LOS ANGELES — Tom Cruise was named the highest paid actor in Hollywood on Tuesday, on his 50th birthday — but the “Mission Impossible” star has little to celebrate.
Days after his wife filed for divorce — apparently taking him by surprise — questions are stacking up about the role of his controversial Scientologist faith in the end of his five-year marriage to Katie Holmes.
The “Top Gun” actor — who spent the landmark birthday in Iceland shooting his latest movie, according to reports — has remained tightlipped since his wife’s bombshell announcement last week.
“Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children,” his spokesman said Friday, adding nothing since despite mounting speculation about what led to Holmes’ decision.
Their fairytale love affair had started so well. Cruise famously jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch professing his love for Holmes during a whirlwind courtship that culminated in a proposal under the Eiffel Tower.
But the divorce will be the third for Cruise, following his marriage to US actress Mimi Rogers from 1987-1990 and Australian Nicole Kidman from 1990-2001. He also had a three-year relationship with Spanish star Penelope Cruz.
Critics might suggest that, for all his blockbuster achievements on the big screen over the three decades, he has been less successful in his personal life.
And he now faces a court battle royale for custody of the couple’s six-year-old daughter Suri, after reports that Holmes is seeking sole custody because she fears Cruise wants to draw the child deeper into Scientology.
A lawyer for the Church of Scientology — of which Cruise is a prominent member — denied Monday sending anyone to follow Holmes, or that Cruise wanted Suri to join the Sea Organization, described as a boot camp for the religion.
“There is no truth whatsoever to the TMZ.com report (or any other report) that the Church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow or surveil Katie Holmes,” lawyer Gary Soter told AFP in an emailed letter.
In the 26 years since he made his name in the first “Top Gun” movie in 1986, Cruise has established himself as one of the most powerful and bankable players in Hollywood.
That was confirmed again Tuesday when the latest Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors put Cruise firmly at the top, with earnings of $75 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
That was almost double the joint next highest earners, Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam Sandler, both on $37 million.
“That money is going to play a crucial role in the divorce proceedings. Especially considering Holmes is asking for sole custody of Suri,” Forbes said in an article accompanying its Hollywood rich list.
It cited reports that Cruise and Holmes had a pre-nuptial agreement, and noted that in New York — where she filed for divorce — child support awarded is based on a formula, 17 percent of a couple’s total income.
But divorce attorney Jeff Landers said the amount is usually capped. “After $400,000 in earnings it’s up to the judge’s discretion,” he told Forbes.
Meanwhile a lawyer for Cruise, Bret Fields, said the Hollywood A-lister will file a rival divorce case, but for the moment is content to let Holmes’ camp have the spotlight.
“We are letting ‘the other side’ (Katie and her team), play the media until they wear everyone out and then we’ll have something to say,” he told BBC radio.
“Tactically we can’t say where Tom will file a divorce case and if he’ll be seeking joint custody of Suri,” he said.
Amid all the bad news, Cruise had at least one supporter on Tuesday: Paramount came out swinging for him, as a trailer for his next movie “Jack Reacher” — due out in December — was launched in theaters.
“Tom is a huge movie star for the right reason, he’s a very talented actor whose movies have entertained millions of fans,” the studio said in a statement cited by the Hollywood Reporter.
“His ability to make a great movie, as we saw with the most recent installment in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise — the most successful of the series to date — is the thing that moviegoers remember above all else.”