LOS ANGELES – When Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes first got together, he jumped on a couch, she gushed girlishly, and many of their fans said, "Huh?"
Their split could cause just as much drama.
Not only are the images of two Hollywood stars at stake, so is the future of 6-year-old Suri, with some speculating that Holmes’ decision to file for divorce in New York might mean she’s seeking sole custody of their daughter.
Ultimately, Cruise might have the most to lose.
"There’s no question this divorce is going to hurt his public image," said Dorie Clark, author of the forthcoming "Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future."
"His brand was already tarnished significantly when he first got together with Holmes five years ago and was infamously jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, and shortly afterward the videos of him praising Scientology were leaked," she continued. "This divorce is another opportunity for questions to be raised about his personal life, his religious beliefs – which many consider outside the mainstream – and that’s not what a box-office star really wants."
California divorce attorney Michael Kelly, who is not involved with the Cruise-Holmes case, called Holmes’ East Coast filing "a tactical move" that signifies "there will be an attempt to gain an advantage."
New York’s comparative-fault divorce laws could be advantageous for Holmes, he said. The couple lived in Los Angeles.
Cruise and Holmes married in 2006 after a whirlwind love affair. He proposed at the Eiffel Tower. Their wedding was held at a 15th-century Italian castle.
She filed for divorce Thursday, ending her first marriage. This will be Cruise’s third divorce. He was previously married to actresses Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, with whom he has two children.
Cruise showed up alone at the recent Los Angeles and London premieres of his latest film, "Rock of Ages." Holmes also was absent earlier this month when Cruise received the Friars Club Entertainment Icon Award in New York. But he did bring Suri with him, allowing her to stay up late for the raunchy proceedings.
"Divorce will actually help Katie Holmes’ brand," Clark said. "More people are going to be thinking about her and aware of her. This is generating a lot of sympathy and interest from people."
Holmes, 33, rose to fame on the teen soap "Dawson’s Creek." She went on to appear in "Batman Begins," and earned raves for her roles in independent films such as 2003’s "Pieces of April" and 2005’s "Thank You for Smoking." She took a break after giving birth to Suri in April 2006 and marrying Cruise that November.
She did just a handful of roles until stepping things up in 2011. Holmes played Jackie Kennedy in the Emmy-winning miniseries "The Kennedys," appeared in Adam Sandler’s "Jack and Jill" and just wrapped up a film with William Hurt. She said she’s set to start another project in July.
Meanwhile, Cruise, who turns 50 on Tuesday, has remained a megastar. His latest role, as an Axl Rose-style rock star in "Rock of Ages," has won him strong reviews (though not corresponding box-office results), and his most recent "Mission Impossible" installment, "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," has made more than $690 million worldwide.
"Tom Cruise’s brand has always been the dynamic, likable hero – the `Mission Impossible’ star that you’re rooting for – and it becomes harder for the public to get behind someone as a hero and want to go to the box office and cheer them on when there are serious questions about what kind of husband and father he is," Clark said.
Holmes’ attorney, Jonathan Wolfe, said Friday that "Katie’s primary concern remains, as it always has been, her daughter’s best interest."