Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV to father Thomas Mapother III, an electrical engineer, and mother Mary Lee Pfeiffer.
Cruise had a close relationship with his three sisters: Marian, Lee Ann (who later became his publicist until November 2005) and Cass. He was seven when he was diagnosed with dyslexia and his parents divorced when he was twelve. His parents moved house frequently and by the time he was 14, Cruise had attended fifteen different schools in the US and Canada. Finding his father "a bully and a coward … a merchant of chaos", Cruise dropped the name Mapother when his father refused to pay child support. He then enrolled at a Franciscan seminary to become a priest (at age 14) but dropped out after a year.
Briefly attending St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky, he was a paperboy for the Louisville Courier-Journal and finally settled at Glen Ridge High School, New Jersey. It was here that Cruise developed an interest in acting, after injuring his knee and being unable to continue on the school's wrestling team. He played the lead role in the school's production of 'Guys and Dolls' with great success.
After graduating from Glen Ridge High School in June 1980, Cruise headed for New York to pursue an acting career. He attended the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City, studying drama with renowned acting coaches Phil Gushee and Sanford Meisner.
He also studied at the Actors Studio, New School University, New York. Cruise made his film debut with a small part in Franco Zeffirelli's 'Endless Love' (1981), starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. Having gained immediate notice, he was then cast as Cadet Captain David Shawn, with George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn, in the military drama 'Taps' (1981). The film had a mediocre response but helped Cruise gain further acting exposure and ensured a full filmmaking schedule for the next two years.
He was in two teen movies, 'The Outsiders' (1983) and 'Losin' It' (1983). Then came 'Risky Business' (1983), a crime caper with Rebecca De Mornay and Cruise's first leading role in a blockbuster. It was this role that truly began his rise to stardom. The fourth Cruise film that year was 'All the Right Moves' (1983), a high school football drama. His father died in 1984 and his next film, Ridley Scott's 'Legend' (1985), received a lukewarm response.
These were merely 'teething problems' and Cruise went on to star in some of the highest grossing films of the 1980s, including: 'Top Gun' (1986), about macho US fighter pilots, with Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer; Martin Scorsese's 'The Colour of Money' (1986) with Paul Newman; 'Rain Man' (1988) co-starring Dustin Hoffman, a film that was praised by critics and won four Academy Awards; and 'Born on the Fourth of July' (1989), for which Cruise received Oscar nominations.
Other 1980s movies were 'Cocktail' (1988), a light-hearted drama, which received mixed reviews and earned Cruise a Razzie award in 1989 and a cameo in 'Young Guns' (1988). He was in an episode of '3rd Rock from the Sun' (Dick and the Other Guy) in 1988.
In 1990, Cruise renounced his Catholic beliefs and turned instead to The Church of Scientology, claiming in an interview that Scientology had cured his dyslexia, which caused a furore in the medical community. Despite criticism aimed at Cruise for his beliefs, by the 1990s he was one of the highest paid actors in the world, earning an average of $15 million per film.
He played hotshot Cole Trickle in the stock car racing film 'Days of Thunder' (1990) where he met his future wife, Nicole Kidman, who starred as Dr Claire Lewicki. In the critically acclaimed 'Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles' (1994), he starred as Lestat de Lioncourt with Brad Pitt. Cruise made his debut as Producer with Brian De Palma's 'Mission: Impossible' (1996), in which he also starred as Ethan Hunt with John Voight.
He joined with Paula Wagner to form Cruise/Wagner Productions, which has since co-produced several of his films, and they won a 1997 Nova Award for Most Promising Producer in Theatrical Motion Pictures for 'Mission: Impossible' (1996). He also played the title role in 'Jerry Maguire' (1996), with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Renee Zellweger, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Other 1990s films were 'Far and Away' (1992) again starring with Kidman; 'A Few Good Men' (1992), a military thriller with Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore which was well received and earned Cruise MTV and Golden Globe nominations; 'The Firm' (1993), that won Favourite Dramatic Motion Picture at the People's Choice Awards; the dark drama that was the late Stanley Kubrick's last film, 'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999) with Nicole Kidman; and 'Magnolia' (1999) with Julianne Moore and William H. Macy, for which he received and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Cruise also produced 'Without Limits' (1998) about the famous athlete Steve Prefontaine.
Starting the New Millennium with a strong focus on working as both producer and actor, Cruise completed the blockbuster sequel 'Mission: Impossible II' (2000) and then 'Vanilla Sky' (2001) co-starring Penelope Cruz.
Films he produced but in which he did not act include: 'The Others' (2001), starring Nicole Kidman, 'Narc' (2002) and 'Hitting It Hard' (2002). To follow was the very successful 'Shattered Glass' (2003), 'Suspect Zero' (2004), 'Elizabethtown' (2005) with Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, and 'Ask the Dust' (2006) with Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek and Donald Sutherland.
