February 06, 2001 -- Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were the quintessence of film-idol perfection and power. Few questions are asked in Hollywood about his $20 million (pounds 14 million) per picture fee, or the couple's support for the Church of Scientology.
In an industry known for the fragility of its marriages, theirs appeared to be an enduring one. The picture of family happiness was completed by two adopted children, Isabella Jane and Connor Anthony.
Their split, after 11 years, is surprising because, whenever they spoke in public they said that their children came before their work. Obviously the same did not go for each other.
However, contrary indicators were unlikely to emerge into the public view. The couple are known for the ruthlessness with which they defend their privacy.
During one court case, involving a maid claiming unfair dismissal, a document was produced detailing the fines that would be imposed by the Cruises on employees who dared to publish books or talk to television producers about their private lives. Staff were told they would pay thousands of dollars for releasing confidential information.
The American tabloid the Star had to pay a substantial settlement to the Cruises and publish an apology for "false statements" alleging that they needed help from a sex therapist to film scenes together in Britain for the late Stanley Kubrick's film Eyes Wide Shut.
The row blew up as Kidman was filming Moulin Rouge during which she fractured a rib doing a dance routine. The producer had to halt shooting for a fortnight while she recovered. Cruise met Kidman in 1989 on Days Of Thunder, an action film about motor racing that followed on from the successful Top Gun. Kidman, 22 at the time, was an unknown Australian actress. Cruise later said of their initial encounter: "My first reaction to meeting Nic was pure lust."
Despite his boyish charm, Cruise is known in Hollywood for hard work and an iron will. "Work is the most important thing for Tom,' said a friend. "He loves his family but, despite his success, he is still the most ambitious person in Hollywood."
The actor has always been admired in Hollywood for his determination. He suffers from severe dyslexia, which has always hampered his learning skills.
He initially planned to be a professional wrestler but backed out with a knee injury. He then studied at a Franciscan monastery but left unsatisfied. When he decided to act he set himself a 10-year deadline in which to become a star.
Cruise's most recent successes have been Jerry Maguire and the two Mission Impossible films. The sequel was the highest grossing film of 2000. Cruise himself stands to earn pounds 50 million. He won an Oscar nomination for his performance as a sex therapist in Magnolia last year.
The Church of Scientology to which Cruise and Kidman are devoted followers has refused to comment about the split. The couple have given million of dollars to the church whose high profile members include John Travolta.
Kidman married Cruise when she was 22 and immediately set about forging her own path in Hollywood "She was never going to sit back and just be Tom Cruise's wife," said a friend. "She has always been as determined as him to make it."
She achieved this with 1995's 'To Die For,' in which she played a fame-hungry housewife. The irony was not lost on many Hollywood observers.
Kidman, who was born in Hawaii but raised in Sydney, has always been protective of her children who often travel with her when she is filming.
Her hard-edged ambition is said to come from her mother who was a feminist who refused to buy the young Kidman a Barbie doll.
Jane Campion, a director, was the first to notice Kidman as a gangly red haired 14-year-old. She soon moved into television before getting considerable attention in the thriller Dead Calm with Billy Zane and Sam Neill.