12 Things You Might Not Know About Tom Cruise

The actor once considered joining the priesthood.
Tom Cruise in 2023.
Tom Cruise in 2023. / Mike Coppola/GettyImages


Defining movie star is somewhat subjective. If it’s a combination of charisma, audience interest, and box office success, then one of the few performers that continue to meet the definition is Tom Cruise. The actor, who has been on screens for over 40 years, regularly makes movies that are considered appointment viewing in theaters even in the era of streaming. His Mission: Impossible series alone has brought in over $1.3 billion domestically.

Part of Cruise’s appeal is his enigmatic public persona. He rarely lets his guard down, preferring to let his work speak for him. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty to know about his life and career.

Tom Cruise started doing stunts early on.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV on July 3, 1962, in Syracuse, New York, Cruise seemed to be drawn to physical activity and danger from an early age. In 2022, the actor recalled that when he was around 4 years old, he thought it would be a good idea to jump off the roof of his childhood home while using a sheet as a parachute. "It’s that moment when you jump off the roof and you go, ‘This is not gonna work,’” he said. “’This is terrible. I’m gonna die.’ And I hit the ground so hard. Luckily, it was wet … And I saw stars in the daytime for the first time, and I remember looking up, going, ‘This is very interesting.’”

He was a pretty good high school wrestler.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Barry King/GettyImages

Cruise’s mother, Mary, separated from his father, Tom Senior, in 1976, when Cruise was 14. (The actor would later allege that Senior had been abusive toward him.) The family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and Cruise also spent some time in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he briefly considered becoming a Franciscan priest. Eventually, he rejoined his family and they settled in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, where he joined the varsity high school wrestling team as a junior and senior. During the 1979-1980 year, the team went 14-4-1.

The wrestling may have indirectly played a role in his career choice. After a leg injury prevented him from continuing, he decided to investigate acting and signed up for a role in a school production of Guys and Dolls. “All of a sudden, I felt like I knew what I was doing,” he said in 1983. “And I got all this attention, and it just felt right. So I came to New York. I wanted to try [acting].”

Cruise auditioned for Risky Business with a chipped tooth.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

In 1981, Cruise appeared in a small role in Endless Love and as a military cadet in Taps. Two years later, he appeared in the teen sex comedy Losin’ It and the football drama All the Right Moves. Cruise also scored a role as a street punk in The Outsiders. It was during filming of The Outsiders that Cruise auditioned for Risky Business, which cast him as a preppy kid who runs amok when his parents leave town. “I told them, ‘I can't afford to tamper with my Outsiders character because I have to work tonight,’” he said in 1983. “’I can't take a shower, even.’ I was all greasy, had a chipped tooth and a tattoo, and an Okie drawl. And they cast me for this clean-cut boy.”

Risky Business was considered Cruise's true breakout role. It also made Cruise synonymous with Ray-Ban sunglasses, which he later wore to great effect in 1986’s Top Gun.

He didn’t love Cocktail.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Barry King/GettyImages

The mid- to late-1980s was a period where Cruise was able to demonstrate his dramatic chops with prestige directors in films like 1985's Legend (Ridley Scott), 1986’s The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese), 1988’s Rain Man (Barry Levinson), and 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July (Oliver Stone). In the middle of this impressive run came Cocktail (1988), a relatively lightweight drama about a bartender who relocates to Jamaica. It was “not a crowning jewel,” he told Rolling Stone in 1992. The film earned a Golden Raspberry Award, or “Razzie,” for Worst Picture, the same year that Rain Man won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Cruise directed an episode of television.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Barry King/GettyImages

Given his collaborative nature and intense interest in filmmaking, it’s somewhat surprising Cruise has yet to helm a feature film. But he has gotten behind the camera. In 1993, Cruise directed an episode of the Showtime series Fallen Angels, an anthology set largely in 1940s and 1950s Los Angeles. In the episode, titled “The Frightening Frammis,” a con man (Peter Gallagher) has the misfortune to cross paths with a femme fatale named Babe (Isabella Rosellini). The series was produced by Sydney Pollack, who had just directed Cruise in the 1993 film The Firm.

