Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes
Lucas Jackson  /  AP
Actor Tom Cruise waves to the crowd as his fiancee, actress Katie Holmes, looks on as they arrive for the premiere of his latest movie, "Mission: Impossible III," Thursday, May 4, 2006, in Los Angeles.
By Hoda Kotb Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/7/2006 9:39:44 PM ET 2006-05-08T01:39:44
TRANSCRIPT

This report aired Dateline Sunday, May 7, 7 p.m.

My mission begins in New York City, at the premiere of Mission Impossible: III.  The mission is to chase agent Ethan Hunt, a.k.a. Tom Cruise, Hollywood’s $100 million dollar gorilla as he pounces on a car a boat, a train, a fire truck—anything but a couch.

Just a year ago, Cruise’s private life had shrunk him from star of the big screen to this smaller one— the Internet.

Cruise probably never expected to star in Internet parodies. For awhile, it looked like his career was in a free fall and the movie studios, the gossips, and the fans were waiting to see him crash.

My mission to find out if he can get back on top takes me down the long and bumpy road— from New York to L.A., from matters of the heart to the heart of Scientology.

To Rome, where, a year ago, Tom Cruise introduced us to a woman named Katie.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: What was the first indicator to you, Paula, that something was up with Tom Cruise? Something different.

Paula Froelich, New York Post “Page Six” Reporter “Insider” Correspondent: I don’t know. When he walked out of that car in Rome and said, “Here’s my new girlfriend, Katie Holmes.” Everybody went, “What? Left field. How did you even know each other. You know, who knew you were such a “Dawson’s Creek” fan?”

“It was like the big bang of celebrity relationships. It was nothing and then BOOM everyone is talking about Tom and Katie, Katie and Tom, they call them TomKat. And they are crazy in love,” says Paul Scheer of VH1’s Best Week Ever.

So was it puppy love or were they publicity hounds? He needed younger fans and she needed more fans. It was perfect casting.

Kotb: How did Tom and Katie meet?

Jessica Coen, editor, Gawker.com: Nobody really knows. The story is they met in a meeting.

Bloggers called it a match made in box office heaven.  Still it did not follow the usual Hollywood script.

Froelich: The usual Hollywood couple: meet and they keep it really quiet. If somebody sees them, they have their press say, “They’re just friends.”  And that’ll go on until oops, somebody’s wearing a ring. And they go, “Ah, what’s that three caret diamond ring doing on your left hand?”  And finally, they go, “Oh, oops, you caught us. We’re engaged.” And then they do like a People Magazine cover.  And then usually about six months later, they get married. They have this huge celebration. They try the keep it under wraps. But, people always know because there’s a huge tent being constructed on Malibu. That’s the normal Hollywood relationship.

That is certainly not TomKat.

And when the script called for a couch scene, it definitely did not mean Tom jumping up a couch on Oprah.

Coen: Suddenly it’s like, “Oh my gosh. Tom Cruise just went crazy on Oprah.”

Scheer: We didn’t know whether he was gonna slit her throat or burst out into song.  Then a month later they got engaged at the Eiffel Tower, classy!

And if that wasn’t crazy enough—Cruise went right for the other Hollywood taboo—religion.   He turned a movie press tour last year into a Scientology magical mystery tour.

Many celebrities swear by Scientology: John Travolta, Juliette Lewis, Jenna Elfman, Jason Lee, Kirstie Alley, and Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley. Not the king—but his wife and daughter.

And it is no coincidence.

In my mission to find out if Cruise is in control— or out of control— I met former Scientologist Karen Pressley.  She says she used to work full time at the church’s exclusive celebrity center in Hollywood. Her job she says: recruiting the stars.

Karen Pressley: We were put under incredible duress actually, to recruit celebrities.

Kotb: Was there a list?

Pressley: Actually there was. Young actors that were really making it in film at the time. I think were our biggest priorities.

Tom Cruise was exactly that. It was 1985 and he was filming “Top Gun.” He says church helped cure him of a learning disability.   And in recent years, he’s out to fix the rest of us, or at least his co-workers.

Tom Cruise (at a Paris press conference): You have to understand in Hollywood, when people need help, they call me. When they’re having trouble with something, they call me. Because they know that I am the type of person that they can depend on.

But could Hollywood studios depend on Cruise? Or had his private life blown up his public appeal?

Our mission to learn more about him takes us into one of the most personal rituals of Scientology.

