For almost seven years, we’ve had to endure couch jumping, Beckham-besties, non-iPhone Suri. We’ve been inundated with People and Us Weekly covers promising insights into their marriage, deets on the supposed silent birth, and theories of a marriage contract. We’ve discussed the horror of Suri in heels, the crazy in his eyes, the despair in hers. And for what? Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are actors. Actors who got married, had a kid, and are now getting divorced. If this were a movie, it would be the tritest of storylines. So instead of endlessly debating the divorce—who will win custody of Suri or the Bowflex?—let’s compare their careers, i.e., the reason they became famous in the first place.
Tom is an action star whose films have grossed over $3 billion; Katie is still most famous for a television series and appeared in films that grossed about $500 million. Tom has worked with many great directors (Spielberg, Stone, and Kubrick); Katie worked with Nolan. He has received three Oscar nominations, she, an MTV award. On face value, there is no contest—the winner is obvious. But does this have more to do with the length of their careers, rather than the quality? Let’s look at individual years (where they both released a movie or show):
Katie finished her first season and began her second on the “it” show of the year: Dawson’s Creek. Her Joey, Dawson’s smart, tomboyish, beautiful best friend, was endearing and real (even making the verbose dialogue seem natural). She also incited millions of fans—long before anyone had ever heard of Bella Swan—to be on Team Pacey or Team Dawson. Tom starred, with his then-wife Nicole Kidman, in Kubrick’s final film, the morally ambiguous and critically divisive Eyes Wide Shut. But this is the year that Tom gave his greatest performance, as a crass, motivational speaker in Magnolia. It is a funny, sad, and beautiful performance.
Winner: Tie (advantage Tom)
Katie’s beauty and dry delivery translated perfectly in the indie hit Pieces of April. Tom starred in the more-style-than-substance The Last Samurai.
2005 (or, the year when Tom jumped on Oprah’s couch)
Reteaming with director Spielberg, Tom made the special effects laden, but not quite successful, War of the Worlds. Katie appeared in two of the best movies of the year, Batman Begins and Thank You for Smoking. Unfortunately, her acting begins to feel slightly wooden, juvenile, and inspired by the Joey-Tribbiani-smell-the-fart acting style. (She is the weakest thing in Batman.)
Katie’s Mad Money was released and the world immediately forgot. Tom’s career-reviving, scene-stealing appearance in Tropic Thunder made us feel okay about liking him again (even despite the crazy). Valkyrie reminded us that he could act.
Oh, Katie. She seemed out of her league in Batman Begins, but that was nothing compared to her performance as Jackie Kennedy in the controversial miniseries The Kennedys. (Personally, I would take Parker Posey’s crazy-ass Jackie O in House of Yes over this concrete slab of a performance any day.) And while Tom stars in the revamped, revived, and awesome Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, she stars in Jack and Jill—which has a RottenTomatoes score of 3% and won two Razzies.
Overall Winner: Tom
Who knows what career Katie might have had if there had never been Tom & Katie? Perhaps she might have forged a career in independents. Perhaps, having grown too old to play her typical part, she might similarly languish in disappointing films. We will never know. At least she can take comfort in her fortune. And her Bowflex.