Tom Cruise is on a quest to preserve his career as an action hero as he approaches his 60th birthday in July, the film industry insider who masterminded his career told in an exclusive interview.
Retired showbusiness executive Eileen Berlin became Cruise’s personal manager when he was an 18-year-old unknown actor desperately trying to hit the big time.
Now, 42 years later, Berlin, 86, is unveiling treasured photos taken during the four-and-a-half year period when she says she was a surrogate mother to the extraordinarily talented but troubled youth who went on to become Hollywood’s highest-paid star.
Berlin explained how Cruise’s now-infamous December 2020 expletive-ridden rant on the set of Mission: Impossible 7 stems from a hair-trigger temper that she first witnessed when he was a teenager.
One of his fits of rage, which she said were fueled by his father’s bullying, culminated in him turning a birthday present into a makeshift missile that struck her in the face.
Tom Cruise was intent on making it as a huge Hollywood star at the tender age of 18, when he was still working as a waiter and living with his manager in New York City, can reveal
Former manager Eileen Berlin shared treasured photos taken during the four-and-a-half year period when she says she was a surrogate mother to the youth who went on to become Hollywood’s highest-paid star ‘Tommy had many faces – you see it in the photos,’ Berlin said during an interview. There’s contempt, arrogance, frustration, charm sadness’
The 59-year-old actor (pictured at Wimbledon in 2021) was ‘very, very ambitious’ at a young age which contributed to the meticulous and controlling tendencies he is known to possess as an adult and actor
Berlin said Cruise had also ordered her to type up 11 demands for his 1983 breakout role in Risky Business which gave an early glimpse into the controlling streak that dominates his behavior to this day.
The plastic surgery rumors that surround him in adulthood also make sense, according to the showbiz manager, who revealed Cruise had been so insecure about his looks that he took an entire day experimenting with poses for his first publicity headshot.
‘Tommy had many faces – you see it in the photos,’ Berlin said during an interview at the building on Manhattan’s exclusive Upper East Side where she gave Cruise a home when he was a penniless, out-of-work actor.
Berlin, now 86, managed Cruise’s career and even gave him a home at her Upper East Side apartment when he was still an unknown actor
Leafing through dozens of dusty black-and-white pictures snapped during his first publicity shoot, she said: ‘There’s contempt, arrogance, frustration, charm sadness. I saw him in all those moods.
‘What I have never seen is a real display of happiness in Tommy. He was always very, very ambitious, very, very determined to be a star. And that made him a perfectionist.
‘That’s what drove him when I managed him and I’m sure that’s what drives him now.’
Eileen and her late husband, Simon, met Tommy – as they nicknamed him – in 1980 when he was struggling to escape the scars of a dysfunctional childhood.
He was only 14 when his mother, Mary Lee, broke up with his father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III.
In a 2006 interview, Cruise said Mapother was a ‘bully and a coward,’ adding: ‘He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life – how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang!’
Cruise briefly studied to be a priest at a Roman Catholic seminary in Ohio but reportedly was ‘kicked out’ after a prank in which he pilfered from a staff liquor cabinet with some other students.
Two years later, his mother remarried and he settled with his three sisters and their new stepfather, Jack South, in New Jersey, where he won a part in a high school production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ that kindled his new dream of a career in acting.
An insecure perfectionist who was determined to make it big, Cruise took an entire day experimenting with poses for his first publicity headshot, Berlin revealed
Cruise purportedly had an obsession with his appearance and was intent on perfection when it came to his career
In a headshot of him taken at 18 that is displayed in Berlin’s living room, Cruise smiles boyishly and is neatly dressed in a jacket and collared shirt
Proof sheets of a photo shoot of Cruise taken in 1981 when Eileen Berlin was his manager; on top is birthday note he wrote to his ‘wonderful manager’ Eileen
But the only work he landed was a bit part in the weepie ‘Endless Love,’ in which he played second fiddle to the star Brooke Shields.
