A media frenzy seemed to follow Nicole Kidman and her husband Tom Cruise throughout their 11-year marriage. Once they divorced in 2001 that spotlight may have turned off, but people still wondered about one particular detail of the couple’s relationship. It took until 2020 for the actress to address this question – and her answer shed light on the turning point in the stars’ ill-fated union.
From the start, though, Kidman and Cruise’s relationship set the tabloids alight with rumors and whispers. The couple wed a mere six months after they met, their rush to get married matching the fervor of public interest in their romance. Right away, people began to speculate that the actress was expecting.
That rumor proved untrue, but it certainly wasn’t the last of the gossip to chase Kidman and Cruise throughout their relationship. Some people wondered about the couple’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology, for one. Specifically, it was said that the religious group oversaw all of the A-listers’ career decisions.
There were whispers, too, that Kidman had latched onto Cruise as a way to bring herself into the Hollywood fold. Indeed, at the time they got together, he was the bigger name. He had already starred in some of his most famous films – Top Gun and Rain Man included. Meanwhile, the Aussie actress was more or less unknown to American audiences.
But Kidman has long defended her feelings for her first husband, Cruise and how she felt a genuine, immediate attraction to him. She once told the BBC, “I walked into the [audition], and [Tom] was the one that stood up and shook my hand. And I just remember… electricity going through me.”
That was a happy detail from the relationship Kidman shared with Cruise – would she ever comment on the relationship’s more salacious secrets and its unexpected end? The Oscar-winner kept mum for years – that is, until 2020 when she spoke to newspaper The New York Times about a new project. That interview opened her up to making a very rare disclosure about her ex and for once she obliged.
Long before that, though, Kidman and Cruise had been Hollywood’s golden couple. It all started on the set of the first film in which they both starred. The movie was called Days of Thunder, and the 22-year-old actress fell for her hunky co-star right off of the bat, she told Vanity Fair magazine in 2002.
Kidman told the magazine, “He basically swept me off my feet. I fell madly, passionately in love. And as happens when you fall in love, my whole plan in terms of what I wanted for my life – I was like, ‘Forget it. This is it.’ I was consumed by it, willingly.” And it seemed Cruise was equally as enamored.
The pair embarked on a relationship that set tabloids alight – lovers on- and off-screen always make headlines, after all. But Kidman and Cruise’s relationship wasn’t just a fling or a Hollywood showmance. No, on December 26, 1990, they got married in a half-hour, non-religious ceremony attended by just a few of their close family. They had been dating for a half-year at that point.
After their wedding, they jumped right back into work side-by-side once again, wrapping up Far and Away, a film directed by Ron Howard. But the pair had more than just movies on their mind. Indeed, in 2007 Kidman told Marie Claire magazine, “From the minute Tom and I were married, I wanted to have babies.”
The couple had trouble conceiving on their own, though. Kidman later revealed that she had suffered from at least one miscarriage during the early days of her marriage to Cruise. But happier days were ahead for the Hollywood couple – they adopted a daughter named Isabella first, then brought home their son, Connor.
Kidman described the highs and lows of her parenthood journey to Tatler magazine in 2018. She explained, “There’s an enormous amount of pain and an enormous amount of joy on the other side of it. The flipside of going through so much yearning and pain to get there is the feeling of ‘Ahhhh!’ when you have the child.”
As their family grew, both Kidman and Cruise had their careers to worry about as well. For her part, Kidman told Marie Claire in 2011 that the fame didn’t always feel deserved. She explained, “I became very famous because I was the wife of somebody. […] I didn’t think (my early movies) were very good, which is why I would always cower in the background.”
But during her marriage to Cruise, Kidman’s own career took off, even if she didn’t feel like it had. The 1992 flick in which the pair co-starred, Far and Away, brought her more recognition as a leading lady. She nabbed roles in Batman Forever and To Die For, both released in 1995, as well as 1998’s Practical Magic.
