Karen S. Schneider
May 14, 2007 12:00 PM

At the SW Steakhouse in the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, the water-and-light show is usually the showstopper. But on April 27, all eyes were on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes—who used a weekend break from filming her new movie Mad Money in Shreveport, La., to hang with her husband in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Chatting over Kobe steaks and wine at an outside table with Brooke Shields and other pals, “Katie and Tom sat next to each other and were extremely affectionate,” says a fellow diner. “They were talking between themselves and smiling.”

Not exactly the picture of a marriage on the rocks. But in the six months since Cruise, 44, and Holmes, 28, exchanged vows, PDA doesn’t seem to sway those convinced something just isn’t right about the newlyweds. Those who know them best are mystified by speculation that Holmes is controlled by Cruise. “We’re shocked when we read that stuff,” says Terry Semel, the CEO of Yahoo who, with his wife, Jane, is among the couple’s close friends. “Kate is bright and has opinions.” Adds M:I:III director J.J. Abrams: “She’s hardly a shrinking violet.”

According to those who inhabit the couple’s inner circle—which includes Semel, Abrams, Victoria and David Beckham, Shields and fellow members of the Church of Scientology such as Leah Remini and Internet mogul Sky Dayton—the Cruises are just fine and nothing like the characters portrayed in headlines. “I really don’t get it,” says Remini. “They’re married, they love each other and have a beautiful baby. They do ‘weird’ things like take care of their kid and go to baseball games.” Abrams believes speculation about the marriage is due in part to a shift in Cruise’s public persona. “Tom was such a private figure for so long, so when he went public … with his love for Katie, it opened the floodgates.”

These days the couple are focused on work (Cruise has thrown himself into running the movie studio United Artists, while Holmes is hard at work on Money) and family: doting on Suri and Tom’s kids with Nicole Kidman, Isabella, 14, and Connor, 12, at their Beverly Hills compound, where his mother, Mary, 70, also lives. “When you come over, the first thing [Katie] does is say, ‘Are you hungry? Let me make you something,'” says Dayton. A favorite pastime is family movie night: “Tom and Katie will get in the kitchen and make this amazing popcorn with chocolate. Suri is there playing. Kate feeds her a bottle and then Tom feeds her.” On a visit to Terry and Jane Semel’s beach home, “Tom organized a soccer game. All the kids were there. His mom was playing!” says Semel. “When they’re surrounded by relatives and friends, it’s home.”

Holmes’s parents, Martin and Kathleen, are a part of that picture. Kathleen flew to L.A. to be with Suri for her birthday on April 18, and a source says both remain “very close” to their daughter, who has embraced her husband’s religion. “She’s very involved and it’s her choice,” says an acquaintance. “She spends a lot of time reading books and learning on her own.”

Holmes will spend the next six weeks on Money‘s Shreveport set, where an observer notes she seems “bubbly.” On one day, says director Callie Khouri, Cruise and Holmes “took Suri to a beautiful park near here and hung out. He’s been nothing but supportive.” She calls speculation that Holmes feels trapped by Cruise “completely untrue. She’s not in a prison!” Indeed, the only thing controlling Holmes may be her sweet tooth; on April 30 she treated the cast and crew to 300 ice cream cones, prompting staffers at the Cold Stone Creamery to put up a sign saying “Katie Holmes wants ice cream!” And what Katie wants is fine with Tom. Says Semel: “They’re very much like newlyweds. They’re good fun.”

For up-to-the-minute news, photos and more on Tom, go to PEOPLE.COM/TOM_CRUISE

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