Tom Cruise and his Struggle with Dyslexia
Controversial yet distinguished actor Tom Cruise has been at the top of the A-list since 1981. He has won dozens of awards for his challenging roles and made headlines for his personal life. Cruise was diagnosed as dyslexic at age seven and fought his learning disorder through his schooling and career. His unique method of coping with dyslexia and flawless acting ability shows the old adage true: if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Tom Cruise as a Child and Teen
Cruise was born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV in Syracuse, New York on July 3, 1962. His mother was a special education teacher who also had dyslexia. His Catholic upbringing was troubled and poor. Cruise attended multiple schools in the United States and Canada while his father searched for work.
“All through school and well into my career, I felt like I had a secret,” Cruise says about his dyslexia. “When I’d go to a new school, I wouldn’t want the other kids to know about my learning disability.” He dabbled in sports before suffering a knee injury and devoting himself to the theater. Calling himself “a functional illiterate,” Cruise graduated in 1980 but didn’t attend the ceremony, feeling like he had failed as a student.
Tom Cruise’s Early Acting Career
Cruise got the world’s attention in the film ‘Taps’ in 1981. The young adult had a breakout role in 1983’s ‘Risky Business,’ which has been called his career-making move. He starred alongside acting legends such as Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman in the 1980’s. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama and received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as a Vietnam veteran in 1989’s ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’
In the 1990’s, Cruise married actress Nicole Kidman and co-starred with her in three films, as well as adopting two children. He played the Golden Globe winning title role of ‘Jerry Maguire’ in 1996, and starred in the ‘Mission Impossible’ trilogy. By 2000, his filmography spanned over 20 titles.
Tom Cruise: 2000 to Today
Cruise continued to rule the screen in the new millennium. He starred in acclaimed films such as ‘Vanilla Sky,’ ‘Magnolia,’ and ‘The Last Samurai.’ His company, Cruise/Wagner Productions, saw the success of multiple films starring Cruise and others. He was named the world’s most powerful celebrity by Forbes magazine in 2006. October 10, 2006 was named ‘Tom Cruise Day’ in Japan for his unrivaled appearances in the country.
Cruise’s involvement with the Church of Scientology began to make headlines as he attributed the religion for overcoming his dyslexia and spoke out against the use of medication. He married actress Katie Holmes in 2005 in an official Scientology ceremony and had a daughter named Suri before divorcing in 2012.
Recently, Cruise can be seen in 2008’s comedy ‘Tropic Thunder’ and the musical ‘Rock of Ages’ from 2012.
Tom Cruise on Dyslexia
“I’d try to concentrate on what I was reading, then I’d get to the end of the page and have very little memory of anything I’d read”, Cruise says of his childhood struggles with dyslexia. After graduating, he absorbed his film character’s motivations and used the knowledge to learn his lines and improvise others. During the filming of ‘Top Gun’ in 1986, Cruise’s problems came to a head. “Many people had tried to teach me, but no one had taught me how to learn or how to study,” he has reported.
Cruise claims to have not known how to read until age 22 while working on ‘Top Gun’. He attributed his success in overcoming the disability with the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. Educators have argued that Hubbard’s radical teaching is a variation of their scholastic method, and dyslexia cannot be cured. However, Cruise’s infectious optimism has inspired the dyslexic community to find their own ways to cope with the disability. His unwavering drive and determination has led to a flawless body of work and proves that dyslexia won’t stand in the way of one’s hopes and dreams.
Learn about Other Famous People With Dyslexia