After best-selling biographies of Princess Diana (secretly authorized by Diana), Monica Lewinsky (officially authorized) and Madonna (unauthorized), why did Andrew Morton take on Tom Cruise, the most litigious of Hollywood stars?
"He's the quintessential global celebrity," Morton says in his first interview about "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography," in stores today. The book is under attack by Cruise's lawyer and Church of Scientology leaders.
"He's no longer just an actor or producer, but a powerful advocate for a cult that's out to expand, especially in Europe," Morton, 54, says.
Morton's interest was stirred after Cruise famously jumped on Oprah's couch and lectured "Today's" Matt Lauer on the evils of psychiatry. "I wondered, what's going on here?"
His short answer: Cruise's faith in Scientology, which was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954 and which makes a concerted effort to attract celebrities.
Two paragraphs in Morton's book are getting the most attention: a suggestion that Suri, Cruise's 21-month-old daughter with Katie Holmes, was conceived using frozen sperm from Hubbard, who died in 1986.
"It's a grotesque lie," says Cruise lawyer Bert Fields. "I know she's Tom's child. …. DNA could prove whose child it is. It could come to that."
Even before his book, Morton says, the rumor was discussed on the Internet: "What I write is that the idea is absurd. But it's entirely plausible within the sect. … It's in keeping with the hysteria within Scientology that greeted the pregnancy."
In two years working on the Cruise bio, Morton says, he was asked one question repeatedly: "Is he gay?"
"I'm absolutely convinced he's not," Morton says. "He's had girlfriends, one after another, since he was 11. But if I had a dollar for every rumor about his male lovers, I'd be very rich."
Morton, who did the interview Monday in a New York hotel, denies reports in British tabloids that he's in hiding because of harassment from Scientology.
"If they were smart, they would just sit on their hands," he says. "Their normal habit is not to defend but to attack. Now everyone will be watching."
Fields says the book is libelous but won't discuss whether Cruise will sue.
Morton, who's British, invokes a boxing analogy: "I feel like I've gone up against the Mike Tyson of faith."
He laughs and adds, "I just hope my ears are left."