The real reason Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise broke up

It was supposed to be a perfect match. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, two young celebrities at the height of international fame. The pair graced headlines throughout their marriage, which spanned through the 1990s. They weren't just well-known in their own right — they were the power couple. Their union itself was a lightning rod for media attention, especially considering their steamy roles in Stanley Kubrick's erotic 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. Beyond that, the couple seemed to be genuinely head-over-heels for each other.

Even after their split, it seemed completely unclear what happened. Nicole did crack a now-famous joke in a David Letterman interview where she revealed, "I can wear heels now," but the pair stayed relatively quiet about what went down. While Nicole claimed to DuJour that she "thought [their] life together was perfect," Tom cryptically admitted, Nicole "knows why" the pair split. All in all: they had children, they had fame. Seemingly, they had it all — and it all fell apart. Why?

It begins so beautifully

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's relationship started in 1989, where they connected through — where else? — Hollywood. Kidman was a rising star, fresh from a string of Australian films and miniseries which had won her increasing accolades and attention in her country, the highest being the Australian Film Institute's Best Television Actress award, which she won at the age of 17. It was during a viewing of the 1989 Australian film Dead Calm that Cruise first set eyes on Kidman, according to Vanity Fair. Impressed with what he saw, he began putting things in motion to meet her in person to maybe cast her in a movie — and perhaps more, being that at the time he was in the process of divorcing from his first wife, Mimi Rogers.

So they met, and in short, Kidman fell hard for Cruise. And she'd be the first to tell you so. "He basically swept me off my feet," she told Vanity Fair in 2002. "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.'" Together, the duo starred as romantic opposites in 1990's Days of Thunder, and once Cruise's divorce was through, married the same year. At the time, Cruise was 28, and Kidman was 23

Was Tom Cruse and Nicole Kidman's marriage destined to fail?

In what should have seemed inevitable from the very beginning, fractures in the marriage started to occur over a very specific ideological split — Tom Cruise was (and remains) a Scientologist, and Nicole Kidman was not, and seemingly had no intentions on ever becoming one. And if you've been keeping up with Scientology scrutiny in the news lately, it shouldn't surprise you to hear that a union like that doesn't have much of a chance, long-term.

As has been extensively covered in Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear, and the accompanying documentary film by Alex Gibney, the biggest source of friction between Cruise and Kidman came from forces outside their marriage — and inside Cruise's church. Supposedly, the story goes, leaders in Scientology were so concerned that Kidman was pulling Cruise away from Scientology, they began to conspire to end the marriage, something it had been rumored they had previously done with Cruise's first wife, Mimi Rogers. Marriages are hard enough to keep together without billion-dollar organizations reportedly pulling at every frayed thread, so the idea that this meddling would lead to the end of their marriage is not a hard pill to swallow at all.

Starting a family was tough for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

As things were beginning, there seemed to be no sign of the future misgivings that would tear the couple apart. In their breaks from movie shoots, they did fun things like skydiving together, and Nicole Kidman's enthusiasm for her Tom Cruise, and starting a family, was evident. "I was desperate to have a baby with him." she later said to Vanity Fair. "I didn't care if we were married."

Unfortunately, their path to biological parenthood was unsuccessful, leaving their marriage bookended by loss. "I had a miscarriage at the end of my marriage, but I had an ectopic pregnancy at the beginning of my marriage. It was incredibly traumatic for me," Kidman told Marie Claire. She was also told by doctors that it would be "highly unlikely" for her to conceive, according to Tatler. "That yearning. It's a huge, aching yearning. And the loss! The loss of a miscarriage is not talked about enough," she told the same outlet, adding, "That's massive grief to certain women. There's an enormous amount of pain and an enormous amount of joy on the other side of it."

Tom and Nicole ultimately chose to adopt two children over the course of three years, Isabella and Connor, born in 1992 and 1995, respectively. They would raise the kids together up until their divorce after the decade's end in 2001.

Did Tom Cruise's religion get in the way?

Though Scientology's highest leaders were supposedly suspicious of Nicole Kidman from the start, efforts were made to bring her into the organization and turn her into an ally. She was accelerated through the ranks of Scientology doctrine, but never truly got on board, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Efforts were also allegedly made to get her to denounce her father, who was a psychiatrist, a specific field of study that Scientologists have long raged against. These efforts failed, and likely backfired.

Additionally, in May of 1991, Time magazine ran a scathing exposé on Scientology as their cover story, calling it a "thriving cult of greed and power." This article, coupled with her own personal misgivings with how Scientology was affecting her life, reportedly encouraged Kidman to try and pull Tom Cruise away from the organization. It was a game of tug-of-war that lasted until the end of the decade. The pressure must have been enormous, even before the church allegedly began tapping the phones in the couple's Los Angeles home, according to Vanity Fair. As their differences became irreconcilable and conditions in the marriage grew increasingly intolerable, Cruise and Kidman announced their impending divorce on February 6, 2001.

Isabella Cruise hinted at a big rift with Nicole Kidman

For years, Nicole Kidman's relationship with her children remained estranged. Isabella Cruise grew up and got married without inviting her mother, even though they were in the same city at the time, according to Page Six. Neither child attended their grandfather's funeral, the Daily Mail reported. In the another article, the Daily Mail said they referred to Katie Holmes as "Mom" starting in 2006, and seemingly didn't talk about their real mother... at all.

