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Now that the marriage is over, can the old Katie Holmes come back?

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise at the premiere of
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise at the premiere ofMatt Sayles / AP file

ANALYSIS: There are few courtships I’ve witnessed as closely as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’. For me, it began in a conference room where it was confirmed that the two were yes, really, actually dating. The eyes of my fellow magazine editors and reporters grew wide and most comments began with “What the ...?” (You can guess what they ended with.)

Hundreds of paparazzi photos and just a couple months later, I vividly recall standing on the “War of the Worlds” red carpet, being a little overwhelmed/grossed out by the way the two of them moved down the press line as a single, overly affectionate unit.

Thousands more paparazzi photos and a little more than a year after that, the couple married in Italy. I, along with every other entertainment reporter around the globe, scrambled to get details about just what went on inside the castle that night they promised to love, honor, cherish and “to never close their eyes in sleep on a disagreement or upset.”

But what went on in the castle is not nearly is a big a question as what went on in that marriage. From spontaneous couch jumping to showing off baby Suri in pre-arranged photo shoots, the couple was obviously very public. But privately, they were an enigma. Now that the marriage of five years is over, everyone who bore witness to the relationship with any level of curiosity is asking the question of what the union was like.

While I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside anyone’s marriage, I can tell you what disappeared during this particular one: Katie Holmes.

Prior to taking up with Cruise, the post-“Dawson’s Creek” Katie was among New York’s fun-loving, 20-something social set. Our social circles overlapped from time to time, and she was known for being a fairly private but “normal” young woman. She would go out to clubs with groups of friends — not in the Lindsay Lohan tradition. She was mellow, danced a little and was happy, then would go home without undue drama. She shopped, went out to eat, and if not for her fame, would be just like any other young New Yorker.

Then she met Tom.

Holmes' evolution into Kate, as Tom renamed her, happened practically overnight. She disappeared from New York so entirely and swiftly, she didn’t even pack up her apartment, which she had just finished redecorating.  “She called some friends and told them they were welcome to anything in there,” a mutual friend informed me at the time. “She loved all that stuff so much, this is all really strange,” he said.

Also strange — and you can’t talk Katie and Tom’s relationship without talking about this — was her overnight devotion to Scientology. All preconceived notions about Scientology aside, it was shocking to see the good Catholic-school girl with a Scientology “minder,” of all things. This constant companion was often introduced as her new best friend, and was soon identified to be Jessica Feshbach, a high-ranking Scientologist. A source very close to the couple vouched for the transformation, saying it was actually Holmes who was ensuring Scientology had a presence on her husband's film sets. "She became more devoted to it than he was for a time," the source said.

To be fair, Holmes is not the first person to fall so head over heels in love that they completely detach from their social circle and seemingly start that part of their life anew. You'd think that she had to be aware of it happening in real time — you don’t just give away your possessions and adopt the practices of Scientology without being aware that you’re doing so. What I don’t think she was aware of was that she was giving away her career, too.

As the doe-eyed Joey Potter on “Dawson’s Creek,” Holmes wasn’t exactly dropping hints that there might be an Oscar in her future, but she proved in 2000’s “Wonder Boys” that she had real acting chops. Thanks to that role, it looked like she might be able to pull off what few actors can: the post-television film career.

Between the time “Wonder Boys” was released and she married in 2006, Holmes is credited with eight more movies, the last one being “Thank You For Smoking.” Released the spring before her wedding, it was rumored that Cruise had pressured the studio to cut a scene where Holmes was to appear topless. The film’s director, Jason Reitman, later shot down the rumor, saying, “That’s a fun story; the problem is that it’s not true,” but it marks the first of many instances that Cruise was accused of steering Holmes’ career in a way he deemed fit.

Fast forward to today, and in the time the two have been married, the only notable work Holmes has had was her recent miniseries, “The Kennedys,” and a handful of flops. Motherhood might have put her career on hold initially, but recently, Holmes has been gunning for work and not getting it. One producer recalled for me a recent pitch meeting where her name was brought up for a role, and everyone in the room snickered.

“That's what happens now, and it’s because of Tom,” he said. “No one takes her seriously.”  

Luckily for Holmes, everyone loves a comeback story. She’s taken control of her marriage by filing for divorce, and now she has the opportunity to take control back of her own story -- personally and professionally.

Here’s to the rewrite. So many people will be glad to have Katie back.

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