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This has got to be one of the most famous faces in the world:

Tom Cruise – born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV – is an international celebrity known for his film roles in the Mission Impossible series, Jerry Maguire, and Top Gun, to name a few. He is also a global figure of discussion for his public promotion of the Church of Scientology. Cruise is known for the intensity and passion with which he lives his personal, professional and public life.

And he has dyslexia.

Cruise was born and spent his early years in upstate New York, one of four children born to an amateur actress mother and electrical engineer father. His mother and all three sisters have dyslexia, and from a young age Cruise started falling behind in his schoolwork. He describes himself as having been a “functional illiterate” for the first few decades of his life.

Though he originally entered a seminary at age 14 with thoughts of becoming a Franciscan priest, he transitioned to a conventional high school one year later and discovered acting through school performances. It was immediately a natural fit.

“I was a daydreamer,” he says. “I like to dream, you know, create. I used to like to make my sisters laugh. And I’d write skits, and perform, do imitations…I used to imitate the classic Donald Duck.”

Bitten by the acting bug, Cruise moved to New York and gave himself a 10-year time frame to “make it” onstage or in Hollywood. In multiple interviews, he has explained how his dyslexia turned what was already a stressful task into something so much more mentally demanding. He could barely read a script.

“[At auditions], I’d get the director and producer to talk about the characters and the film. I’d glean information from them and I’d use that… I got pretty good at ad-libbing”.

As a part of his conversion to Scientology in 1987, Cruise studied the work of L. Ron Hubbard, the movement’s founder. Hubbard had various theories of mind and method, which Cruise applied to improving his literacy. He describes how he now creates mental images which help him to comprehend visually what he reads.

With a new blockbuster hit emerging every year, he is much in demand on Hollywood and on the interview circuit. It’s fair to say that Tom Cruise has more than exceeded his original 10-year commitment to “making it” as an actor!


Sarah Forrest is a fan of Mission Impossible and a Program Coach for the Easyread System, an online phonics course for every child with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, or a highly visual learning style. Easyread provides support for spelling and reading problems through short, daily lessons online using Guided Phonetic Reading. Find out more at