When 10-year-old Sarah Lawing heard that Tom Cruise might be filming his new movie just down the road from her family's farm in Long Creek, N.C, she wrote him a letter. "Dear Mr. Cruise," she said, "I would like to interview you for our school newspaper. This would be like an historical event in Long Creek. I wouldn't take much time, I promise. Your friend and admirer, Sarah E. Lawing."

Two days later, the ace reporter for Long Creek Elementary School's News and Neighs had secured what no other journalist had been able to get—an interview with Cruise on the set of Days of Thunder, a drama about a race car driver. "I thought it would be neat to interview him and probably be fun, and it was," says Sarah, a self-described big fan of Cruise. (She has seen Top Gun, Rain Man and Cocktail, but only the first half of Risky Business because her mom won't let her watch the more risqué second half.)

She had only five minutes to interview the star, and part of that time was taken up by Cruise helping Sarah, who was taping the interview, work the buttons on her boom box. (Sarah's only previous story, about a "really big snowflake," had not required an interview.) She did manage to grill Cruise about when he first became interested in acting (at age 7), why he chose to film in Long Creek ("[It's] a good center for NASCAR racing"), whether he would ever like to live there ("I thought about it very strongly"), where he grew up (all over), and if he was married (yes).

Clearly, on the last question, Sarah missed her scoop. Two weeks later, Cruise and wife Mimi Rogers filed for divorce. "I was disappointed," Sarah says. "I have on my tape that he was married."

As for the rest of her interview, the fifth grader says, "I just asked him things that I didn't know about him." In her article, due this week in the next issue of News and Neighs, Sarah doesn't exactly strive for journalistic objectivity. She describes Cruise as "nice" and "very handsome" and says he has a "very gentle voise [sic]." She ends her piece, "After he drove away, I just stood there thinking about what had happened that day. I'll never forget that day."

Later, Sarah sent Cruise a thank-you letter. Maybe, she said, they could work together some day, since it's acting she really wants to do, not journalism. "I've already done two plays and a commercial [for a supermarket chain]," she says.