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Exclusive: ‘Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography’

Read an exclusive excerpt from author Andrew Morton’s latest controversial celebrity biography, which explores the actor's love life, relationship to Scientology and more.
/ Source: TODAY

Author Andrew Morton returns with yet another controversial celebrity biography — his past subjects have included Princess Diana, Monica Lewinsky and Madonna — this time aiming his tabloid-trained ink at actor Tom Cruise.

The book, “Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography,” explores the actor's love life, rumors about his sexuality, his connections to Scientology and his family. (Read an exclusive Q&A with Morton here.)

According to the New York Daily News, the Cruise camp and the Church of Scientology are considering a $100 million lawsuit over the publication of the book. Regardless, it is scheduled to be published in the U.S. on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Here is an exclusive excerpt, taken from chapter 6:

As anxious as a teenager on his first date, David Miscavige, the young leader of Scientology, impatiently paced around the immaculately arranged cabana as he waited for his guest on a Saturday night in the late summer of 1989. While no expense or effort had been spared to impress his visitor, by the agreed arrival time of eight o’clock there was still no sign of Tom Cruise. Watches were nervously checked, and as minutes turned into hours, cult minions made frantic phone calls. David Miscavige was not a man who liked to be kept waiting.

But wait he did, becoming more and more furious as his carefully laid plans came to naught. By the time Tom, who had recently finished filming "Born on the Fourth of July", arrived at the Gold Base Scientology fortress, it was long past eleven o’clock, and the actor, tired by the journey from Beverly Hills, went straight to bed.

He had missed a greeting as elaborate as it was incongruous. In the heart of the desert scrub, he was to have been taken to a swimming pool next to a $565,000 life-size replica of a three-masted schooner. In the tropically themed cabana, complete with parrots and other exotic birds, Miscavige and other senior Scientologists would have formed a welcoming committee. Doubtless, as he was being shown the nautical artifacts, he was to have been told about the history of the landlocked ship, the Star of California, which had been built on the express instructions of cult founder L. Ron Hubbard. Even though he served with an utter lack of distinction in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Hubbard liked to think of himself as a military hero, dressing his most fanatical followers, known as the Sea Org, in the regalia and uniforms of a seafaring militia. This fraternal paramilitary organization was zealously dedicated to advancing their faith, signing “billion-year” contracts — pledging themselves to work for Scientology for the next billion years during future reincarnations — as a sign of their utter devotion. In their eyes they were fallen gods, immortal beings or “thetans,” who had lived for millions of years and would be reincarnated for billions of years to come. From their desert lair, a place so secret that new Sea Org recruits were brought there blindfolded so that they could not divulge the location to outsiders, they pursued their mission of world domination and the extermination of their enemies. As Hubbard once wrote, “All men shall be my slaves. All women shall succumb to my charms. All mankind shall grovel at my feet and not know why.” In preparation for the day when they could put the words of the man known as “Source” into practice, they read The Art of War by the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu and On War by the Prussian general Karl von Clausewitz. No one and nothing from the inferior “wog world” — the term for nonbelievers — could be allowed to get in their way. Certainly not in this existence. Indeed, the outside world was an unwelcome distraction.

Premiere Mad Money LA
Tom Cruise, left, and Katie Holmes arrive at the premiere of \"Mad Money\" in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008.Matt Sayles / R-SAYLES

Believers were banned from watching TV, listening to the radio, reading newspapers, using computers, making telephone calls, or receiving other communications from outsiders, including their families. Security staff even opened their Christmas presents to make sure they did not contain anything that would deflect them from the cause. (Nowadays newspapers are sold and TV played in the staff dining room.)

Most public Scientologists had never even heard of Gold Base, let alone visited the onetime holiday resort just outside Hemet, California.

The organization deliberately disguised its true purpose, listing the five-hundred-acre compound in the local telephone directory as the “Scottish Highlands Quietude Club.” It was a sign of Tom Cruise’s importance that he was invited to this inner sanctum.

Significantly, the invitation was extended only to Tom, even though his wife had been a Scientologist for most of her life. The reason had less to do with the fact that they now seemed to be leading separate lives than with Mimi’s own position inside the cult. When her father, Phil, left the faith during the cull of mission holders in the early 1980s, he was deemed an enemy, or, in Scientology-speak, a “suppressive person.” Worse, he joined those, dubbed “squirrels” by Hubbard, who offered Scientology-style services at cut prices.

Anyone associated with Mimi’s father was supposed to “disconnect” — sever all relations — with him if they wanted to stay inside Scientology. In short, Mimi was expected to choose between her father and the cult, a dilemma that has confronted thousands of Scientologists over the years, leading to hundreds of family breakups. “Tom was a big star, she was a nothing and tainted by association with her father,” says a former Scientologist who helped plan that first visit. “David Miscavige wasn’t bothered about Mimi. In any case, in his eyes, her father had done all these terrible things to Scientology.”

To emphasize how little value the Scientology leadership placed on Mimi, her husband was accompanied by his assistant, Andrea Morse, daughter of actor Robert Morse. Tom paid for her to take numerous Scientology courses, Andrea in turn recruiting her mother, Carole, and sister Hilary to the faith. It was the beginning of a carefully considered strategy that would ultimately see the actor surrounded by Scientologists both at home and in his office, Odin Productions, which in time came to be operated on strict Scientology principles, where crispness, clarity, and military efficiency are the watchwords. Both sides were keen that Tom’s first visit to the base be discreet and secret. In the darkness, as Tom was driven by the armed uniformed guards past the chain-link fence topped with razor wire, he could have been forgiven for thinking he was entering a military base rather than a friendly club where Scottish chaps danced around in kilts.

That impression would have been reinforced by the infrared cameras and arc lights and, if he had known about them, the concealed microphones and sensors that could spot a rabbit hopping thirty feet from the six-foot-high fence. It was a place that exuded paranoia.

Cameras noted the license plates of passing cars; there were secret plans to rig the perimeter with homemade explosives in case of attack; and high above the property was a man-made eyrie where eagle-eyed guards with high-powered rifles fitted with telescopic sights scanned the sunbaked California scrub for possible intruders.

In fact, his host for the weekend, David Miscavige, had been known to race out into the barren landscape, armed with an Uzi submachine gun, to hunt down possible enemies. He certainly had many weapons to choose from, amassing a personal collection of more than sixty guns. Besides an Israeli assault rifle, a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun given to him by Hubbard, he had a Dirty Harry Magnum .44 and a Walther PPK of the type used by James Bond. Nor was he afraid to use them.

