Matt Lauer on Infamous Tom Cruise Interview: There Was a 'Cold War Period' After That

USMagazine, Friday, June 21, 2013, 6:20am (PDT)
  • 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.

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    "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."

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    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.

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    "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.")

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    "[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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