Cruise took heat for two adaptations.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Barry King/GettyImages

When Cruise was cast as the vampire Lestat in 1994’s Interview With the Vampire, the book’s author, Anne Rice, was a vocal critic, saying she preferred someone like Daniel Day-Lewis for the role. After seeing Cruise in the part, Rice changed her mind, calling him “wonderful.” Cruise had a similar experience in 2012’s Jack Reacher, where fans of the Lee Child book series found him smaller in stature compared to Child’s towering protagonist. The film did well, however, meriting  a 2016 sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

Cruise could have been in The Shawshank Redemption.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Focus On Sport/GettyImages

The list of movies Cruise has been offered (or at least had discussions about doing) is long, and the list of movies he’s turned down is likely even longer. Among them: Footloose, Edward Scissorhands, and The Shawshank Redemption. Director and writer Frank Darabont, who adapted the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption for the screen in 1994, said that producer Rob Reiner offered to acquire the script so he could direct and his A Few Good Men star Cruise could step into the role of Andy Dufresne. Darabont was tempted, but ultimately decided to make the movie himself. He cast Tim Robbins as Dufresne.

Cruise was involved in one of the longest film shoots of all time.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Barry King/GettyImages

Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman agreed to star in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, which examines the complicated marriage of a young couple tempted by forces outside their union. Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey), a notorious perfectionist, shot the film for an astounding 15 months, far beyond the typical four- to six-month shoot of many films. Guinness World Records recognizes it as the longest continuous production in cinema history. (Interrupted shoots are a different story: Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age drama Boyhood shot for 39 days over a window spanning from 2002 to 2013.)

Eyes Wide Shut was met with a tepid reception, though it proved bountiful for Cruise. While on set, he met with director Paul Thomas Anderson, who cast him as a motivational speaker in 1999’s Magnolia. That part earned Cruise an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He had previously been nominated for Born on the Fourth of July and for Jerry Maguire (1996), though he has yet to win.

He has a cousin who is also an actor.

William Mapother is pictured
J. P. Aussenard/GettyImages

Cruise wasn’t the only member of his family to get into acting. His fraternal cousin, William Mapother, is also in the business and has shared several of Cruise’s film sets. Mapother was a production assistant before getting parts in Magnolia (1999) and in 2002’s Minority Report, playing a desk clerk who is threatened by Cruise’s distressed protagonist. Mapother might be best known as Ethan Rom, a character of dubious intentions on ABC’s drama Lost.

Cruise rescued multiple people from maritime disaster.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Franco Origlia/GettyImages

In 1996, Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman were aboard a yacht near Capri, Italy, when they came upon a family floating in a lifeboat whose own yacht had caught on fire. They climbed aboard Cruise’s vessel until the Coast Guard arrived.

A decade prior, it was Cruise himself who needed a hand. While filming Top Gun, he was dragged underwater by parachute lines. According to United Press International, Navy swim school instructors rushed to pull him out.

He asked to be included in a photo with some famous directors.

Tom Cruise is pictured
James Devaney/GettyImages

Shooting The Last Samurai with Cruise in 2003, director Ed Zwick was surprised to see several A-list directors dropping by the set to see Cruise. When the actor learned that David Fincher (Fight Club), Cameron Crowe (who directed Cruise in Jerry Maguire), and others posed for a group photo with Zwick while he was busy, he asked that he be retroactively placed in the image.

Cruise gifts colleagues with hundreds of holiday cakes.

Tom Cruise is pictured
Don Arnold/GettyImages

To work with Tom Cruise is to risk being sent a cake every holiday for the rest of your life. (Or his.) Each year, the actor orders white chocolate coconut Bundt cakes from Doan’s Bakery in Los Angeles and has them sent to a list of recipients, including former co-stars. According to former talk show host James Corden, Cruise himself has never tried the cake. (Other stories, however, have him tasting it as part of a “cake-off” while Cruise’s then-wife Katie Holmes and Diane Keaton were making a film together in 2008. The cake was reportedly Keaton’s favorite.)

Read More Articles About Celebrities: