At last month’s Golden Globes, were Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman giving the performances of their respective careers? During an event hosted by the relentlessly inquisitive worldwide press, Cruise, 38, strolled down the red carpet with Kidman’s younger sister, Antonia, waving his wedding-ring-adorned hand, and later posed backstage with his beloved of 10 years. All seemed Pepsodent-perfect with the Cruises.
But it turns out this storybook romance might not be a franchise after all. Just two weeks later, the very private couple who had mastered the art of public affection announced that their frenetic careers made their marriage impossible, ”constantly [keeping] them apart, [so] they concluded that an amicable separation seems best for both of them at this time.” The news followed the decision by Kidman, 33, to drop out of David Fincher’s thriller The Panic Room (a role Jodie Foster is considering) because of a knee injury suffered last year while shooting Moulin Rouge.
But perhaps the real panic room was at PMK. On Feb. 5, publicist Pat Kingsley fielded a call from a National Enquirer reporter who was asking about the couple’s impending breakup. The peremptory public acknowledgment was released by PMK hours later, along with denials that a third party was involved. The timing was all the more unfortunate, since it was issued on the eve of adopted son Connor’s sixth birthday. (The couple also have an adopted daughter, Isabella, 7.)
That the split packed such a jolt is testament to the strength of the duo’s camera-ready image. In interviews for 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, Kidman spoke about overcoming ”the seven-year-itch,” while Cruise said the grueling 19-month Eyes shoot had made their marriage ”stronger.” They also vigorously defended their relationship in court, winning a 1998 libel suit against London’s Express on Sunday after the paper asserted the marriage was a ”sham” to cover up Cruise’s alleged homosexuality.
Their claims of ”divergent careers” might seem ironic in light of their history. They met and fell in love on the set of 1990’s Days of Thunder, the Aussie Kidman’s first American blockbuster. Cruise soon divorced actress Mimi Rogers, just before marrying Kidman in a Church of Scientology-organized ceremony in Telluride, Colo. Thereafter, they worked together more often than most Hollywood pairs, teaming for Ron Howard’s 1992 Far and Away and later for Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s final film. Last August, the couple decamped to Spain, where she shot Miramax’s supernatural tale The Others for his production company – the first of six Cruise-produced films to which she was tied.
The couple hasn’t announced the fate of the joint ventures still in the works. Paul Verhoeven, set to direct the suffragette drama Other Powers with Kidman starring and Cruise producing, believes the movie might go forward. ”[Cruise] seems to be an extremely reasonable man,” says Verhoeven, ”and I don’t think he would make things difficult for a project of a woman he has been attached to and sincerely likes.” Others, however, think future collaborations are as likely as a Practical Magic sequel. ”Unless they’re both passionate about the project in the same way, it’s a long shot,” says veteran manager Bernie Brillstein.