Cruise was born in Syracuse, New York, the son of Mary Lee (née Pfeiffer), a special education teacher, and Thomas Cruise Mapother III (died 1984), an electrical engineer. Cruise has three sisters, Lee Anne, Marian, and Cass. Cruise's surname originates from his great-grandfather, Thomas Cruise O'Mara, who was adopted by a Welsh immigrant and renamed "Thomas Cruise Mapother". Cruise is of German, Irish, and English ancestry. He grew up in near poverty, and had a Catholic upbringing. The family was dominated by his abusive father, whom Cruise has described as "a merchant of chaos". He was beaten by his father, who Cruise has said was a bully and coward.He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, 'There's something wrong with this guy. Don't trust him. Be careful around him.'
Cruise's family spent part of his childhood in Canada. They moved to the Ottawa suburb of Beacon Hill in late 1971 so that Cruise's father could take a position as a defense consultant with the Canadian Armed Forces. There, Cruise attended the just opened Robert Hopkins Public School for much of grade four as well as grade five. It was while in grade four that Cruise first became involved in drama, under the tutelage of George Steinburg. Cruise and six other boys put on an improvised play to music called IT at the Carlton Elementary School drama festival. Drama organizer Val Wright, who was in the audience that night, reflected that "the movement and improvisation were excellent. It was a classic ensemble piece". Cruise also enjoyed sports at the school including playing floor hockey, though he was known more for his aggression than his talent. For grade six Cruise went to Henry Munro Middle School. However, in the spring of that year Cruise's mother left his father, taking Cruise and his sisters back to the US.
He briefly attended a Franciscan seminary in Cincinnati on a church scholarship and aspired to become a Catholic priest. In his senior year, he played football for the varsity team as a linebacker, but he was cut from the squad after getting caught drinking beer before a game.
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