To be fair, though, Cruise was one of Hollywood’s hottest stars at the same time. He starred in such films as Interview With a Vampire and A Few Good Men, and he kicked off his iconic Mission Impossible franchise in 1996. That same year saw the release of Jerry Maguire, which earned him both a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Cruise and Kidman collaborated once more on-screen in 1999 when the pair starred in Eyes Wide Shut. And Cruise went on to nab an Oscar nomination for Magnolia, another movie released just before the new millennium. Meanwhile, the Australian actress would earn her first Academy Award nod at the 2002 ceremony – but she wouldn’t attend the ceremony with her A-list actor husband.
That was because the year before, shocking news regarding Hollywood’s golden couple had broken: Kidman and Cruise were getting a divorce. Both of them remained silent as to why they decided to split, although Cruise ticked “irreconcilable differences” on the papers he filed. Still, the rumor mill churned, and sources claimed that the actress was devastated by the surprising split.
Even reflecting after some time had passed, Kidman made it seem as though no one could have predicted the divorce – including herself. She later told People magazine, “Our life together was perfect.” But they went their separate ways, sharing custody of their children but each finding new partners and further career success.
Cruise, for one, started dating actress Katie Holmes in 2005. He famously jumped on the couch during a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 23 of that year, shouting, “I’m in love.” The pair got married just over a year later and had a daughter, Suri, before their divorce in 2012.
In spite of his personal ups and downs, Cruise has always had a strong Hollywood career. After his divorce from Kidman – and indeed, after his nuptials with Holmes later suffered the same fate – he always kept himself busy. His movie credits include Minority Report, War of the Worlds, The Last Samurai, The Mummy and Edge of Tomorrow.
For her part, Kidman started filming the movie The Hours during her divorce from Cruise. In the film, she played the ill-fated Virginia Woolf, and the experience helped her move forward after her heartbreak. She told Vanity Fair in 2013, “At the time, I was at a low point, and by playing her, it put me into a place of appreciating life.” It didn’t hurt that the actress won an Oscar for her work in the flick.
A few years later, Kidman would meet country singer Keith Urban, the man she described as “her great love” in the same interview. They got married in 2006, and they have two daughters: Faith and Sunday. But moving forward for the actress rarely means looking back. She told British newspaper The Guardian in 2019 that she no longer talks about Cruise because “I have a husband now. I feel out of respect for him, I don’t want to talk about that…”
Still, people still have lingering questions about the Kidman-Cruise marriage. Many of them revolve around one of the couple’s on-screen collaborations in particular. The 1999 Stanley Kubrick-directed film Eyes Wide Shut has always raised eyebrows. For one thing, film was made in quite an unconventional fashion.
In Guinness World Records it lists the production of Eyes Wide Shut as the longest-ever constant movie shoot. Filming lasted more than a year, with an unbroken stretch of work that lasted for 46 weeks. The length of the project finally came up in a 2020 interview with The New York Times.
When asked if Kidman thought the extra-long shoot was weird, she replied, “No. This is where the fallacy is: We loved working with him.” According to the actress, she and Cruise spent two years shooting Eyes Wide Shut, set in New York but shot in England because the director refused to set foot inside an aeroplane.
Kidman went on to describe life on set for two years. She said, “We had two kids and were living in a trailer on the lot primarily, making spaghetti because Stanley liked to eat with us sometimes.” But she and Cruise never questioned the process. Why? She explained, “We were working with the greatest filmmaker and learning about our lives and enjoying our lives on set.”
Expanding on that point, Kidman maintained that working with Kubrick wasn’t “torturous,” although he could clearly be “arduous” on set. She had fond memories with him, though. The actress recalled, “I’d sit on the floor of his office and talk, and we’d watch animal videos.” Despite the Australian’s fond recollections of time spent filming Eyes Wide Shut, though, the topic it primarily tackled – marital infidelity – meant it has since been the subject of much speculation and theorizing.
