On a Role
Tom later zoomed ahead on the road to stardom as Tom Cruise. Now William, 36, is picking up speed. As an abusive husband in the movie In the Bedroom, he has scored glowing reviews alongside veterans Sissy Spacek and Britain's Tom Wilkinson. "I was intimidated because it was my first really fleshed-out role," says Mapother, whose previous credits consisted mostly of bit parts in his 39-year-old cousin's films. "He really pulled it off," says Bedroom costar Nick Stahl. "He was a really scary guy in the movie, and he couldn't be more opposite in real life."
Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Mapother—whose lawyer father, Bill, 63, is the brother of Tom's late father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III (William's mother, Louisa, 60, was divorced from Bill in 1992)—preferred reading and sports to acting. "He wasn't a troublemaker, but he was very energetic," says sister Amy, 28, a stage actress in New York City. (His other sister, Katherine, 32, teaches theater in Louisville.) After majoring in English at Notre Dame, he worked as a production assistant on three of Cruise's late-'80s films and then as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles before pursuing acting full-time in 1993.
The single actor, who lives in L.A. (and at 6'1" has a few inches on Cruise), knows his family tie is no secret. "I'm told it's in the eyes," he says. "When I had a beard, I was told I looked like Alan Rickman. I got Liam Neeson a lot too. But William Mapother, that's one I haven't gotten yet."