End Of The Marriage

05/29/2001 AT 11:00 AM EDT

Most married couples would have called it quits by then, at half past midnight after a long night on the town. But not Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman -- they still felt the need for speed. And so at 12:30 last Dec. 28 the couple called security at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas and asked for a turn on Big Shot, the mind-blowing, stomach-churning thrill ride located atop the hotel's 1,149-ft. tower. After officials closed the roof deck to the public, Cruise and Kidman strapped themselves into a 12-seat car and were hurled 160 feet in the air in 2.5 seconds. "Tom Cruise just had a huge grin on his face," says Brad Sakoff, the ride supervisor who arranged the late-night adventure. "They rode it about three times. They kept screaming, 'One more time!' They had a blast."

Over the top and fun while it lasted: The same could be said of the 10-year marriage of Cruise, 38, and Kidman, 33, a dynamic coupling which, they announced on Feb. 5, has finally run out of steam. "Citing the difficulties inherent in divergent careers which constantly kept them apart," their spokeswoman Pat Kingsley said in a statement, "they concluded that an amicable separation seemed best for both of them at this time."

Friends and family of the pair only learned of the split on the morning it was announced. They were distressed -- "We are all very upset," Kidman's mother, Janelle, a nurse educator, said at her Sydney home -- and startled by the news. So, apparently, was Kidman. The Hawaii-born, Australian-bred actress was "broadsided" by the announcement, says a friend. Though trouble had been brewing between the pair for some time, according to this friend, "Nicole was surprised by the timing of the announcement more than the idea of the separation," says the source. "It came much sooner than expected."

What went wrong?

Few doubt that the couple's careers, which often saw them globe-trotting between three continents in as many months with their children -- Isabella, 8, and Connor, 6 -- put pressure on their relationship. But friends say other reasons contributed to the marriage's demise. "One of the problems was that Nicole wants to spend more time in Australia and Tom wants to spend more time (in the U.S.)," says her friend. What's more, the source adds, Cruise, a devoted Scientologist, and Kidman "couldn't agree on religion. Nicole's background is in Catholicism, and she did not like the idea of the children being raised in Scientology." Kidman has referred to her "mishmash" of beliefs, telling Newsweek that she incorporated "a little bit of Buddhism, a little Scientology. I was raised Catholic, and a big part of me is still a Catholic girl." Assertions that Scientology played any part in the breakup are unequivocally denied by Kingsley. "Scientology had nothing to do with this," she says. "They are not being controlled. They are not being counseled."

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