Indeed, the director’s working style wasn’t the most salient question for those who had seen Eyes Wide Shut – and heard the monologue delivered by Kidman’s character, Alice Harford. Without giving too much away, in the speech, Alice tells her husband, played by Cruise, that she considered cheating on him one single time throughout their marriage. She admits to him, “I was ready to give up everything.”
Kidman’s character goes on to describe her feelings in painstaking detail. She says, “It was weird because at the same time, you were dearer to me than ever, and at that moment my love for you was both tender and sad. I barely slept that night. I woke up the next morning in a panic. I don’t know if I was afraid that he had left or that he might still be there. But by dinner I realized he was gone. And I was relieved.”
Because Kidman and Cruise’s marriage broke down so soon after Eyes Wide Shut hit theaters, fans have always wondered if the disjointed marriage on-screen reflected what was happening with the pair in real life. For example, a film historian named David Thomson wrote in a biography of the actress that the experience had “held a mirror up to their relationship issues,” according to newspaper the Irish Examiner.
Thomson theorized in 2006 that Kidman became more courageous from playing that role opposite her husband. He said, “I think she learned from him just what was required in taking charge of yourself. That’s what broke them up. She realized she could be as big as him if she became as strong and self-centered. He wanted a beautiful, bright, obedient consort. She wanted a teacher. It worked. Then it stopped.”
The film historian continued, “I think Eyes Wide Shut was the process that brought it to an end because the characters they played were so close to themselves.” Opinions like this one floated around for years until the topic came up in that article in The New York Times. Kidman was asked, did the strained on-screen relationship affect her bond with Cruise in real life?
Although Kidman has often declined to speak about her ex, this time she took the bait. The actress responded, “That fits the narrative that people came up with, but I definitely didn’t see it like that. We were happily married through that.” She then gave another example of just how happy she and Cruise were at the time, since the spaghetti dinners in their trailer clearly weren’t enough proof.
Kidman continued, “We would go go-kart racing after those scenes. We’d rent out a place and go racing at 3 in the morning. I don’t know what else to say.” Ultimately, though, the actress admitted that she didn’t want to dig too deeply into her past life. She said, “Maybe I don’t have the ability to look back and dissect it. Or I’m not willing to.”
For his part, Cruise hasn’t responded to Kidman’s interview, nor has he spoken recently about his life on the set of Eyes Wide Shut. But in a 1999 interview with website RogerEbert.com, the actor described in depth his experiences in the film – and how the subject-matter affected him and his then-wife.
The interviewer described Cruise as having gone through “a deep creative experience” on the set and this struck a chord with the actor’s analysis of the film in hindsight. He said, “The movie’s about many things, but especially the dynamic of a relationship that’s affected by the raw emotions of obsession and jealousy. About how one little event in your life can take you off into such debilitating emotions.”
Cruise didn’t seem to have a personal tie to that storyline. What’s more, he went on to laud his marriage to his co-star, Kidman. Like her, he said things went swimmingly between them, in spite of what audiences saw from their on-screen characters. And, remember, the actor said this in 1999, more than 20 years before Kidman relived the experience with The New York Times.
Of the movie’s effect on him and his wife, Cruise told RogerEbert.com, “I’m glad Nic and I didn’t make this movie in the first or second year of our marriage. The stuff we were talking about, confronting together with Stanley, was volatile and intense. The characters are very much at odds.”
Cruise continued, “When you’re talking about jealousy or raw emotions that bring men to their knees at times, it can be crippling.” But the actor made no mention of those feelings trickling into real life. So it appears that he felt no change in his and Kidman’s relationship, in spite of their characters’ ups and downs in the film.
Fast-forward two decades, and things have, of course, completely changed for both Cruise and Kidman. They have both moved on and moved forward – and she told The New York Times that she only wants to continue to do so in her work, in parenting her daughters and in her relationship with now-husband Urban. She explained, “I’ll take the pain. I’ll take the joy. Because the feeling makes me go, ‘I’m in life.’ It’s an enormous gift, this life.”