Clutching metal rods, and connected to a machine called an e-meter, Scientologists undergo intense spiritual counseling, meant to clear their minds of past traumas and self defeating behavior. The person drawing it out of them is called an auditor.

Kotb: You’ve audited, what? Dozens of people? Hundreds of people?

Bruce Hines, former Scientologist: Maybe a thousand.

Bruce Hines says he spent 30 years in the church and was an auditor to the stars.

He says he sat with them, drawing out their fears, secrets, past indiscretions. And he wrote everything down.

Hines: When I was auditing celebrities I would have to write daily how did it go, and what was happening with this person and how are they doing? And this report would go to people very high up in the organization. They keep tabs on it.

Kotb: Are there things in those folders or secrets in there that might change one’s opinion of the celebrity?

Hines: Definitely.

Kotb: Better or worse?

Hines: Worse.

He would not reveal what he learned from the stars, but he told us in 2000, he was sent to audit cruise’s then wife Nicole Kidman and find out if—and why—she was losing interest in Scientology.

Kotb: How concerned were the  leaders in Scientology that Nicole Kidman wasn’t showing enough interest in the church?

Hines: Fairly concerned—as evidenced by the fact that they sent me down there

Kotb: Why do you think Nicole ultimately left Scientology?

Hines: She felt it wasn’t for her. You know it wasn’t what she wanted to do in life.

Kotb: Do you think she could have remained Mrs. Tom Cruise and not be a Scientologist?

Hines: In my opinion, no. Their view of life would be so at odds with each other I don’t think that they could have a very meaningful relationship.

So with his Katie it was court  and convert.

(On Access Hollywood ) Billy Bush: Are you a Scientologist? Have you looked into it yourself?

Katie Holmes: I have looked into it myself and I really like it and I think it’s really wonderful.

Bush: Have you gone and tried auditing sessions at all or anything like that?

Holmes: Yeah, and it’s really uh.. I feel like I’m bettering myself.

As she joins the A-list cast of Scientology, my mission was to delve into the world of the church’s leading man. I sat down with  one of the highest ranking members of the Church of Scientology.  Mike Rinder rarely talks publicly about his most famous church member.

Mike Rinder, high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology: I’ve known Tom for 15 years. I consider him a friend.

Kotb: Do you think he’s a good spokesperson for Scientology?

Rinder: I think he’s a very good representation of what a Scientologist is.  I think he’s obviously successful.  He’s obviously very happy. He does a lot to help other people.  He lives an ethical life.

But last year, the star was orbiting far from planet Hollywood into the galaxies of Scientology.  Many wondered—did he wander off too far?

Kotb: Does the church ever call Tom Cruise and say, “You know what? Pull back the reins a little.

Rinder: No, I don’t think anybody in the world calls Tom Cruise and tells him to (laughs) pull back the reins. 

But Tom Cruise and other celebrities do promote Scientology’s agenda....

Kotb:  Does the church actively recruit celebrities?

Rinder: No, no.  The church is open to anybody.

Kotb: Okay.  So no one specifically—no one’s specifically told, “We’d like to get more celebrities because celebrities sort of up the profile of Scientology.  We have a list of celebrities, none of that.”

Rinder: Hoda, absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

Maybe not, but how many religions have a designated celebrity center? And he confirms that the church keeps confidential files on celebrity and other members of the church who undergo auditing.          

Kotb: So what happens—my question is what happens to those notes?  Those files?

Rinder: They’re locked in file cabinets in locked rooms.

Kotb: Never to be opened.

Rinder: Never. Only the auditor—they are for the auditor not anybody else. 

The church says former auditor Bruce Hines never met with Nicole Kidman and should not discuss his work for the church. The church goes on to dispute both his and Karen Pressley’s statements and questions their motives.

Rinder: Just because someone says something, particularly a former someone who is seeking to get their minute of fame by making statements that sound sensational… that doesn’t make it true.   

One thing is for sure: Tom Cruise’s behavior over the last year has raised profile of Scientology. The question is—for better or worse?                    

Kotb: Do you consider Tom Cruise, the church’s biggest asset or liability?

Kotb: It’s a question.

Rinder: Asset or liability?  Tom Cruise is the biggest movie star in the world, and Tom Cruise is a Scientologist.

But will cruise be an asset or a liability for the movie studio that made Mission Impossible III?

Hoda Kotb: Okay, is Mission Impossible III going to be big you guys, you think?

