He may be the figurehead of a religious cult whose theology centres on a science-fiction writer's claim that an alien warlord called Xenu invaded Earth 75 million years ago. But Tom Cruise takes a dim view of weird and wacky stories that happen to be written about him.
The actor has told lawyers to seek "hundreds of millions of dollars" in damages from the National Enquirer magazine over what he calls "disgusting lies" in its latest front-page story, headlined: "Inside Tom's HOUSE OF HORRORS!"
Cruise's attorney, Bert Fields, told the tabloid's publisher, American Media, in a three-page letter that he intended to go to war over "false and defamatory assertions" in the behind-the-scenes account of his life with Katie Holmes. It comes two days after Cruise, 50, finalised terms of his divorce from his 33-year-old third wife. It also marks his first attempt to rebut a wave of negative publicity spawned by the split, much of which has focused on the Church of Scientology's role in the life of the couple's daughter Suri, six.
"Your cover announces, as a fact, that 'THE REAL TOM IS A MONSTER'," Mr Fields informed the Enquirer's senior legal counsel, Cameron Stracher. "Mr Cruise is certainly not a 'monster'. He is a caring father, a hardworking actor, and above all, an honest, decent man."
The letter went on to describe as "egregious lies" the Enquirer's claim that Cruise forced Suri to spend five months sleeping in a "tiny, windowless room". Rather, Mr Fields insisted: "She slept in a nursery adjoining their bedroom. It has a window."
The Enquirer has yet to respond. US libel law generally prevents tabloids from being successfully sued. Mr Field was apparently leaked a copy of the magazine before publication.