Andrew Morton is on the line from his Manhattan hotel suite munching on a sandwich, and if he’s wounded about the negative reviews his controversial Tom Cruise biography is getting, there’s no sign of it.
The book, the advance reviews suggest, unearths nothing new, terribly interesting or particularly salacious about the erratic movie star and devoted Scientologist who’s been under Morton’s magnifying glass for the past two years.
Morton, famous for his 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story, about the late Princess of Wales, shrugs off the criticism on Monday by saying it’s all tediously familiar.
“It follows the same trajectory as the Diana book – there was this hysteria beforehand, and reviewers wanted to react to the hysteria by saying: `Well, it’s not worthy of all this hysteria,”‘ says the 54-year-old Morton, who’s in New York to promote the book.
“But after a while people calm down and look at it more objectively.”
Even if Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography, arriving in bookstores on Tuesday, doesn’t reveal any seedy secrets about Cruise, Morton says, it’s still worthwhile.
“It’s an important book because it deals with somebody who’s an influential character on the world stage who creates debate about whatever he does. He’s surrounded by myth and legend, and he often creates the myth and legend himself.”
Cutting right to the chase, the British author has some startling answers for the celebrity junkies among us who have believed there was some truth to the many Cruise rumours circulating over the past 10 years.
Is Cruise secretly gay?
“Quite the opposite; he’s actually a real ladies’ man. He’s always had women around,” Morton says.
Did Nicole Kidman sign a 10-year contract to participate in a sham marriage? No, Morton insists – they were in love for many years, but Kidman’s increasing chilliness towards her husband and Scientology eventually put the boots to their union.
“He was very much in love with her and pursued her, pursued her, pursued her, but she was always elusive. She wanted the caviar and all the trimmings, and then when the toys were taken out of the pram, she was the one who’s sitting there crying her eyes out and talking about giving up her Hollywood career and thinking about becoming a nun.”
Is Katie Holmes a Scientology prisoner, someone who willingly agreed to a loveless marriage and an immersion in Scientology in exchange for a life of fame and fortune?
No again, says Morton, although he adds Cruise was certainly on the hunt for a replacement bride in the aftermath of his divorce from Kidman. Holmes fit the bill after Penelope Cruz and Sofia Vergera failed to work out due to their aversion to Scientology.
“I don’t want to push it too strongly because I am kind of the Diana biographer,” Morton says of the whirlwind romance between Cruise and Holmes.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted atWhat judges have to say about Scientology
“But there is a dimension to their story that reminded me very much of Charles and Diana – the older man, the younger girl who, as a schoolgirl, always dreamed of marrying Prince Charming and then meets Prince Charming, duly falls in love, and then doesn’t just have to digest Tom Cruise, but has to digest the family and the wider family of Scientology.”
And there’s yet another falsehood Morton wishes to dispel, one the Scientologists have leapt upon with particular ferocity in an attempt to discount the book in the weeks leading up to its release: little Suri Cruise is not the result of Holmes being impregnated by the frozen sperm of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
All his biography says, in fact, is that some of the nuttier Scientologists in the fold hoped Suri might represent the second coming of Hubbard.
“It’s been useful for his side to use that to attack me, but it’s false. I don’t say it and I don’t say a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not twisted and distorted to discredit me,” says Morton, who ran up against endless Scientology roadblocks as he researched the book.
Publishers have faced such pressure from the Church of Scientology in Britain, New Zealand and Australia – countries with tougher libel laws than the U.S. and Canada – that the book will not be sold there.
Scientologists play serious hardball when it comes to guarding their secrets and protecting their image, Morton says, and the most surprising thing he learned about Cruise while writing the book was just how deeply enmeshed the actor is in what many consider a religious cult. Morton says Cruise is now the No. 2 Scientologist in the world.
“I just thought the Scientology was just like an add-on to his life and he just paid lip service to it,” Morton says.
“What I didn’t realize was how absolutely to the bone this is in him, and in a way it helps to explain why he’s so suspicious of the outside world. Scientology is controlling, it’s dominating, it’s their way or the highway. They believe that only they have the answers to all the problems in the world, and in a way it kind of meshes quite nicely with his own fairly authoritarian character. It’s a good fit.”
Cruise is, in fact, a control freak who likes to manage every aspect of not only his personal and professional lives, but also of the lives of his wives – current and former – and children, Morton says.
“Scientology is quite technical, and it seems sort of pseudo-scientific at first and the early courses are quite accessible. It teaches you that you can actually leave your past behind and reinvent yourself, you can remake the script if you like, you can take control of your life – and Tom Cruise is very much about control.”
He’s also a world-renowned celebrity whose power and influence say something profound about the puzzling role of celebrities in the world we live in, Morton adds.
“The longer I got into it, the more I realized this guy really represents the spirit of the age, an age where celebrities have global reach and influence. He can go and meet presidents and prime ministers because of who he is, not because of what he knows.
“This book is a necessary corrective to a man who’s lived his life by assertion as opposed to argument. He’s never been tested. With this biography, I am testing what he has to say against what he does.”