Eileen Berlin, Tom Cruise’s former personal manager, became his surrogate mother and mentor when he was on the cusp of fame and she says that she knew from the start that his relationship with Katie Holmes was doomed.
Breaking her silence for the first time since she signed the actor as her client soon after his 18th birthday, Eileen Berlin said last week that she blamed Tom Cruise’s pent-up anger created by an abusive childhood for his three broken marriages.
As a child, the star, born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, suffered from dyslexia, was bullied by his peers, and beaten and then abandoned by his father.
At 15, Tom Cruise entered a seminary, intending to become a priest.
Eileen Berlin, now 77, ran a New York film and theatrical management agency with her late husband and met Tom Cruise some three years later, after he dropped his surname and made acting his calling instead.
“His mom had asked him to leave her house, I think because he had had a teenage drinking problem,” Eileen Berlin said.
“She had remarried and he harbored a lot of anger and resentment at his natural father, who had deserted him and his three sisters.
“Every time I saw him, he would be with a girl, but I never saw him with the same girl twice. It was almost like he had to prove he was wanted – or maybe he wanted to feel loved.
“I wasn’t surprised Katie broke up with him. I was just surprised it lasted as long as it did. I was surprised when he married his first wife, Mimi Rogers, and I was surprised it lasted ten years a second time, with Nicole Kidman.
“Tom 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.”
Carrying a guitar and a duffle bag stuffed with a few possessions, Tom Cruise moved into the manager’s Manhattan apartment for three months after he signed up with her company. In 1981, Tom Cruise signed the contract for his breakthrough action film, Taps.
Eileen Berlin arranged for him to pose for publicity portraits. In one of them, dressed in tight jeans and a tank top, he strikes a belligerent pose and flexes his muscles but in others, he smiles with innocent charm.
“By the time I met him, he had decided he could be a star,” she said.
“He wanted to be treated like a star and he acted like a star. He would walk around my house in a little G-string strap and nothing else. I had a mirrored wall and he would stand in front of it, flexing his biceps and admiring himself.
“I was a bit embarrassed but he liked to show off his body. He had a great pride in it.”
Though he could be moody, the young lodger also had a charming side. Eileen Berlin said: “He was sweet, respectful and mannerly to a fault. He always addressed me as <<ma’am>> and my husband as <<sir>>. But he was so private, he couldn’t show his true feelings. You would get so far and he would close down. I am sure his wives would have come up against that barrier.”
“He would channel his rage into his roles,” Eileen Berlin said.
“For Taps, he locked himself in the closet. He said he thought about someone raping his sister before he filmed a scene where he blasted a machine gun. Once, my husband and I took him out for lunch while they were on location and a waitress said, <<Are you one of the actors?>> Tom said to us, <<Please tell her not to ask me any questions. I’m still in character>>.”
Another time, a row broke out when Eileen Berlin gave him a surprise birthday present – an album in which she had pasted photos of him from fan magazines. Eileen Berlin said: “He screamed, <<I didn’t want to be in the teen mags>>. He threw the album hard at me and it hit me on the cheek.”
Their professional relationship ended in 1983 but they stayed in touch and during a subsequent dinner, Tom Cruise mentioned the Church of Scientology, crediting it with helping him overcome his childhood learning disorder.
Eileen Berlin says she started to receive invitations to church events.
“I think Tom was the perfect candidate for Scientology,” she said.
“He didn’t believe in therapy but he obviously needed help. He just couldn’t have a relationship and I think that was because you have to open yourself up and he’d been too hurt by his father to do that.
“The world sees this good-looking guy, worth millions. I still just see this little boy.”