04/05/2006 at 09:00 AM EDT
With fiancée Katie Holmes close to giving birth, Tom Cruise has admitted his own father was no role model.
Speaking to Parade magazine, Cruise – who has two children with ex-wife Nicole Kidman – said of his father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, "He was a bully and a coward – the person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. … It was a great lesson in my life, how he'd lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang!"
Cruise, 43, says, "For me it was like, 'There's something wrong with this guy. Don't trust him. Be careful around him.' There's that anxiety."
When Cruise was 12, his mother left his father, taking Cruise and his sister Lee Anne with her. The actor tried for a reconciliation 10 years later, when his father "was in the hospital dying of cancer, and he would only meet me on the basis that I didn't ask him anything about the past."
Cruise sums up the experience as a life lesson. "When I saw him in pain, I thought, 'What a lonely life.' He was in his late 40s. It was sad."