Cruise's Latest Role: School Master

01/13/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise played the role of parental expert this weekend. While in New Zealand to shoot a new movie, he advised parents to work with their children and, if the kids are having problems at school, not to rush to put them on medication.

"Today in America I know they are so quick to put children on drugs because they are not learning well," Cruise told reporters before beginning production on the $100 million "The Last Samurai" outside the North Island city of New Plymouth.

In early interviews -- at the time he starred in 1983's "Risky Business" -- Cruise, now 40, admitted to being dyslexic himself.

This weekend, reports the Associated Press, he told reporters that he attended 15 different schools while growing up and had a "very difficult time" with formal education.

He eventually conquered his learning disabilities thanks to the "study tools" from the Scientology religion "that have helped me to be able to educate myself," he said.

Cruise faced the press after a ceremonial New Zealand greeting from local indigenous Maori, which included the traditional pressing of noses with local tribesmen and women, reports AP.

The star also said his girlfriend, Penelope Cruz, and his two children would be visiting him Down Under while he shoots the movie.

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