Francis Callier, VH1’s Best Week Ever: Oh, it’s gonna be huge.

Angela Shelton, VH1’s Best Week Ever: Are you kidding me? We have to all see—we gotta see if Tom’s lost his mind.

Callier: Right. Let’s check his eyes and see if there’s crazy in ‘em.

But initial box office numbers suggest “crazy” may have kept more movie-goers away than Hollywood expected.

Maybe some moviegoers were having a hard time forgetting Tom Cruise’s public behavior. During the last spin cycle when he was making love, not talking “War of the Worlds.” He used the opening night for his previous film to announce his engagement.

The next surprise came on October 5th, 2005.

Kotb: Do you remember that day?

Shelton: Oh, I think we all know where we were that day.

Callier: Yeah.

Shelton: I was at the grocery store. Wondering what Jessica and Nick were doing. And then I heard it over the loud speaker: Katie pregnant.

Tomkat were having a TomKitten. It quickly became the most photographed embryo in the history of mankind and from the inside too! Cruise bought a sonogram machine for those in-utero Kodak moments.

But in pictures, the once-radiant actress often looked secluded and gloomy.

David Spade (Comedy central show clip): This summer “Mission Impossible: III” will be released… and Katie Holmes won’t be.

Bloggers said she had turned from hip to hypnotized, from a-list to alien—the galaxy of Tom Cruise was closing in like a black hole.

Kotb: If you had to bring Katie a baby shower gift, what would it be?

Callier: One of those jaws of life.

Shelton: Big clipper things—clip her from whatever she tied to. Or, like a distraction bomb. You know what I mean? I probably bring her a key for—Kiefer from, “24,” help get her out.

Callier: Right—right. Jack Bauer.

Shelton: Bring her some Jack Bauer to get her out.

Perez Hilton, blogger: Allegedly, Katie Holmes has cut off everyone except for her mom and her dad and the members of the Church of Scientology.

It didn’t help that the paparazzi caught people walking into the cruise compound with signs demanding silence.

The guessing game immediately began: was Katie having a silent birth? Scientologists believe silence at birth is good for the baby’s mental health. So no doctors chatting, no “push push” coaching—and mom should try to keep it down.

Callier: I don’t understand that. Don’t you want your doctor to communicate? Yeah, cause I’d need some instructions.

Shelton: Yeah— what’s he supposed to do?  Just like hand signals or those flags on the air—

Callier: On the tarmac, or whatever, you know what I mean?

On April 18th, just as some people were starting to wonder if that was really a volleyball under her shirt, Tomkat gave birth to little baby-girl.

They called her Suri. And as with all things Tom Cruise, the naming needed some explaining.

According to Cruise, Suri, in Hebrew, means Princess.

My mission takes me to Israel, where they really know Hebrew. Dr. Avshalom Kor is Israel’s best-known Hebrew language expert.

Dr. Avshalom Kor: There is no name like Suri. It seems the source is the term “sar.” “Sar” is ancient Hebrew means a ruler. The feminine form is “Sara.” So I can address to the young couple and to the baby and say “Suri.”

Suri is a form of rare alpaca, imagine a cuddlier llama.

News of the baby was greeted with great fanfare in Katie’s hometown, Toledo, where our mission took us next. They love her there.

Two days after Suri was born, Farr and Toledo’s mayor took us on a little birthday celebration. The mayor even called Suri’s grandfather, Marty Holmes.

Toledo mayor: Marty said all were doing very very well.

Cruise’s timing could not be better: the baby came just in time for the new movie. But Hollywood’s baby of this week was greeted with less fanfare. Some initial reports suggest the movie may not do as well as expected. Could it be because of tome cruise’s  personal life?

But hey, what about his next production? The wedding. My mission takes me to... I’m not sure... no one knows where or when this wedding will be.

Kotb: There’s rumors that they already got married on some yacht somewhere.

Shelton: No, I would be really hurt if Tom did that to us. If he didn’t give us the opportunity to have paparazzi scale a wall and take pictures of his wedding. That is not American.

Cruise did give the paparazzi a chance to see TomKat walk down the aisle. This Thursday was his last public appearance before the movie opened. There was one final stunt.

As Hollywood love stories go, this one may have had a particularly improbable script. But the final scene is still a classic: the leading man gets the babe, the baby, but will he get the blockbuster? This weekend Tom Cruise once again has everyone on edge.

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