Tom Cruise’s Mom, Mary Lee South, Dies at 80

Mary Lee South and Tom Cruise in 2007 in New York City.
Mary Lee South and Tom Cruise in 2007 in New York City. BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Tom Cruise's mother, Mary Lee South, has died at the age of 80, a source confirms to Us Weekly.

According to People, which was first to report the news, South, who dealt with health issues in recent years, died peacefully in her sleep sometime last week. She was remembered at a memorial service at her local Church of Scientology over the weekend. Cruise, 54, and his sisters, Lee Ann DeVette, Cass Mapother, and Marian Henry, attended the ceremony along with other close friends and family members.

South, born Mary Lee Pfeiffer, was a special education teacher when she married Cruise's father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III. The family lived in Syracuse, New York, and Ottawa, Canada. South divorced Mapother in 1974 before returning to the United States.

The three-time Golden Globe winner shared a close relationship with his mother, particularly when he was growing up. He credited his love for acting to his mom, whose lifelong dream was to become a star. "I was always interested in theater, but I never did anything with it," South told Rolling Stone in 1986. "When I was growing up, if you went to Hollywood, that was really risqué."

South married Jack South in 1978 after her family moved to Glen Ridge, New Jersey. In high school, Cruise injured his knee, putting his wrestling days on hold. His mom encouraged him to audition for his school's production of Guys and Dolls, which further developed his love for show business.

"I can't describe the feeling that was there [on opening night]," South told Rolling Stone. "It was just an incredible experience to see what we felt was a lot of talent coming forth all of a sudden. It had been dormant for so many years — not thought of or talked about or discussed in any way. Then to see him on that stage …"

Eventually, Cruise moved to New York City before landing a small role in 1981's romantic drama Endless Love, which starred Brooke Shields. He became a household name two years later with Risky Business, in which he famously danced around in his underwear. In the following years, Cruise went on to star in Top Gun, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire and many more blockbusters.

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