Former Scientologist and actor Leah Remini shared an anecdote from this time period in her new book (via Vulture), about an incident immediately after the 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise to Holmes. Sharing a ride to the airport, Leah asked the kids about their mother, and if they still saw her a lot. Bella surprised Leah with the ferocity of her answer. "Not if I have a choice," said Bella, reportedly. "Our mom is a f**king SP." And just in case you need that translated, it means "Suppressive Person," which is a term the church defines as someone who "will goof up or vilify any effort to help anybody and particularly knife with violence anything calculated to make human beings more powerful or more intelligent." Think that sounds bad? The church's official definition also cites "Napoleon, Hitler, [and] the unrepentant killer and the drug lord" as examples of Suppressive Persons. Yikes.  

Co-parenting got rocky for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise

The big issue with divorce is almost always, who gets the kids? Would someone take full custody? Would Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman happily co-parent their preteens? They did, for a time, according to the Daily Mail, but as Kidman's fame rose and she took more demanding jobs, the kids spent more and more time with their father, seeing their mother less and less. They began to be home-schooled by Cruise's sisters, with a Scientology-focused educational regimen, and one summer went to a Scientology-focused summer camp instead of spending it with Kidman. By 2005, they were effectively living with Cruise full-time, and by choice.

Cruise and Kidman's kids are adults who "make their own decisions," Kidman told Who in 2018. Though she hasn't spoken much about their decision to largely stay with their father while growing up, Kidman did say, "They have made choices to be Scientologists and as a mother, it's my job to love them. ... I know 150 percent that I would give up my life for my children because it's what my purpose is."

In August 2016, it was reported that Nicole finally met her daughter's husband, nearly a year after the two married. As for Isabella, she denies there are problems now. "Of course we talk," she said, They're my parents." Her son Connor spoke similarly. "I don't care what people say. I know that me and mum are solid. I love her a lot. My family means everything."

Nicole Kidman married too young

It's clear that Nicole Kidman was madly in love with Tom Cruise. But she might not have exactly been ready to get married. The star was just 23 years old when she walked down the aisle, and she's spoken numerous times about how her age played into their split. This includes telling Marie Claire that marriage is "hard when you're young." She did, however, admit that she was "ready to give up anything for love, because ultimately, that is what you have."

Today, though, it seems like Kidman can't completely wrap her head around why she tied the knot at such a young age. In an interview with the UK's Red magazine (via People), she admitted, "I was so young when I got married. I look back now and I'm like, 'What?'" She went on, "You look at Taylor Swift, I mean how old is she? She's 26. I had two kids by the time I was 27 and I'd been married for four years. But that's what I wanted."

Hey, sometimes the things we want are not the things we need.

Nicole Kidman's marriage outshined her talent

Time has proven that Nicole Kidman is a star in her own right — if only because divorce gave her time to shine. Though the actress is more recently known for her role in HBO's Big Little Lies, she won the majority of her four Golden Globes after splitting from Tom Cruise. The same thing goes for her Oscar and BAFTA award, both of which she nabbed for The Hours in 2002, and her Primetime Emmy Awards, which she scored for the HBO hit. Initially, though, her agents warned her that tying the knot would be detrimental to her career. As someone uninterested in fame, she went through with it anyway — and they weren't totally wrong. Kidman did feel held back by her marriage, but only because of her own insecurities surrounding Tom's fame.

"I felt I became a star only by association," she told Glamour in 2008, adding, "I didn't think [the early movies] were very good, which is why I would always cower in the background. I thought, I don't deserve to be here. We would go to the Oscars and I would think, I'm here to support him. I felt it was my job to put on a beautiful dress and be seen and not heard."

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's marriage ran its course

Sometimes when something is done, it's just done. You have to admit it, wave your white flag, and move on. That's just what happened with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise's marriage. Though the pair were wildly in love — and still manage to avoid hurling insults in the press because of that very real, shared love — ten years down the line, things just weren't working.

In a 2011 interview with Marie Claire, Kidman opened up about the real reason behind her divorce with Cruise. "That was a great relationship," she said. "I think it ran its course." Still, the Hours star was utterly distraught in the aftermath. "I was really damaged and not sure whether [love and marriage] was ever going to happen again to me," she admitted.

Kidman ultimately threw herself into work and spent the next six years alone, but it's something she had to do in order to grow. "I had to find my own identity, and my own reason for being here, and it couldn't be because of another person," she told Glamour in 2008. Of course, Kieth Urban was the light at the end of that tunnel. The pair tied the knot in 2006.

Nicole Kidman would do it all over again

Just because Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise didn't work out doesn't mean their marriage was a failure. Kidman, at least, seemingly has no regrets. Rather, she really cherishes the time that she spent with the Top Gun star. In an interview with Elle (via E! News), Kidman looked back fondly on the ill-fate union, even though she managed to find a "more evolved" love with Kieth Urban.

"I want to be really careful with that because I don't want to take away from 11 years with that man that were really important," she admitted. "Really, for our kids — they were amidst a lot of love. It wasn't bad. And now we're amidst a more evolved love."

Nicole also admitted that — despite the unfortunate outcome — she'd marry Tom again in a heartbeat. "[He] taught me an enormous amount — as a girl into a woman. Absolutely, I would do it again," she said, proving that not all failed marriages are actually a failure.