By RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer
NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand – Hollywood star Tom Cruise (news) advised parents on Saturday to work hard to help children having problems at school and not immediately 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 the start of shooting of his latest movie, “The Last Samurai,” outside this North Island city.
Cruise, star of films including “Rain Man,” in which his character learns to love an autistic brother, said he went to 15 different schools as he was growing up and had a “very difficult time” with formal learning.
He eventually tackled his learning problems with the help of “study tools” from the Scientology religion “that have helped me to be able to educate myself,” he said.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says medications can often help children with certain learning difficulties, such as attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome.
Cruise, 40, spoke to the media after a ceremonial greeting from local indigenous Maori, including songs of welcome and the traditional pressing of noses with local tribesmen and women.
He vowed he would not leave New Zealand “without learning more” about the culture and traditions of the Maori.
Cruise said his girlfriend, actress Penelope Cruz (news), and his two children would visit during the four-month shooting of “The Last Samurai,” which begins Monday.
The movie tells the tale of an American military officer hired by the emperor of Japan to build a modern Japanese army in the face of opposition from the traditional Samurai warrior class.
Location director Charlie Harrington said 80 percent of the outdoor filming for the $100 million movie would be done at 10 locations in the region, on the west coast of North Island, some 200 miles northwest of the capital, Wellington.