K A T I E   H O L M E S :
The Girl Next Door

Katie Holmes: Why the marriage that freaked America out
is the best thing that ever happened to her

New York Daily News
By Jacob E. Osterhout

What was Katie Holmes thinking?

The star of "The Extra Man," opening Friday, was America's sweetheart, a straight- A student from the Midwest on the verge of Hollywood stardom until she sacrificed everything — her career, image and, if the press is to be believed, friends — to start a family with Tom Cruise.

But don't feel bad for the 31-year-old actress. While America puzzles over her personal decisions, like how a nice Catholic girl could marry an actor 2 inches shorter than herself and suddenly convert to a religion created by a science fi ction writer in 1952, Holmes remains as happy and upbeat as ever.

Despite the naysayers, she has more freedom now than she ever had as a teen TV star. Freedom to choose her movie roles. Freedom to dress how she pleases. Freedom to be a mom, movie star and wife all at the same time.

"I feel really, really lucky," she tells Glamour magazine. "I feel the best response [to all the stories] is just going about my life: enjoying life, making movies, being a good mom and good wife, and focusing on that. Because if you're doing well, what can they say?"

They can say Holmes has been brainwashed. They can call her marriage to her childhood idol (16 years her senior ) a sham. They can even criticize her for letting her adorable 4-year-old daughter, Suri, wear heels.

But for Holmes, none of the critiques ultimately matter.

Who cares if Parade contributing editor Dotson Rader claims Holmes lives "in a hypnotic state"? Or if Telluride locals initially called her baby "funny-looking"?

After all, Holmes remains a married movie star, which is a rarity in Hollywood these days, with a beautiful daughter, a fashion sense that can't go wrong and the luxury of picking the roles she wants.

Through her marriage to Cruise, whose estimated net worth is somewhere in the area of $250 million, Holmes has gained a professional freedom most actresses would die for.

Since appearing in hits like "Batman Begins" and "Thank You for Smoking" in 2005, Holmes has shunned Hollywood blockbusters for Broadway shows (Arthur Miller's "All My Sons") and small-screen projects like the eight-hour miniseries on the Kennedys that she is fi lming for the History Channel. (She plays Jacqueline Kennedy.)

Holmes even turned down a lucrative role in the 2008 "Batman" follow up "The Dark Knight," choosing instead to focus on her latest offering, "The Extra Man," a sophisticated comedy that co-stars Kevin Kline as an upper East Side r who takes a young aspiring playwright, played by Paul Dano, under his wing.

And while she's half of one of the most famous couples in Hollywood, Holmes has not developed a superstar ego.

"Katie really knows what she is doing and is incredibly down to earth, lovely and easy to work with," says Shari Springer Berman, who co-directed "The Extra Man" with Robert Pulcini. "There's no ego and not much vanity. She took the least amount of time in the hair and make up chair than any actress I've ever worked with and she came out looking naturally beautiful."

It is this natural beauty that makes whatever Holmes wears look good. Take, for example, the boyfriend jeans she helped popularize. After pics of Holmes wearing the baggy denims surfaced, stores promptly sold out of the pants.

Lost in all the fear that her marriage hijacked the Katie Holmes brushes off the rumors and makes the movies — and the life — that she wants Holmes America had grown to love is the fact that Holmes has made her own decisions — and rarely chooses poorly.

The daughter of a lawyer and a homemaker, Holmes gained acceptance to Columbia University after graduating from the all-girls Notre Dame Academy in Toledo, Ohio, spending one summer session up in Morningside Heights before landing her breakout role as Joey Potter on "Dawson's Creek."

It happened fast. "I went from graduating high school one June to having everyone know who I was by January," she told the Toronto Sun.

Fame is never an easy task for an 18-year-old to handle, but Holmes was driven.

"From an early age, I knew that I wanted to be in this business," she tells Glamour. "So I did everything I could to get here."

Early parts in "Go" (1999), "Wonder Boys" (2000) and "Phone Booth" (2002) led to her fi rst lead role in the critically acclaimed comedic drama "Pieces of April" (2003), directed by Peter Hedges.

"She's the most honest person I've ever met in this business," Hedges says. "The thing about Katie that is so great is that she's fl own coach. People who have success at such a young age can forget how most people live, and she does not do that. She was raised right."

Like Hedges, Holmes attributes her strength and stability to her family.

"Part of being the youngest [of four] is that I was born with the courage to stand out because everyone else had done it already," she says. "I had to fi nd something different."

That different something turned out to be Tom Cruise, who reportedly invited Holmes for sushi on his private jet for their first date. Two months later, he proposed to her at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Ten months after that, out popped Suri.

That's when things started to get weird.

In the span of a year, questions arose about Suri's paternity. (The China Daily wrote an article about the origin of Suri's "Asian" features.) Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch. And rumors swirled regarding the dubious practices of Scientology.

Yet, despite the common belief that Holmes was trapped in an unhealthy marriage, her stock soared. She radiated elegance and exuberance. Movie roles beckoned. And America emulated not only her fashion choices, but her daughter's as well.

Somehow, though, the doubts persist. At the Broadway opening of the "All My Sons" revival in 2008, protesters stood outside the theater and chanted "What has Scientology cost you?"

So, what has it cost her?

Not much.

Holmes' popularity certainly hasn't taken a hit since her union to Cruise. The TV ratings of "So You Think You Can Dance" skyrocketed last year when she performed a special dance routine for the 100th episode of the show.

Her movie career is back on track with the release of "The Extra Man" and the drama "The Romantics," due out in September.

And, most importantly, Holmes is happy.

"I have found the man of my dreams," she tells W magazine. "From the moment I met him, it just felt like I'd known him forever."

If only all relationships could be so rewarding.