Early one morning he noticed that a no parking sign had been put up opposite his office. Ordering his butler to bring his shotgun, he spent a few minutes blasting the errant sign to bits. “He felt powerful with guns,” recalls an aide. “It was his way of intimidating people.” In the desk of his well-appointed office, the leader of the church had a .38 handgun. No one knew if it was loaded or if he was only joking when he said they needed to be well armed for when the “radioactive mutants come over the hill.”

That night, it wasn’t the mutants who were in his sights, but Scientology’s inspector general, Greg Wilhere — effectively Miscavige’s right-hand man — who had been assigned to ferry the Hollywood actor from Los Angeles to the secret retreat. Smooth, urbane, and unflappable, Wilhere was Tom’s “handler,” the senior figure assigned to deflect any outside hostility toward Scientology and ensure that Tom remained enthusiastic about his new faith. He was the perfect choice to groom Cruise: friendly, sincere, and intelligent, even grudgingly admired by those who had become disaffected with Scientology. Wilhere needed every ounce of his legendary charm to calm his furious leader. Though he was only five feet, five inches tall, Miscavige was known to have a giant temper, lashing out at subordinates whom he deemed to have crossed him. Wilhere managed to soothe him by explaining that Tom had been delayed for several hours because of movie business. Miscavige’s frustration was perhaps understandable.

At the time his organization was on the ropes, facing a massive IRS investigation into its tax affairs. Not only was the cult spending $1.5 million a month on legal fees, but thousands of ordinary Scientologists were being audited by the tax man. “Things were very grim in 1990, and I don’t think a lot of Scientologists knew that,” Miscavige later admitted. “We kept it to ourselves. It was terrible.”

As far as the beleaguered Scientology leadership was concerned, Cruise was the cavalry riding to their rescue. It had taken years of careful planning to tease Tom through the gates of Gold. During his first years inside the cult, he was termed a “preclear,” someone not deemed to be free of his problems and difficulties. (In fact, it was not until 1989 that Tom and his cousin William Mapother were listed in a Scientology magazine as completing “basic training.”) While the process of auditing bore some similarities to the Catholic rite of Confession, it was neither free nor anonymous. Tom sat facing his auditor while holding an E meter, the crude lie detector that supposedly detected the truth or otherwise of responses. Under polite but relentless questioning, he was encouraged to reveal his most intimate secrets, every admission jotted down in a supposedly confidential folder stamped with his given name: Thomas Mapother. Following a pattern set by Hubbard himself, auditors would ask Tom, among other things, if he had ever raped someone, practiced homosexuality or cannibalism, been unfaithful, watched pornography, or killed or crippled animals for pleasure.

Although auditing was reportedly designed to clear problems, Hubbard’s estranged son, Ronald De Wolf, who audited many early converts, took a more cynical view, seeing the process as a way of controlling and potentially blackmailing Scientologists, especially celebrities. In an interview with Playboy magazine, he observed: “Auditing would address a guy’s entire sex life. It was an incredible preoccupation .... You have complete control of someone if you have every detail of his sex life and fantasy life on record. In Scientology the focus is on sex. Sex, sex, sex. The first thing we wanted to know about someone we were auditing was his sexual deviations. All you’ve got to do is find a person’s kinks, whatever they might be. Their dreams and their fantasies. Then you can fit a ring through their noses and take them anywhere. You promise to fulfill their fantasies or you threaten to expose them ... very simple.” After the interview appeared, the then president of Scientology declined to respond to De Wolf’s observations, noting that his credibility was “just out the bottom.” Nonetheless, although the pre-clear file was supposedly confidential, several auditors could have access to the folders and, it is claimed, senior staff members were known to discuss their contents. Former celebrity Scientologist Karen Pressley, who lived at Gold for years, was present one evening when John Travolta’s auditor John Silcott openly discussed the actor’s sexuality. “It made my head spin,” she recalls, “and made me realize that the idea of confidentiality was a chimera.” As another Scientology executive admitted bluntly, “These files come in handy if they want to blackmail you.”

Ostensibly, Tom had been invited to Gold Base to make sure that his initial auditing, which took place at Sherman Oaks, had been performed correctly. While the questions can be sexually lurid, the auditing process itself is highly technical, Hubbard creating an entire language to describe the procedure. As well as monitoring his auditing progress, Gold Base asked him to give their propaganda film studio, known as Golden Era Productions, the professional once-over.

Tom’s first weekend stay was organized with the precision of a military operation, the planning akin to a visit by royalty. In the weeks before his arrival, the base was a hive of activity as the five hundred or so Sea Org disciples painted, pruned, primped, and cleaned the gardens and buildings so that it was in pristine condition for his arrival.

Not that they were ever aware who the visitor was to be. While his assistant was assigned to staff quarters, Tom was housed in a plush guest bungalow with a Scientology chef and butler, Sinar Parman, who had once worked for L. Ron Hubbard, at his disposal around the clock.

To underline the importance of the visit, Sea Org members were ordered to stay indoors or, if that was impossible, to keep away from certain parts of the compound where Tom might be present. If they happened into his line of sight, they were instructed to avert their gaze and under no circumstances speak to him. Those who did come into contact were ordered to address him as “sir” rather than “Mr. Cruise.”

Disobedience would be punished. “The whole base was on eggshells,” recalls one Sea Org member. The scene was set to impress and awe possibly the most important recruit in Scientology history.

During Tom’s tour of the compound, it was evident that this was not a place for children. Like nuns and monks, Sea Org fanatics were not allowed to have children; if a woman got pregnant, she faced the heartbreaking choice between her beliefs and her unborn child. For the true believer, abortion was an article of faith. If the woman decided to have the child, she had to leave Sea Org and serve the sect in a lesser capacity. Former Sea Org follower Karen Pressley remembers that she was often approached by fellow Scientologists asking to borrow money to pay for an abortion so that they could stay in Sea Org. “I had a real problem because I don’t believe in abortion,” she recalls. Scientology officials reject as “simply false” the assertion that Sea Org women are encouraged, as a matter of policy, to have abortions.

As Tom viewed the film production areas, the editing bays, the music studio, and the film studio, known as the Castle, uniformed Sea Org operatives with walkie-talkies relayed his regal progress. In the film studio, handpicked Sea Org operatives rigorously rehearsed the “spontaneous” scenes they were scheduled to shoot. As far as Sea Org film workers were concerned, the tour had an unhappy outcome. Tom commented that when he made a Hollywood movie, he worked flat out until it was finished. At Gold, film technicians were given time off during filming for Scientology study. As a result of his offhand comment, schedules were changed and Sea Org film operatives were forced to work around the clock until films were completed. For the next two years, according to at least one former Sea Org member, the film unit never had a day off.

The difference, of course, was that Tom Cruise was paid millions of dollars while Sea Org workers earned a mere thirty-five dollars a week. In fact, one Sea Org associate paid an even higher price. When she complained about the new edict, she was sent to Scientology “prison,” known as the Rehabilitation Project Force. There, in a former ranch in Happy Valley, eleven miles away in the Soboba Indian reservation, inmates were guarded twenty-four hours a day and forced, among other demeaning punishments, to run around a pole under the blazing sun. While Scientology describes the RPF as a voluntary rehabilitation program offering a second chance for Sea Org members who have strayed from the sect’s codes, those who refuse to accept their punishment are “declared,” effectively thrown into the outer darkness. For a true believer it means either accepting their punishment — however unjust or arbitrary — or leaving behind friends and family, not to mention relinquishing the dream of eternal life.

People who have been through RPF say it is akin to brainwashing with hard labor. Critics accuse the sect of human rights abuses, comparing the Scientology punishment camps to Stalinist gulags. “One hardly has to point out that the RPF and RPF’s RPF [a more extreme punishment regime] are brainwashing programs,” notes Professor Stephen Kent of the University of Alberta. “Forced confessions, physical fatigue, and intense indoctrination combined with humiliation and fear are the hallmarks of these camps.”

Tom, of course, did not realize that his offhand remarks would have such Draconian repercussions. After showing him around the studio, Miscavige took him on a tour of the estate, Tom riding pillion on his motorbike. Later, they went skeet shooting on a range set up behind Bonnie View, the mansion built by Scientologists for the anticipated return to Earth of the deceased L. Ron Hubbard after his galactic wanderings. Although he had appeared in several military movies, Tom was nervous around guns, and Miscavige, an enthusiastic member of the National Rifle Association, showed him the correct way to handle his weapon. Tom was so impressed that, as a thank-you present, he sent his new friend an automatic clay pigeon launcher to replace the manual pull contraption they used that weekend. Although Tom probably never realized it, his gift meant more work for hapless inmates of the sect’s prison. More than two dozen of them worked day and night for three days installing the new launcher and then landscaping the shooting range for Tom’s next visit.

As far as Tom was concerned, the visit was an enormous success — and it showed, Tom impressing those Scientologists he met with his energy and enthusiasm. “He was like a walking lightbulb,” recalls Jesse Prince, former Scientology deputy inspector general. “He was so bright and enthusiastic, a playful kind of guy. It was like the kid with no friends who had suddenly found a load of people who were now his friends. During this time he was doing lower courses, so it was a honeymoon period. Great fun.”

Not only did the visit reinforce Tom’s new faith, it introduced him to the man who would have a profound influence on his future life. When David Miscavige finally shook hands with Tom Cruise, he had him at “Hello,” the chemistry between the two immediate and apparent.

From the start they were like brothers, constantly trying to outdo each other. As controlling, competitive, and macho as he was, Cruise had met his match — and more — in the Scientology leader. Their burgeoning friendship came as no surprise to those who had watched the rapid rise and rise of Miscavige. “It was easy to see why they got along so well,” says a former Scientology executive who was present during that first weekend. “They are both driven, demanding, focused perfectionists — let’s call it the Short Man Syndrome.” Significantly, it was Miscavige, two years older if two inches shorter, who was the dominating force in their friendship, his ferocious will, aggressive ambition, and willingness to live on the edge proving more than a match for Cruise’s own alpha male behavior. As Shelly Britt, who worked for the sect leader for fifteen years, recalls, “David would dominate Tom Cruise without him even knowing about it.”

Much as Tom talked about his own hardscrabble beginnings, they paled when compared with that of the Scientology leader. Born in a Philadelphia suburb to a Polish father, Ron Miscavige, who earned his living playing trumpet, and an Italian mother, Loretta, he had a twin sister and another brother and sister. Short, slightly built, severely asthmatic, and extremely allergic, he was relentlessly bullied at school for his Polish heritage and his lack of height. Young David was so determined to play sports that on one occasion his father filled his pockets with two-pound metal plates so that he could meet the sixty-pound weight minimum and play as a defensive back for the Pennypacker Patriots football team.

If school was a daily ordeal, his home life wasn’t much better; family and friends recalled that his father was an intimidating and ill-tempered man. When Ron discovered Scientology, it stopped his unpleasant behavior to the point where his confused wife felt that he didn’t love her anymore because he had become a changed person. Ron’s religious conversion was complete when David recovered from a severe asthma attack while undergoing Scientology counseling. “From that moment I knew this is it,” David said later. “I have the answer.”

By age twelve, David Miscavige was auditing other Scientologists, becoming the 4,867th Scientologist to reach a state of “clear.” He dropped out of high school on the day of his sixteenth birthday, citing the “appalling” drug use of his contemporaries as well as the realization that he wanted to dedicate his life to Scientology. David joined the Sea Org elite in Clearwater, Florida, where he worked as a “commodore’s messenger,” essentially a gofer for Hubbard. He is remembered from that time as charismatic but ferociously competitive and ambitious — “the jerk who wanted to impress.”

Soon the keen and confident teenager was deployed to the secret base at Gold, where he worked alongside Hubbard and others making promotional movies. In 1979, while Tom Cruise was still in school, Miscavige was made “action chief” inside the Commodore’s Messenger Organization, sending out teams, or “missions,” to improve management at Scientology centers. It was a high-pressure, high-stress job at a time when the top echelon of Scientology, including Hubbard’s wife, was in jail and Hubbard himself was on the run.

As Tom was making his way in movies, Miscavige was asserting his authority inside the rapidly disintegrating sect. In 1981, after two heated confrontations, he forced Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue, to resign. Although he maintains that they are now friends, she has a different view. “He was a tyrant,” she told her son-in-law, Guy White. That same year, when he was twenty-one, he married his first and only girlfriend, Shelley Barnett, who had been a commodore’s messenger since she was twelve. A year later he oversaw the rout of mission holders, including Mimi’s father, Phil Spickler, which led to a bitter schism, akin to the original theological divide between Protestants and Catholics.

When his mother-in-law, Flo Barnett, joined a breakaway Scientology group, it caused a vicious family rift that never healed. She committed suicide in 1985, shooting herself three times with a rifle. David Miscavige has always stoutly denied any involvement whatsoever in her death.

During the institutional carnage, Hubbard put the rising young man in charge of his considerable fortune, Miscavige now managing his literary, personal, and business affairs. Most important, he became one of a handful of Scientologists who maintained lines of communication with the fugitive leader, who was hiding at a ranch in California. Fellow Scientologists knew not to ask questions when a black van with darkened windows arrived at the Gold Base in the dead of night and Miscavige, armed with an Uzi submachine gun, loaded paperwork and boxes of cash for the leader. Then he and Scientology executive Pat Broecker, who lived with Hubbard, drove off into the inky blackness, taking circuitous routes in case they were being followed by the FBI or other government agencies. On one occasion they snapped under the strain, heading to Las Vegas and spending a couple of nights gambling. They later explained that they had gone into hiding for fear of being followed.

The stress was palpable, Miscavige having a morbid fear of ending up in jail and being sexually abused, possibly raped, by fellow inmates. Miscavige’s dread of jail was matched only by his bewildered attempts to placate the manic demands of Hubbard. Living under this kind of tension brought on terrible asthma attacks. Onetime colleague Jesse Prince, who audited Miscavige, recalls cradling the distraught young man in his arms. “Sometimes he would get so upset that his eyes were bulging and he couldn’t breathe,” Prince said. “He wouldn’t take medication or inhalers, so I would have to calm him down and then he would sleep for days after an attack.”

Aides claimed that Miscavige kept an oxygen cylinder under his bed in his quarters at Gold to help him cope in case of emergency. Far from curing him, it seemed that Scientology, or rather L. Ron Hubbard, was exacerbating Miscavige’s medical condition. That and smoking three packs of Camel cigarettes a day.

The continual pandering to the insane whims of Hubbard — for example, any whiff of perfume, particularly rose, drove him into a towering rage — profoundly affected Miscavige. There were times when Jesse Prince, who introduced him to the music of Jimi Hendrix, took him to a bar to help drown his sorrows. “Dealing closely with LRH was a traumatic experience,” he recalls. “It changed Miscavige from a likable human being, a sports fan, into the monster he has become. We used to clown and trick each other. He loved to make people laugh, but now it is unimaginable that that was his personality.” The feelings are now mutual, with Scientology dismissing Prince as a “criminal” after he left the organization.

Once he grabbed power after Hubbard’s death in 1986, the twenty-six-year-old Miscavige was in charge of a billion-dollar operation where his word was law and his rule absolute, the young man king of all he surveyed. He lived like one, too, enjoying an “utterly” luxurious lifestyle. While his disciples were paid $35 a week, Miscavige was impeccably dressed in $250 handmade Egyptian cotton shirts with his own emblem, custom-made leather shoes, and the finest Italian wool suits. Neiman Marcus and Hermès in Beverly Hills were regular haunts for him and his wife, Shelley.

On one occasion she bought him a ten-thousand-dollar suit from the South Korean tailor Mr. Lim on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills — the equivalent to six years’ pay for Sea Org disciples. In contrast to his followers’ shared, spartan quarters, the sect leader had a number of lavishly decorated apartments around the country that were carefully and expensively refurbished in the style of a gentlemen’s club. He enjoyed the services of butlers and maids whose tasks included walking his dogs, Chelsea and Cheslea.

Just as he lived like a king, Miscavige ruled like an absolute monarch. His watchwords were loyalty and control, the new leader followed everywhere by an entourage who slavishly tape-recorded his every utterance, translating his words into a stream of orders, directives, and commands. To ensure that his decrees were carried out to the letter, he created his own Praetorian guard, recruited exclusively from the Religious Technology Center within the Sea Org, whom he dubbed his “SEALs,” after the highly trained navy SEALs who have a formidable reputation for performing the impossible. They were given better uniforms, housing, and food — but at a price.

Those “SEALs” were expected to focus night and day on Miscavige’s cause — to the exclusion of all else in their lives. He loved Hollywood movies where the leader, usually an American President, enjoyed the absolute loyalty of his staff, especially when he was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. Miscavige was routinely accompanied by six bodyguards, even when he was on vacation on board private yachts. If he went swimming, three would dive in with him. Miscavige controlled every aspect of policy: From film sound to building design, nothing escaped his focus on perfection. The diminutive leader was most particular about the surroundings for his speeches, ensuring that the backdrop was blue to match his eyes and the dais was in proportion to his stature. Former Scientologist Karen Pressley worked closely with Miscavige on numerous design projects and watched as he even chose fabrics for new Sea Org uniforms. She recalls: “Men who are obsessed with fabrics tend to be feminine in nature. I can tell you right now there is nothing gay about this guy. He was controlling, dominating, and obsessive. You felt like you were living under a dictatorship.”

While he liked to model his behavior on his political hero, Simón Bolívar, the South American independence leader, Miscavige ruled by fear, gaining a reputation for verbally demeaning subordinates and even hitting them, publicly slapping — never punching — those whom he felt had offended him. Some he spat on, a sign of contempt and disdain initially encouraged by Hubbard. In sworn declarations in several lawsuits, he has been accused of striking subordinates. (When asked about such claims, a representative of Scientology denied them.) Guy White, Hubbard’s son-in-law, came in for this treatment one evening, when Miscavige and others accused him of committing “crimes.” Miscavige ripped the lanyards from his uniform, spat on him, and slapped his face. After what Scientology charmingly calls a “gang bang” audit, where he faced hostile, quick-fire questioning from his accusers, he was consigned to the sect’s prison gulag, the Rehabilitation Project Force. Any hint of criticism of the leader, known as Black PR, was deemed a crime. Miscavige scrutinized even the facial expressions of Sea Org followers, who would be punished for looking hostile or bored. In his book 1984, about mind control in a future society, George Orwell had a term for that offense — “facecrime.” That, however, was a work of fiction.

Understandably, many lived in fear of the man they dubbed Napoleon — even his own family. Karen Pressley, who lived in the same quarters as Miscavige’s parents, recalls, “One day his father looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m afraid of my own son.’ It freaked me out. He was scared of him because he was so powerful and controlling.” Others are more measured, appreciating Miscavige’s energy, focus, and charisma while acknowledging his inappropriate aggression. His assistant Shelly Britt saw him as a Jekyll and Hyde character, the nicest or the meanest boss in the world. “If you are on his good side you are on top of the world, on his bad side you couldn’t get much lower.” Another close aide, Marty Rathbun, averred that in all the years he had known Miscavige he had never been aware that he had hit anyone. “That’s not his temperament,” he told the St. Petersburg Times.