‘He told us he needed us to manage his career and find him a Hollywood agent,’ Berlin recalled. ‘He signed with us after his 18th birthday.’
But Cruise also needed somewhere to live, she added.
‘He was trying to support himself by working as a waiter.
‘He wasn’t making enough money to rent a place so we told him he could move into our apartment. Our son was at college so we gave Tommy his room and when he needed a car he drove my husband’s blue Cadillac.
‘He was having some difficulties with his mom but she would come and visit him at our house or he’d use the car to see her in New Jersey.’
The new lodger charmed Eileen at first because he ‘was sweet, respectful and mannerly to a fault’ and ‘always addressed me as “ma’am” and my husband as “sir,” she said.
She was jarred, however, by his obsession with his appearance.
In a headshot of him taken at 18 that is displayed in her living room, he smiles boyishly and is neatly dressed in a jacket and collared shirt.
But he would prepare for photo sessions by parading in his underwear: ‘We had a mirrored wall and he’d walk around in his little jockey shorts and nothing else and ball up his fists and flex his biceps and admire himself in the mirror,’ Berlin said.
When negotiating his contract for his first blockbuster, the 1983 teen sex comedy Risky Business, Cruise presented a talent agent with a list of eleven demands, labelled ‘Pre-Screen Deal,’ – unveiled for the first time by
Pictured above is a pay stub made out to Cruise by Berlin’s company The Lindhardt Group
Cruise is seen alongside singer-actress Melba Moore, now 76, in an undated photo
‘I was embarrassed but he liked to show off his body. He had a great pride in it but he was working on perfection. He worried that he was only five foot seven. He said he would like some shoes that would lift him up a bit.’
Though he has denied having plastic surgery, he is rumored to have undergone a nose job, hair transplant and veneers on his teeth.
There was speculation about facial filler injections after he showed up looking puffy at a San Francisco baseball game.
Berlin said she wouldn’t be surprised to learn if Cruise had surgery.
‘Tommy has built an aura around himself. I think he will do whatever it takes to preserve his youthful image as long as possible and will fight anything that stands in his way.’
His first publicity shoot took a whole day as he struck up dozens of poses in outfits including a tank top and tight jeans.
‘Other clients would have you take just one headshot but Tommy was intent on perfection,’ the former manager said.
He finally settled on the decorous picture that Berlin has framed. She sent it to prospective agents and was thrilled when he was signed by one of the most influential firms in Hollywood, Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
Berlin said Cruise’s meticulous and controlling tendencies were on full display when he was negotiating his contract for his first blockbuster, the 1983 teen sex comedy Risky Business, in which he co-starred with Rebecca De Mornay.
Cruise shot to stardom thanks to his first breakthrough role as Joel Goodsen in 1983 comedy Risky Business, in which he co-starred with Rebecca De Mornay
The A-list actor has played the lead role in the Mission: Impossible action film franchise since 1998
Berlin said she believes Cruise ‘loves what he does’ more than anything else and will do whatever it takes to preserve his youthful image as long as possible. He is pictured left accepting a Golden Globe award in 1997
His CAA representative, Laurie Perlman, was presented with a list of eleven demands, labelled ‘Pre-Screen Deal,’ that Berlin unveiled for the first time to .
‘I still remember how Tommy had me type them up,’ she said, retrieving the faded single-spaced document from a dog-eared folder.
The list starts with his salary – ‘$75,000 pay or play.’
Filming was to take ’10 weeks’ with two weeks budgeted for rehearsals. He wanted ‘first star billing….no-one gets larger billing….if the female lead has greater stature than Tom…then he gets second billing…..
Cruise and Berlin’s professional relationship ended in 1983 when he decided to cement his new superstar status by moving to Los Angeles
‘If they use a photo or drawing of anyone in the film then they must do the same for Tommy and larger.’
Cruise would be flown to the location ‘first class round trip,’ put up in a ‘first class hotel and given the ‘most favorable dressing room,’ according to the list.