Cruise played Chief John Anderton in the futuristic thriller 'Minority Report' (2002) and had a role in the hugely successful 'Austin Powers in Goldmember' (2002) with Mike Myers and Beyonce Knowles. In the war drama 'The Last Samurai' (2003), Cruise played Nathan Algren, performing some of his own stunts, and also produced the film.
In a departure from his usual 'good guy' roles, he played grey-haired contract killer Vincent in 'Collateral' (2004), a crime thriller with Jamie Foxx and Jada Pinkett Smith. Next was Steven Spielberg's 'War of the Worlds' (2005), a box office smash hit, followed by the third in the series, 'Mission: Impossible III' (2006) which Cruise once again produced.
In terms of relationships, Cruise has not always had staying power. He married actress Mimi Rogers on 9 May 1987 but they were divorced on 4 February 1990. It is believed that Rogers introduced Cruise to Scientology. On 24 December 1990, he married Nicole Kidman, whom he had met on the set of 'Days of Thunder' (1990).
Together they adopted two children, Isabella Jane (b. 22 December 1992) and Connor Antony (b. 17 January 1995). Shortly before their 10th wedding anniversary and with Kidman three months pregnant with their first biological child, the couple separated. Kidman later miscarried and they were divorced on 8 August 2001. Cruise then dated his 'Vanilla Sky' (2001) co-star, Penelope Cruz, from 2001 to January 2004.
In April 2005, he started dating actress Katie Holmes and they were engaged on 17 June 2005, with Cruise proposing to her at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. "Tom/Kat", as they are known, married in an elaborate ceremony in Italy in November, 2006, several months after Holmes gave birth to their daughter Suri in Los Angeles.
Cruise enjoys scuba diving, skydiving and piloting his Pitts Special S-2B stunt plane. He received his pilot's license in 1994 in Toronto, Canada. He makes regular donations to charities, including The Tsunami Relief Fund, The Ashley Flint Fund, Themoms.biz Diabetes Fund, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign and The Church of Scientology.
He co-founded Downtown Medical, which offers Scientology-based detoxification therapy to New York 9/11 rescue workers. Together with Oprah Winfrey, he co-hosted the annual Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway in 2004.
Viewed by his friends as kind, thoughtful, compassionate and generous, Cruise has suffered rumours in the past about being gay and has more recently endured much negative media coverage concerning his Scientology beliefs and his relationship with Katie Holmes, whom he divorced in 2012.
On 23 May 2005, the normally reserved Cruise stunned the world with "that couch-jumping incident" on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' when he excitedly exclaimed his love for Holmes. The American TV Guide magazine named this the number one Celebrity Meltdown Ever. The term "jumping the couch", meaning to go off the deep end in public, quickly made its way into popular speech.
On 22 August 2006, the Wall Street Journal announced that Paramount Pictures was terminating its $3 million per annum development deal with Cruise, after fourteen years. The reason cited was the under-performance of 'Mission: Impossible III' (2006) which was attributed to Cruise's recent controversial behaviour and views.
In 2006 Cruise and long-term production partner Paula Wagner, in co-operation with MGM, resurrected the United Artists film studio, in which Cruise would take both acting and producer roles. Wagner left the studio in August of 2008.
United Artists has produced 'Lions for Lambs' (2007) and 'Valkyrie' (2009). While working for UA, Cruise made a surprise and unannounced cameo in Ben Stiller's 2008 comedy smash 'Tropic Thunder' as an irate actor's agent. This performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Never having been one who cares much for what other people think of him and still being one of the highest paid and sought after actors in film history, Cruise has several production projects in the pipeline. As of 2009, Cruise's films have grossed over $6.5 billion worldwide. He took a break from acting in 2009 but returned to the big screen in 'Knight and Day' as a spy trying to clear his name in 2010. Cameron Diaz also appeared in the film.
In 2011, he produced and starred in the fourth installment of the Mission Impossible franchise. He returned as Ethan Hunt in 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol', which was released on 26 December 2011.
At the film's premiere, he said that: "I'm just going to keep going, as long as I can do it. I love making action films." In 2012, Cruise played washed-up rockstar Stacee Jaxx in the film adaptation of the Broadway and West End play 'Rock of Ages'. This was followed by 'Jack Reacher', 'Oblivion' and 'Edge Of Tomorrow' in 2014.
Whilst the world eagerly awaits his next moves, on both a personal and a professional level, Cruise continues to pursue his dreams with an intensity and instinct for survival that he learned in his youth.