For Tom Cruise, the first meeting with Miscavige in August 1989 was the beginning of an enduring friendship, the Scientology leader becoming a boon companion and adviser, continually challenging, controlling, and competing with the Hollywood star. If Tom had made a lifelong friend thanks to his faith, his next film was about to change his life. For the previous three years Tom had nursed this movie baby, wanting to make a film about stock-car racing.

High on adrenaline and the thrill of speed after doing laps at 190 miles an hour around the famous Daytona International Speedway, he yelled, “I’m going to make a movie about this.” Once Paul Newman had introduced him to the sport during the filming of The Color of Money, Tom had taken it up with his customary enthusiasm. He raced Nissans for Newman’s team, his expertise such that, as far as racing driver Bob Bondurant was concerned, he had the ability to turn pro. Based on his experience, the actor wrote a crude outline of a story and hired veteran screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart to polish the plot of what became Days of Thunder. It centered on a cocky driver, Cole Trickle, played by Tom, who tries to outgun a rival, the two men ending up badly injured in the hospital. Inevitably, Trickle falls for the glamorous brain surgeon who helps heal him, and ultimately learns humility, conquering his demons sufficiently to go on and win the big race.

Known in early discussions as Top Car, the hope was to do for NASCAR racing what Top Gun had done for the navy flying school in San Diego. Once the project was officially in development, Cruise brought in Top Gun scriptwriter Warren Skaaren, who, after writing several drafts, quit in exasperation at Cruise’s demands. Undeterred, Tom wooed writer Robert Towne by taking him to the racetrack at Watkins Glen, New York. As they soaked up the atmosphere, Towne told the actor: “I get it, Cruise. This is fantastic.” With director Tony Scott and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer on board, the scene was set to make another summer blockbuster. It wasn’t quite so simple. While Paramount gave the green light for filming to start in November 1989, they didn’t have a completed script, an agreed title, a leading lady, or even a character that a leading lady could play. In October, when Cruise was invited to a private screening of the Australian thriller Dead Calm, which had been making waves for the performances of Billy Zane and Nicole Kidman, he went with a particular sense of urgency. Watching the film with scriptwriter Robert Towne, Tom was as entranced by Nicole’s on-screen authority as by her long, elegant legs and translucent skin. He left the screening suitably impressed, instructing minions to bring her to Los Angeles for a screen test.

That she was in Japan promoting Dead Calm was no obstacle. Nicole was flown to Hollywood to meet Cruise, the producers, and the director, arriving at the Paramount studios jet-lagged and professionally curious, but not expecting much. “I thought, ‘Oh yeah, right,’ ” she said later. “I’d been to America before. You go in, you audition, you don’t get the job.” As insurance, she decided to use the trip as an excuse to visit friends and see her sister, Antonia, in England. When she walked into the conference room to meet Tom and his colleagues, however, the chemistry between them was unmistakable. “The moment I laid eyes on him, I thought he was just the sexiest man I had ever seen in my life,” she later told Rolling Stone. “He took my breath away. I don’t know what it was. Chemical reaction? Hard to define. Hard to resist.”

At the time, the girl who was nicknamed “Stalky” by her school friends thought she was unlikely to win a part where, at five feet, eleven inches, she was four inches taller than the leading man. She read a couple of pages of script, though not from the movie in question, and left, ready to enjoy herself in California. So she was surprised when producer Jerry Bruckheimer called the next day to tell her they wanted her to play Tom’s love interest. There was a caveat: Her character, like much of the film, had yet to be fully conceived. In the end, the twenty-two-year-old rather improbably played a brilliant brain surgeon, Dr. Claire Lewicki.

What was not in doubt was the attraction the leading man felt toward his new leading lady. “My first reaction to meeting Nic was pure lust,” he later recalled. “It was totally physical.” At first sight, it was a curious coupling, the tall, ginger-haired, willowy Australian so different from his voluptuous dark-haired wife. While physically different, however, both women had reputations as being aloof, ambitious, and coolly unattainable — perfect foils for a man who liked the challenge of an endless romantic chase.

Tom was soon smitten, the couple sharing a sense of humor as well as the thrill of living on the edge. As with David Miscavige, the Hollywood star seemed to have met his match in the slim shape of a young woman who cited strong, determined actresses like Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, and Katharine Hepburn as her inspiration. Nicole also sensed his unhappiness, his need for a closer connection than his current relationship. A few weeks later, in late November, scriptwriter Robert Towne had dinner with the couple at Toscana in Brentwood. He immediately recognized their rapport and realized that Tom’s two-year marriage to Mimi was surely over.

Certainly Tom was true to form, disposing of his first marriage with the matter-of-fact alacrity with which he had ended previous love affairs. In the late fall he moved out of their home in Brentwood and went to stay with his friend — and best man —  Emilio Estevez for a few days. Then he and Mimi went to the Scientology base in Hemet for what the sect calls “chaplain counseling.” Ostensibly, this was to discuss and attempt to resolve their differences by discussing them with a Scientology counselor. Once everything is out in the open, Scientologists argue, there is no reason to split up. In some circumstances this procedure is successful, but in this instance there was a hidden agenda. The Scientology leadership felt such hostility toward Mimi’s father that Mimi was stained by association. “They no longer wanted her on the team,” says a former Scientologist who was involved in the charade. “The impetus was to help Tom Cruise, and within twenty-four hours they had agreed to split up.”

The Hollywood actor was even given the services of a senior Scientology trustee, Lyman Spurlock, director of client affairs, to help sort out the intricate financial fallout. “He was lost, he didn’t know what his rights were or understand what Mimi should get,” recalls former senior Scientologist Jesse Prince. “They made it as painless as possible for him.” Mimi’s final settlement was a reported $10 million — with a clause enforcing confidentiality on both sides. Word was that Mimi made it clear that if the Scientology leadership used its black propaganda to try to discredit her, she would open her own Pandora’s box of secrets about the cult.

While Tom was dealing with his domestic matters in a typically businesslike manner, Nicole was saying her farewells to her family in Sydney, Australia. She did not, however, say a final good-bye to her longtime boyfriend, fellow actor Marcus Graham, the former star of Australia’s top soap E-Street. Although he was one of the first she told about her new part, she gave no hint of a flirtation with her new leading man. In fact, when she landed in Los Angeles, she called him with the news that legendary New York agent Sam Cohen, whose clients included Woody Allen and Meryl Streep, had flown out west to sign her to a contract. Although he was in something of a career slump, Graham had no reason to believe that their romance — they were living together before she left for America — was over. They planned a holiday in the Pacific, and while she was filming Days of Thunder, he racked up over thirteen hundred dollars in phone bills chatting to his erstwhile lover.

It was a forlorn waste. Within days of starting her new life in America, Nicole was spending every moment, both professionally and romantically, with Tom. She was smitten. “I was consumed by it, willingly,” she said later. At the end of November the couple was not only filming together in Charlotte, North Carolina, but quietly flying to the Scientology Gold Base, arriving by helicopter in the compound. They had their own VIP bungalow in a remote part of the five-hundred-acre compound, with Sea Org disciples under strict orders to stay away from the area, as well as the services of Sinar Parman as butler and chef. Parman, who had worked for L. Ron Hubbard, and when the couple did emerge, they spent time with David Miscavige, his wife, Shelley, and Tom’s handler, Greg Wilhere.

Whatever they did, Wilhere was either with them or watching over them, making sure everything was perfect. “It was clear that they were very much in love, very tactile and all over each other,” recalls one former Scientologist who was privy to what was then a closely guarded secret. “Within a matter of days of Tom splitting with Mimi, he and Nicole were coming to Gold. Senior Scientologists helped facilitate this.” In fact, Greg Wilhere played such a pivotal role in smoothing the path of romance that Tom named a character in Days of Thunder after him. When the name of a “Dr. Wilhere” is mentioned, it was an in-joke between the lovebirds and their Scientology friends.

On December 9, 1989, with filming for Days of Thunder in full swing, Tom’s lawyers quietly filed a suit for his legal separation from Mimi, the actor citing “irreconcilable differences.” Yet Tom continued to play the happily married husband in a series of interviews to promote Born on the Fourth of July, released just before Christmas. As high-performance cars burned rubber and fuel around North Carolina’s Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cruise spoke affectionately about his wife to selected journalists. “The most important thing for me is I want Mimi to be happy,” writer Richard Corliss quoted him as saying during a flattering Time magazine cover profile entitled “Tom Terrific”: “I’m just happier now than I’ve ever been in my life,” Tom said, Corliss noting how he and Mimi had visited the Brazilian rain forest as part of their work on the board of Earth Communications Office, an entertainment-industry organization, subsequently infiltrated by Scientologists, that promotes environmental causes.

During another chat with writer Trip Gabriel for Rolling Stone, which, because of Tom’s friendship with owner Jann Wenner was effectively his house journal, he stonewalled questions about rumors of marital troubles. As for Us magazine, he told them: “I just really enjoy our marriage.” It helped cement the fiction of marital bliss when Mimi visited the Days of Thunder set during his publicity jag. Looking back, Richard Corliss sees Cruise’s dissembling as part of his character and par for the course in Hollywood. “His marriage to Mimi Rogers was a fiction he wanted to maintain — at least until the magazine profiles attending the release of Born on the Fourth of July were published. I wasn’t astonished by his insistence that he was sticking with Mimi when he had decided he wasn’t. That dodge is a movie star tradition as old as Hollywood.”

Tom’s faith not only helped ease his separation from Mimi Rogers, it also helped him keep a straight face as he related his story of domestic harmony. The art of lying forms an integral part of sacred Scientology scriptures, and one of the entry-level courses, on communications, teaches effective techniques for “outflowing false data.” Cruise proved himself a nimble and able student, receiving favorable coverage in December for his on- and off-screen personae and winning a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Born on the Fourth of July. “Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Ron Kovic is proof positive that he is one of the most versatile actors working in Hollywood today,” wrote movie critic Edward Gross.

As the flattering profiles of Tom hit the newsstands, his divorce lawyer flew out from Los Angeles to Daytona Beach, Florida, where filming was now taking place, on January 12 so that the actor could sign his divorce papers. A day earlier, Tom had quietly met with Mimi at the Charlotte Hilton University Place Hotel. Some observers believe it was a last-ditch attempt by the actress to save her marriage. More realistically, it was to finalize their official statement and outstanding financial matters. In fact, in keeping with the speed of the split, the divorce papers were filed four days later, the couple releasing a brief statement the next day. “While there have been positive aspects to our marriage, there were some issues which could not be resolved even after working on them for a period of time.”

In an interview in Playboy three years later, Ms. Rogers mischievously elaborated on those mysterious “issues.” Scorned for a younger woman, Mimi got her revenge by kicking her former husband, whom People magazine had named the “sexiest man on earth,” in the cojones. “Tom was seriously thinking of becoming a monk,” she told interviewer Michael Angeli. “At least for that period of time, it looked as though marriage wouldn’t fit into his overall spiritual need. And he thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument. Therefore it became obvious that we had to split.” As for her own instrument: “Oh, my instrument needed tuning,” she said. While her comments would help float a flotilla of sexual gossip about her former husband, she admitted afterward that she was just having fun with the clearly besotted interviewer.

Perhaps more accurately, their fiercely demanding work schedules, Tom’s stated desire to start a family, the influence of his new faith — and, of course, the sexual chemistry between Tom and a younger woman — all contributed to the breakdown of their brief union. Tom later told Talk magazine, “Before Nicole I was dissatisfied, wanting something more. It was just two people who weren’t meant to work and it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. I think you just go on different paths. But it wasn’t Mimi’s fault .. . it’s just the way it is.”

He spent little time reflecting on what went wrong with his first marriage, instead, as was his romantic pattern, racing headlong into a new relationship. Ironically, he was behaving in much the same way as his father, who, weeks after his divorce, had married Joan Lebendiger following a whirlwind courtship. Tom, at least, was more discreet. Just five days after formally announcing his divorce, he faced banks of photographers when he accepted a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance in Born on the Fourth of July. He did have a woman by his side as he walked down the red carpet — but it was his mother, Mary Lee. Otherwise, he was spending all his free time with the new woman in his life, his rented white BMW and Harley- Davidson motorcycle spotted outside the rented Daytona Beach bungalow of his Australian costar when the production moved to Florida. The love match between Nicole and Tom was not the only subject of crew chatter on the set of Days of Thunder. Actress Donna Wilson dated producer Don Simpson during the early weeks of filming, then ditched him for director Tony Scott, whom she subsequently married.

