lauer: Let me take this more general, because I think you and I can go around in circles on this for awhile. And I respect your opinion. Do you want more people to understand Scientology? Would that be a goal of yours?
Cruise: You know what? Absolutely. Of course, you know.
Lauer: How do you go about that?
Cruise: You just communicate about it. And the important thing is, like you and I talk about it, whether it's okay, if I want to know something, I go and find out. Because I don't talk about things that I don't understand. I'll say, you know what? I'm not so sure about that. I'll go find more information about it so I can come to an opinion based on the information that I have.
Lauer: You're so passionate about it.
Cruise: I'm passionate about learning. I'm passionate about life, Matt.
© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints