It's been eight years, but Matt Lauer's 2005 interview with Tom Cruise -- in which the actor called the "Today" show host "glib" and criticized Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants -- is still one of the most infamous TV tongue-lashings in recent memory. During a lengthy sit-down with Lauer on Wednesday, radio host Howard Stern resurfaced the incident and asked the NBC morning show anchor to recall how everything went down.
"There are times where, when you least expect it, you get someone who sits on this couch ... and all of a sudden you say something and you can see in the person's eyes a physical change," Lauer, 55, told Stern on his Sirius XM show. "That was one of those times ... I knew I was going to go in a certain area, and you watch the change, and then it's your job almost to get the hell out of the way."
"It touched a nerve, no question," he added later of the whole psychiatry vs. Scientology debate, which ignited Cruise's rant. "That was a very big nerve in his life and in his belief system."
Lauer said Cruise's public relations people called the show after the taping and asked that "the whole anti-depressant thing" not be included in the broadcast, but producers said no deal. "It was like, 'Yeah ... without that, we don't have a segment,'" he recalled.
Things after that were initially icy between the two, but Cruise later apologized; in a 2008 interview with Lauer, he admitted to coming across as "arrogant," and said their interaction did not go as he had intended.
"I want to put it in perspective," Lauer told Stern, "because although there was maybe a cold war period after that interview of about a year, he since has come forward and said, you know, that was a strange time in his life and he regrets the way it came across." (A strange time, indeed: The interview happened at the beginning of Cruise's romance with Katie Holmes, shortly after his couch-jumping antics on "The Oprah Winfrey Show.")
"[He] has gone out of his way to be awfully nice to me since then," Lauer added, noting that the "Oblivion" star paid tribute to him at a Friars Club roast in 2008. Later, he stressed again: "It was a weird time in his life and career."
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