Wearing his trademark impish grin, Tom Cruise touched down in a helicopter for the premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” on Wednesday — an attention-getting display that said, “I am top gun.”
The action hero, reprising his iconic 1986 role as test pilot Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, sauntered across the aircraft carrier the USS Midway waving to the crowd and hamming it up with co-stars including Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly. He is soon to be 60 but looked at least a decade younger.
Only the Tom Cruise of 10 years ago was a very different man.
For one thing, we saw him everywhere. From 2005 to 2012, Cruise and his family were inescapable — with the media documenting his and wife Katie Holmes’ every move, including that famous “Oprah” couch jump, a lavish Italian wedding for “TomKat” and the birth of their daughter, Suri. Just days after she was born, Cruise told ABC News that her arrival was “spiritual” and “powerful.” He also talked to NBC back then about his prominent involvement in the Church of Scientology.
Now, though, the actor is rarely seen in public. When was the last time paparazzi captured Tom Cruise on the street or anywhere but a film set or premiere? After years of high-profile romances — with Holmes, ex-wife Nicole Kidman, “Vanilla Sky” co-star Penélope Cruz, even Cher — he hasn’t been seen out with a woman in years.
Which isn’t to say he isn’t dating. Just that Cruise is able to more tightly control his image than just about any star around.
The last time he was linked to anyone was his “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” co-star Hayley Atwell, back in late 2020. The seventh film in the “M:1” series is due to premiere next year, and insiders speculate we will see more of Atwell then.
“My sources say that Tom is obsessed with whoever he’s with. He directs a lot of energy at whatever woman he’s with, like Nicole and Katie. He’s ‘on’ all the time,” Tony Ortega, who writes the “Underground Bunker” blog, and is a leading Scientology expert, told The Post. “But he’s not been seen with anyone serious for 10 years now, which is very unusual for him. I think he dates here and there. He does a good job of keeping his life private now.”
Right now, Cruise wants to be seen, but on his own terms. He made an appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” this week and had a rare night out to see Lady Gaga in concert at the Park MGM in Las Vegas. But even that had a promotional purpose: Gaga has recorded the new “Top Gun” song “Hold My Hand,” and she posted photo of herself and Cruise kissing each other on the cheek.
Needless to say, the film’s premiere was tightly controlled. As Matt Belloni of Puck News reported, Cruise’s reps had “meticulously ferreted out media” who might ask about Shelly Miscavige — the wife of the actor’s close friend, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, she has not been seen in public since August 2007 — as well as actor Danny Masterson. The “That 70s Show” actor, who grew up in the church, is accused of raping three women, including his ex-girlfriend Chrissie Carnell Bixler, at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. His trial is slated for August and he has denied all claims.
But it wasn’t just about what was said — it was also about what was seen.
“It’s almost exclusively TV, and outlets were informed they must use professional-grade cameras, no iPhone footage allowed. That’s unusual, but Tom is Tom, and Tom’s gotta look great,” Belloni added.
Cruise was not joined by his children Bella, 29, and Connor, 27, whom he adopted with Kidman — nor with Suri, now 16.
Although he remains close to his older kids, who grew up in Scientology, Cruise has not been pictured with Suri since she was about 7, following his split from Holmes.
“It’s kind of amazing that Tom never gets asked ‘Why isn’t Suri a part of your life any more?’” Ortega said. “But there are all these restrictions [when interviewing him].”
Cruise’s publicist and lawyer did not return requests for comment.
Reps for Holmes were unavailable for comment.
Holmes divorced Cruise after nearly six years of marriage in 2012, while he was in Iceland filming the thriller “Oblivion” and she and Suri were in New York City, where they still live.
Although Cruise was said to be “blindsided” by the news, they settled their divorce in just 11 days. According to documents filed at the time, Cruise was to pay Holmes $400,000 per year in child support until Suri turned 18. That comes out to $4.8 million, which, as TMZ pointed out at the time, was significantly less than a judge could have ordered if the case went to trial.
Cruise was also required to pay for Suri’s expenses, including medical and all schooling.
Holmes had reportedly converted to Scientology for Cruise, and Ortega called the break-up a “surgically planned escape,” adding: ‘I have since recently got some new sources that talked to me about the build-up to that. It was even more complex than we know, Katie was using burner phones. There was work ahead of time to make sure all the legal issues had been looked at.”
He said it was a “team effort to get her out of there,” led by her dad, Ohio-based attorney Martin Holmes.
While former Scientology members have publicly said that family members still in the church were told to cut ties with them, Ortega said that, as a celebrity, Cruise would not necessarily be made to do that with Suri.
“Celebrities get to ignore those rules and nobody would have more freedom than the number-one celebrity, Tom Cruise,” Ortega said. “That’s one of the perks of being a celebrity in Scientology.”
Ortega said that while Cruise has not been seen at Scientology events in the past two years, that’s because COVID has caused the church to cut back on gatherings.
The star’s main home is a penthouse in Clearwater, Fla., just blocks from Scientology headquarters. Over the past decade, Cruise has sold off millions of dollars worth of property, including a New York condo, a Telluride ranch for $39.5 million and his Beverly Hills mansion for $40 million.
But you would never know if Cruise was actually at home in Florida because everything is so concealed: His building has a car elevator and an air bridge that takes him directly into the two floor penthouse, according to Ortega, who viewed the building plans.
Cruise has actually been abroad for the past few years filming “M:1 7,” traveling between Italy, the UK, Norway and Abu Dhabi. The still-unfinished movie has already hit a $290 million budget and was shut down multiple times due to the pandemic.
In December 2020, with the production shooting outside London, The Sun got hold of an audiotape of Cruise yelling at the crew, allegedly after he saw a couple of people standing too close together despite social-distancing rules.
He said: “We are the gold standard. They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. Because they believe in us and what we’re doing. I’m on the phone with every f—ing studio at night, insurance companies, producers and they’re looking at us and using us to make their movies. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherf–kers. I don’t ever want to see it again. Ever!”
It was a rare display of Cruise seemingly out of control. But one Hollywood industry source told The Post, “I thought it was amazing. I don’t actually think it was bad for Tom’s PR at all, it showed he cared.”
Cruise later addressed the rant in an interview with Empire magazine in May 2021, saying, “There was a lot at stake at that point.”
The star remains in charge of everything he works on. He’s been collaborating with Paramount studios for 37 years and the “Mission: Impossible” series has made $3.6 billion at the box office. But Kim Masters wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that Cruise “lawyered up” when the studio notified him that the latest film would have a 45-day theatrical window — far shorter than the usual three-month run — before streaming on Paramount+.
Cruise has also allegedly banned Paramount from developing a “Days of Thunder” series for its streamer, as well as a “Mission:Impossible” series, according to Masters.
“Top Gun: Maverick” co-star Teller has said that Cruise stressed the importance of living up to expectations while filming: “Tom would say, ‘We’re trying to hit a bullet with a bullet.’”