He had no qualms about calling the shots with Perlman. She was a power player who would go on to become a producer in an industry in which he was a newbie.
‘He was very self centered. Everything revolved around “me”,’ Berlin said.
Risky Business grossed $63million – more than ten times its $6.2million budget.
Berlin said Cruise’s infamous obscene rant in 2020 at the film crew on the London set of Mission: Impossible 7, exemplified another side of his personality.
In a recording leaked to The Sun, he was heard accusing his co-workers of breaking COVID-19 social distancing protocols.
‘If I see you do it again, you’re f**king gone!’ he shouted. ‘And if anyone in this crew does it, that’s it. And you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f**king do it again…..We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherf***ers. That’s it. No apologies.
‘You can tell it to the people that are losing their f**king homes because our industry is shut down.
‘We are not shutting this f**king movie down, is it understood? If I see it again, you’re f**king gone.’
Some critics were astounded by the tirade. But others pointed out that lockdowns have delayed the release of the film and its sequel, Mission: Impossible 8, to 2023 and 2024 respectively. Cruise will be a week shy of his 62nd birthday by the time the eighth installment is released.
For a man who is as hung up as Cruise is with his looks, that is a disturbing prospect – and one that Berlin believes he is bound to take hard.
Cruise’s explosive temper and controlling tendencies made headlines in 2020 when he was recorded ranting to the crew on the London set of Mission: Impossible 7 for breaking Covid-19 protocol
The pandemic lockdown has delayed the release of the film and its sequel, Mission: Impossible 8, to 2023 and 2024 respectively. Cruise will be a week shy of his 62nd birthday by the time the eighth installment is released. He is seen talking to fans on the set of Mission: Impossible 7 in Italy in November 2020
‘Tommy had a terrible temper,’ she claims. ‘He harbored a lot of anger at his natural father. He was moody and would get angry in a snap of your fingers.
‘It was like something was smoldering and it would boil up and explode. I put it down to his insecurity.
‘I presented him with an album with all his publicity articles from teen magazines for his 19th birthday. He screamed, “I don’t want to be in the teen mags”.’
‘He had told me he considered himself an adult, not a teen idol. He threw the album hard at me and it hit me on the cheek.’
The first major role that he landed while he was Eileen’s protégé was as a military cadet in the 1981 movie Taps, co-starring with George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. He deliberately worked himself into a rage for one memorable sequence.
‘He told me he locked himself into a closet and thought about someone raping his sister before he filmed a scene where he blasted a machine gun,’ Berlin said.
She also recalled one incident when Cruise became infuriated after a server recognized him during a break from the shoot at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania when he met Berlin and her husband for lunch.
‘The waitress asked him “Aren’t you one of the actors?” she said. ‘Tom said to us, “Please tell her not to ask me any questions. I’m still in character”.’
The last film for which she represented him was Top Gun, in which he played a hot-dog Navy pilot. It was the highest-grossing film of 1986, earning $176million at the box office.
Cruise and Berlin’s professional relationship ended when he decided to cement his new superstar status by moving to Los Angeles.
Berlin said Cruise expected her to follow him on his journey and was crestfallen when she told him that it was impossible for her to desert her family and other clients in New York.
They kept in touch in the following years and during a dinner he mentioned that he was looking into the teachings of Scientology. Berlin later started to receive invitations to church events.
‘I think Tommy was the perfect candidate for Scientology,’ she said. ‘He’d told me he didn’t know anyone in LA and needed support. He didn’t believe in therapy but he obviously needed help and Scientology was there for him.
Berlin said she wasn’t surprised that all three of his marriages – to Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes – ended in divorce.
‘I was just shocked that he had three marriages and that they lasted as long as they did.
‘I wish he had other things in his life. But I don’t think he loves people. He loves what he does.
‘I feel sad for him. I worry that he is lonely. As long as he can work and make his kind of films, he’ll be okay. What will happen if ever he can’t do that, I don’t know.’