Actor. Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, on July 3, 1962, in Syracuse, New York. His family moved around a great deal when Cruise was a child in order to accommodate his father’s career as an electrical engineer. Cruise’s parents divorced when he was 11, and the children moved with their mother to Louisville, Kentucky, and then to Glen Ridge, New Jersey, after her remarriage. Like his mother, a teacher and amateur actress, and his three sisters, Cruise suffered from dyslexia, which made academic success difficult for him. He excelled in athletics, however, and had considered pursuing a career in professional wrestling until a knee injury sidelined him during high school in Glen Ridge. At age 14, Cruise enrolled in a Franciscan seminary with thoughts of becoming a priest, but he left after a year. When he was 16, a teacher encouraged him to participate in the school’s production of the musical Guys and Dolls. After Cruise won the lead of Nathan Detroit, he found himself surprisingly at home on the stage, and a career was born.
Cruise set a ten-year deadline for himself in which to build an acting career. He left school and moved to New York, struggling through audition after audition before landing an appearance in 1981’s Endless Love, starring Brooke Shields, and a small role in the military school drama Taps, also released in 1981 and co-starring Sean Penn. His role in Taps was upgraded after director Harold Becker saw Cruise’s potential, and his performance caught the attention of a number of critics and filmmakers. In 1983, Cruise appeared in The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, alongside Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, all prominent members of a group of young actors that the entertainment press had dubbed the “Brat Pack.” The film was not well received, but it allowed Cruise to work with an acclaimed director in a high-profile project. His next film, Risky Business (1983), immediately made Cruise a highly recognizable actor, grossing $65 million and injecting into the pop cultural memory a memorable scene of Cruise dancing in his underwear.
In 1986, after a nearly two-year hiatus, the budding film star released the big-budget fantasy film Legend, which did poorly at the box office. That same year, however, Cruise’s A-list status was confirmed with the release of Top Gun, a testoterone-fueled action-romance set against the backdrop of an elite naval flight school, and co-starring Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, and Meg Ryan.
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Tom Cruise Biography
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