Shortly after Tom’s divorce was finalized on February 4, 1990, Nicole told her mother, Janelle, who taken leave from her job as a nursing instructor to visit her daughter and give Tom the once-over, that when work on Days of Thunder was completed, she planned to move into Tom’s newly purchased $4 million home at Pacific Palisades in California. By all accounts her mother was not surprised, her daughter having pursued previous love affairs with hotheaded abandon. Like Tom, Nicole had Irish blood coursing through her veins, the Kidman family immigrating to Australia from Ireland as free settlers in 1839. Born in 1967 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Australian parents, Nicole was raised a Catholic, attending Mass every week. Yet she was willful and strong-minded, dropping out of school at the age of sixteen to pursue an acting career. “I was a nightmare to my parents,” she later told Movieline magazine. Rebellious and impetuous, the unconventional seventeen-year-old flew to Amsterdam with her thirty-seven-year-old boyfriend for a vacation. When that relationship foundered, she lived on and off for three years with another older man, fellow actor Tom Burlinson, leaving him after turning down his offer of marriage.

The next man in her life, actor Marcus Graham, never really had a chance once the world’s sexiest man arrived on the scene. While he pined for her in Sydney, Tom was wooing Nicole, sending her love notes and flowers, usually red roses, almost daily. Marcus realized what was going on only when he watched Nicole walk along the red carpet with Tom — and Nic’s mother, Janelle, and Mary Lee — at the Academy Awards in Hollywood in March 1990. It was their first public appearance as a couple, Tom missing out for the Best Actor award to Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance in My Left Foot. Tom was gracious in defeat. “It was exciting, just getting nominated. That acknowledgment from my peers.”

The evening was glamorous relief from the expensive growing pains associated with his latest movie baby. Bad weather, an unfinished script, technical problems, and a ballooning budget — escalating from $40 to $70 million, including a handsome $7 million fee for Cruise — made Days of Thunder a seat-of-the-pants production. Working with an incomplete script meant that Cruise and other actors were being fed new pages of dialogue every day, the leading man reading lines off the dashboard of his 180-mile-per-hour stock car. Disaster was not long in coming: After Tom was involved in a high-speed crash as he squinted at his script, writer Robert Towne dictated dialogue to him through his headset.

Yet the financial tempests threatening to overwhelm Days of Thunder did little to dampen the party atmosphere on set. According to Don Simpson’s biographer Charles Fleming, there was a steady stream of hookers and drugs to keep everyone happy. Girls who came to parties were regularly rewarded with Donna Karan dresses, which producer Don Simpson kept in his hotel suite. During the day Simpson sent out his two assistants to local beaches, asking girls if they wanted to go to a bash for Tom Cruise. On one occasion a local club, the Palace, was closed for a crew party where rapper Tone Loc performed. The booze and cocaine, according to Fleming, were in plentiful supply. If the day-to-day filming wasn’t hair-raising enough, during his time in Florida, Tom quietly embarked on a new risky business: skydiving. He made dozens of jumps under the supervision of local expert Bob Hallett, who pronounced him “a natural.” Nicole was delighted to accept his invitation to join him, realizing a childhood ambition that had been thwarted by her concerned parents. Here was further confirmation, if any was needed, that Nicole was a partner after Tom’s own heart, a woman with a “ferocious” work ethic on set and a fearless daredevil when off duty. After she leapt from the plane, an instructor by her side, her boyfriend swooped in and planted a kiss on her mouth, and then flew away and pulled his ripcord. “Not as good as sex — but almost” was her exhilarated response to the experience. That Easter he performed the same maneuver when he took his mother, Mary Lee, for her first jump.

He was there, too, when his friend David Miscavige, accompanied by an instructor, went skydiving during a visit to the film set. The Scientology leader was so excited by his adventure that, when he returned to Gold Base, he proudly showed a video of himself jumping with Cruise. Not everyone inside Scientology was impressed with their leader’s seeming obsession with the Hollywood actor. His father, Ron, was “very upset” when he went skydiving, fearing that he could have an accident. “As head of Scientology he felt that he had a responsibility to his parishioners,” recalls Karen Pressley. “But David loves to live on the edge, he enjoys thrills and danger.”

Image: Tom Cruise
Actor Tom Cruise arrives for the premiere of the filmLucas Jackson / X90066

Whatever his father’s misgivings, the off-screen escapades continued, the two friends racing cars against each other, running red lights, and, according to a former Scientologist, on one occasion narrowly missing a high-speed collision. “They were two guys trying to impress and compete with one another,” says an ex-Scientologist who watched them together. But their friendship went beyond macho postures, with Tom endlessly calling his friend for advice and counsel. During the filming of Days of Thunder, for example, he was reading the script for the movie Edward Scissorhands, a typically gothic Tim Burton film about a sensitive but misunderstood loner. Unsure about whether to accept the role, he asked Miscavige and others for their opinion. The Scientology leader felt he should reject the part as “too effeminate.” Tom did say no, arguing that he wanted a happy ending for the movie rather than the bleak one that Burton intended. Instead, Johnny Depp took the role, going on to carve a niche playing quirky outsiders.

While Miscavige might not have had any training judging scripts, he did have expertise in the technical side of moviemaking, closely monitoring the faith’s propaganda films for picture and sound quality. Not only did he have an expensive, state-of-the-art sound system in his apartment to check the sound quality of Golden Era products, Scientology engineers had also developed an in-house system called Clearsound. As a budding film star, Tom had been concerned about his weight. Now that he was an established Hollywood heartthrob, he fretted that his voice was just a tad too high pitched. He discussed his concerns with his Scientology mentor before filming started on Days of Thunder. Miscavige suggested that he listen to the difference a Clearsound system might make.

Although the system was not used for Days of Thunder, writer Rod Lurie later claimed that Miscavige lobbied producer Don Simpson about it during his visit to the movie set. Simpson, a onetime Scientologist who accused the organization of being “a con” after spending more than $25,000 on counseling, apparently told Miscavige to “f*** off” when he broached the subject and had him removed from the set. The cult leader subsequently denied any such altercation, although he did confirm that he had earlier discussed sound systems with Tom. The issue of using the Scientology sound system would resurface on future Tom Cruise projects.

With or without Clearsound, Days of Thunder — and its leading man — was given a tempestuous reception from the critics when it was released at the end of June 1989. “He is Cute and he’s Great at Something,” wrote David Denby in New York magazine. “But he’s also Cocky and he Shows Off. He is Reckless, Callow, Stupid. He is Out for Himself and he Goes Too Far. He must Mature. . . . There is a Crisis. He is Alone, Confused. Crestfallen. He seeks a Father Figure.” What was dubbed a “minor film with major pretensions” by Boxoffice struggled to break even. At the final reckoning, Tom’s first venture in orchestrating a big-budget film squeaked into the black, making just $89 million in ticket sales against costs of more than $70 million. After years of back-to-back filming, Tom needed a break, he and Nicole spending a couple of weeks scuba diving in the Bahamas when the movie wrapped. That summer the couple organized their new home in Pacific Palisades while undertaking intensive Scientology courses at their own VIP bungalow on the Gold compound. It was not all study, the couple enjoying the freedom to be themselves away from prying eyes and long lenses. For her birthday in June, for example, a flatbed truck arrived at the base carrying a brand-new Mercedes as a gift from Tom. “They were like teenagers running round the base having fun,” recalls one ex-member.

