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Surprise new couple: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

Surprise new couple: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes — The pair go public in Rome after a few weeks of dating

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Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: INFGoff.com

Who saw this coming? Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes? Mr. Top Gun and Ms. Dawson’s Creek? Jerry Maguire and Joey Potter? But it’s true; reps for both performers confirmed to various news outlets Wednesday that the couple have been dating for a few weeks. They were photographed in public for the first time together on Wednesday as paparazzi snapped them holding hands in Rome, where Cruise is picking up a lifetime achievement prize on Friday at the David di Donatello awards, the Italian equivalent of the Oscars. As it happens, both Cruise, 42, and Holmes, 26, have likely blockbusters coming out in a few weeks, with Holmes’ Batman Begins opening June 15, while Cruise’s War of the Worlds opens June 29.

It’s not clear how the couple met or when they began seeing each other. Cruise’s last two long-term relationships — his 10-year marriage to Nicole Kidman, and his three-year relationship with Penélope Cruz — were costars first, but Cruise and Holmes have never worked together. Holmes announced in early March that she and her fiancé, American Pie‘s Chris Klein, had split up. Since then, gossips had reportedly spotted her on the town with Josh Hartnett. Cruise hadn’t dated anyone seriously since he and Cruz split a year ago; though he was spotted with Colombian model-actress Sofia Vergara a couple months ago, both insisted they were just friends.

For those keeping score, the age difference between Cruise and Holmes is 16 years, about a year greater than the Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher age gap. Cruise has been known to favor older women as well; from 1987 to 1990, he was married to Mimi Rogers, six years his senior.