Skip to content

The Story Behind Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg's 20-Year Feud

The actor and director worked together and then fell out. Here's why.

In the early 2000s, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg's first collaboration, Minority Report, was a hit, so the actor and director teamed up again a few years later for 2005's War of the Worlds. There's a good chance that you remember something about that movie's promotional tour, even if you don't realize it.

It was while promoting War of the Worlds that Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey's sofa proclaiming his love for his then-girlfriend Katie Holmes. He was also promoting the film when he had his infamous interview with Today show host Matt Lauer, calling him "glib," going on a rant about psychiatry, and criticizing Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressions to treat postpartum depression.

This all sets the scene for Cruise and Spielberg's reported falling out, which was recently brought up in the news again following the two reunited at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Read on to find out about the stars' sometimes-contentious history and what may have ended their feud.

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Oscar-Winning Movies That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

Spielberg reportedly felt Cruise's behavior overshadowed the movie.

Since Cruise's headline-making talk show actions happened during the War of the Worlds press tour, Spielberg reportedly thought that the actor was overshadowing the movie, as reported by The Mercury News. A 2006 article from Slate reports that Spielberg blamed Cruise for the movie not making more money at the box office. That said, the movie was hugely successful and made over $600 million worldwide.

The were also said to be divided over Scientology.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise at the premiere of "War of the Worlds" in 2005
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Cruise's crusade against psychiatry and related medicines are easily tied back to his religion, as Scientology rejects and denounces the field of psychiatry. Page Six reported (via The New Yorker) that Spielberg didn't agree with comments Cruise made about the ADHD medicine Ritalin and also claimed that the director was bothered that the movie star "played up Scientology more than the movie during press interviews."

Further, The Mirror reported that Michael Ovitz, a former agent of Cruise's, claimed that the actor set up a booth to try to convert people to Scientology on the set of War of the Worlds.

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Cruise denied being behind a Scientology protest.

Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg at a "War of the Worlds" press conference in 2005
Jemal Countess/WireImage via Getty Images

A 2007 Vanity Fair piece notes that Spielberg supposedly told Cruise the name of a doctor, who had prescribed medication to a relative. Later, the doctor's office was picketed by Scientologists objecting the the prescription of psychiatric drugs. According to Slate, "Cruise was said to have assured Spielberg that he was not behind this incident, it infuriated the director and (perhaps more important) Kate Capshaw, also known as Mrs. Spielberg."

They seem to be on good terms now.

(Warning: Video above contains explicit language.) It's unclear what exactly happened between Spielberg and Cruise—and how long any grudges may have been held—but the two recently reunited at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. As reported by Variety, a video that circulated following the Feb. 13 event shows Spielberg praising Cruise for Top Gun: Maverick, which made over $1 billion worldwide. It was only the second film to make this much money since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The other was Spider-Man: No Way Home.)

"You saved Hollywood's [expletive] and you might have saved theatrical distribution," Spielberg tells Cruise in the video. "Seriously, Top Gun: Maverick might have saved the entire theatrical industry."

Both Top Gun: Maverick and Spielberg's film, The Fabelmans, are nominated for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, where the two will likely meet again.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under