While Tom was now taking advanced Academy-level Scientology courses, Nicole was gently being introduced to Hubbard’s writings and basic Scientology tenets. Ironically, she shared one common denominator with Tom’s former wife — a troublesome father. Just as Mimi Rogers was seen as a Potential Trouble Source because of the cult’s animosity toward Phil Spickler, so technically Nicole had to be treated with grave suspicion. Not only was she a practicing Catholic, but her father, Dr. Antony Kidman, was a clinical psychologist. By definition, he was deemed an enemy of Scientology, a member of a profession responsible for all the ills on Earth, including the Holocaust in Germany and Stalin’s purges in Russia.

The destruction of Dr. Kidman’s profession was Scientology’s stated aim. For Nicole to be truly adopted and accepted by the sect, she should “disconnect” from her father — that is, never communicate with him again. It posed a genuine problem for the Scientology hierarchy. As Jesse Prince recalls, “It definitely counted against Nicole, having a psychologist as a father. She was always considered a Potential Trouble Source inside Scientology. But the leadership figured they could handle it. It was a balancing act. They had Tom in their pocket, so they thought they would worry about Nicole later.”

Not for the first time, it seemed that celebrity Scientologists lived by different rules than regular members, following Scientology Lite rather than the hard-core faith. And Tom Cruise was a law unto himself. As far as the Scientology leadership was concerned, nothing was too much trouble to keep him happy. So when the secrecy surrounding Tom’s membership in Scientology was exposed that summer in an article written by Janet Charlton in the Star tabloid in July 1990, the cult leadership went into overdrive, both to soothe the irritation of their most prized member and to find the source of the story. They used the notorious private investigator Eugene Ingrams, a former Los Angeles cop who was fired for misconduct after allegedly running a brothel, to find the culprit.

During his four-month investigation, journalist Charlton was harassed and people impersonated her, trying to get copies of her phone bill. Eventually, after a series of subterfuges, Nan Herst Bowers — longtime Scientologist, sometime Hollywood publicist, and friend of Janet Charlton — was fingered as the perpetrator. When she faced a Scientology court, she pled not guilty to eight media-related charges, including “engaging in malicious rumor mongering” and “giving anti-Scientology data to the press.” She was found guilty and formally listed as a “Suppressive Person Declare,” the equivalent to being excommunicated.

The ruling meant that she was not allowed to have any further contact with anyone inside Scientology, including her husband, her three sons, Brad, Todd, and Ryan, and her grandchild. Her family subsequently sent her letters of “Disconnect,” which confirmed their refusal to have any contact with her. Within a week, Nan had gone from being a happily married mother and grandmother to being entirely cut off from her friends and family. Sixteen years have passed since the trial, and she has never seen her husband, sons, or her eight grandchildren since. “I was made a scapegoat for the story after Tom Cruise complained. As far as I am concerned, Scientology broke up my family,” she says. “They kept my sons and their children from me. We werea nice close-knit Jewish family before this. I have not been able to lead a full life as a mother and grandmother because of this incident.” In August 1990, a month after the investigation was launched to find who had outed Tom, hundreds of Sea Org disciples faced the wrath of their leader after the actor’s VIP bungalow at Gold Base was badly damaged in a mudslide caused by heavy rains. It was an act of God, but as Scientologists don’t believe in God, David Miscavige blamed the Sea Org for not having proper flood procedures in place. He placed hundreds of Sea Org disciples in a severe ethics condition of “Confusion” as punishment, with gangs of Scientologists working around the clock to repair the damage. “Quite a few people left as a result because they thought he was crazy,” recalls Shelly Britt.

At the time, Tom was probably unaware of the severe punishment meted out to fellow Scientologists, just as Nicole would not have been enlightened about Scientology’s unbending hostility toward men like her father. As Sea Org disciples worked day and night to restore Tom and Nicole’s luxury quarters to its previous pristine condition, the couple flew by private jet to Sydney to meet her father and other family members. Vainly, Nicole tried to dampen the inevitable speculation about wedding bells. “All that talk about us being engaged is just nonsense,” she told one Australian magazine. “I’d like to get married one day but I think it would be very foolish to do so at this stage of my life.”

A month later they announced their betrothal, Tom buying her a diamond engagement ring costing a reported $260,000. His proposal was in keeping with the way he had wooed the Australian actress, Tom leaving a note on the pillow in her bedroom that said: “My darling Nicole, I chased you and chased you until you finally caught me. Now will you marry me?”

Almost immediately Tom’s assistant Andrea Morse and sister Lee Anne DeVette were dispatched to locate a suitable wedding location, eventually finding and renting a $2 million, six-bedroom timber house with spectacular views over the Rockies in the town of Telluride, a former Colorado mining town turned winter playground for the stars. On Christmas Eve 1990, with the house filled with flowers, including a willow arbor laced with white lilies and red roses, Nicole, wearing a 1930s antique brocaded gown she bought in Amsterdam, joined Tom for a simple Scientology wedding service. His auditor, Ray Mithoff, officiated; Nicole’s sister, Antonia, was maid of honor; Dustin Hoffman was best man; and guests included David and Shelley Miscavige, Gelda Mithoff, Greg Wilhere, and Nicole’s friend, actress Deborra-Lee Furness. The event was choreographed and orchestrated by Miscavige, who arranged for two Scientology chefs and other Sea Org disciples to cater and care for the newlyweds and their guests. While the wedding planning had been cloak and dagger, Tom and Nicole were keen to let the world into their little secret, the actress calling a radio station in Sydney two days after her wedding to say that she was now married and “blissfully happy.”

A few weeks later, the imperious über-agent Mike Ovitz, head of Creative Artists Agency, and Tom’s agent, Paula Wagner, hosted a celebration dinner in honor of Tom and Nicole. Alongside the movers and shakers of Hollywood at the DC3 restaurant in Santa Monica were the upper echelons of Scientology. Here was Mike Ovitz, then the most powerful man in Hollywood, rubbing shoulders with the most powerful man in Scientology, David Miscavige. Sandwiched between this collision of entertainment and religion sat Tom Cruise. It was a symbol of sorts.

Reprinted with permission from "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography" by Andrew Morton, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.