When Tom Cruise blindsided Nicole Kidman with divorce papers in 2001—just three days shy of the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary and while she was unknowingly pregnant with his child—the movie icon didn’t simply throw one of Hollywood’s most superficially idyllic marriages under the bus. With his citation of “irreconcilable differences” and calculating sangfroid, Cruise also effectively terminated another union: between his adopted children, Isabella and Connor, and the only source of maternal love they had ever known.
Although Kidman and Cruise’s custody arrangement was never made public, their split effectively tore bonds between mother and young apart; the kids remained in Los Angeles to live in Cruise’s mansion, and the actress returned to her native Australia and there they stayed. Isabella said in a recent interview that she and Connor see Kidman, at best, “sometimes.” According to Kidman, the children continued to keep their distance from her into their late teens, even after the Hemingway & GellHorn star remarried country music hitmaker Keith Urban in 2006 and relocated part-time to Nashville. “They live with Tom, which was their choice,” Kidman told Hello! magazine in 2010. “I’d love them to live with us, but what can you do?”
Katie Holmes may well be asking herself that very question right now. Just days after splitting with Cruise, and on the heels of widespread reports she fled the marriage fearing how the star’s deep ties to the Church of Scientology would impact their 6-year-old daughter, Suri, Holmes is seeking sole legal custody and “primary residential custody” of their child. She has begun laying the legal groundwork for a knock-down-drag-out custody battle by filing for divorce in New York, where comparative-fault laws offer her a legal advantage—presumably to ensure she avoids precisely the kind of empty-nest syndrome that Kidman suffered in the past.
Isabella (commonly known as Bella) and Connor grew up heavily indoctrinated in the Church of Scientology, were home-schooled with a scholastic emphasis on the tenets of the religion, and grew up socializing with other high-profile Scientologists. Whether by coercion or choice, the two ended up siding with their father rather than Kidman, who never converted to the controversial faith. “My kids don’t call me mommy, they don’t even call me mom,” Kidman said in 2007. “They call me Nicole, which I hate and tell them off for it.”
While the young Cruises have never exactly escaped the public eye, turning up in paparazzi photos since infancy and accompanying their superstar parents across an endless procession of red carpets and black-tie events, little has been known about their personal lives until fairly recently. Viewed through the prism of their father’s earlier divorce, they provide a unique perspective on what may likely be Holmes’s worst fear: losing Suri to Tom.
Despite still being four years shy of the legal drinking age, at 17 Connor Cruise has become a fixture on young Hollywood’s high-glitz party circuit, working the decks and shuffling beats under the DJ moniker C-Squared. Commanding between $5,000 and $10,000 a gig, he has rocked parties for the American Music Awards and the Oscars viewing party AIDS Project Los Angeles. Just don’t expect C-Squared to start mouthing off in the press any time soon.
“His parents don’t allow him to do interviews,” Connor’s representative Dave Osokow told Australia’s Daily Telegraph in early June. “Music is what Connor wants to do with his life and his family is completely supportive of it.”
Instead, the high schooler—who portrayed a younger version of Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness and has a part in the upcoming remake of ’80s action thriller Red Dawn—has made his emotional life manifest through his Twitter account. Earlier this month, Connor posted a photograph of himself taken in Italy during celebrations for Tom Cruise’s marriage to Holmes in 2006, adding the caption, “In Rome for my parents’ wedding years ago.”
A shirtless self-portrait of Connor on Instagram got the chattering class talking all right. But the teen caused his first minor scandal in February, by tweeting at his openly gay PR rep, Todd Krim, “That was a gay ass fucking tweet,” after Krim made fun of Connor’s beloved New England Patriots’ losing the Super Bowl on Twitter. (After no small amount of public outcry thanks to a short article about the dust-up in Page Six, Cruise apologized).
Thanks to her comparatively low profile and career choices to date, much less is publicly known about Bella Cruise. At 19, she no longer lives in her dad’s 10,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home, having reportedly moved into a small apartment in downtown Los Angeles’s crime-plagued Skid Row neighborhood with her boyfriend Eddie Frencher, a music composer and member of the indie music band ae (pronounced “ay”) who is also a member of her church. “We are both very proud to be Scientologists,” Bella told New Idea magazine.
The two sparked rumors they had become engaged earlier this year when Bella tweeted (on her now apparently defunct Twitter account) a photo of a diamond ring Frencher had given her with the caption, “I adore this!
While Tom Cruise has described his daughter as “an artist,” it remains unclear what, if any, job she holds. Until 2011 Bella was frequently photographed by paparazzi out and about in public alongside Holmes and was said to work as an “apprentice” at her fashion label Holmes & Yang.
While neither of Cruise’s children has spoken out about their father’s impending divorce, they were (by many carefully manufactured publicity appearances) quite close to their stepmother. Exhibit A: the siblings were widely reported to have begun referring to Holmes as “Mom” after she had been part of their lives for just two years.
Connor Cruise had been in Iceland visiting Tom on the set of his sci-fi thriller Oblivion Friday when news of Holmes’s divorce proceedings detonated with the force of a 600-pound bomb. In a telling indication of the teen’s current mind state, he retweeted on Sunday night a posting that would likely be read in different ways by his adoptive father and mother: “#LaFamilia Always. Friends Come And Go, But Family Is Forever.”