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    TOM’S Hot New Romance
    BRITISH ACTRESS MICHELLE DOCKERY HAS CAUGHT TOM CRUISE’S EYE — AND HE’S MAKING IT HIS MISSION TO WIN HER HEART.

    Back in the Game

    Tom’s barely been kissed in five years, but he’s finally ready to jump back into the dating scene. According to a source, he’s starting to get serious with Michelle.

    They Clicked

    Tom and Michelle bonded at the British Fashion Awards on Dec. 2 in London. “Everyone noticed their connection,” notes an insider.

    TOM Cruise couldn’t stop smiling. Attending the British Fashion Awards in London on Dec. 2, the A-list actor spent much of the evening chatting with stunning Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery. Seated side by side, the pair — Tom dressed in a sleek Giorgio Armani tux and bow tie, Michelle wearing a slinky Armani Privé sequin number — talked and giggled over dinner at the Royal Albert Hall. “Whenever Michelle made a joke, Tom would be in stitches,” reveals an insider. “They clearly had a great time together.”

    If Tom has his way, there’ll be more where that came from. As a source exclusively reveals to Star, the single Top Gun 2 hunk has had his eye on Michelle, 38, for a few months now. After jetting in for the fête, he even used his industry influence to score a seat next to her at the Fashion Awards so he could work his famous Cruise charm. “Tom pulled some strings to sit next to Michelle,” says the insider. Though the British beauty has recently been romantically linked to music manager Jasper Waller-Bridge, Tom, 57, is determined to make a play when the time is right. “He’s confident there’s a chance of him and Michelle making things happen.”

    Tom and Michelle have known each other casually for years. They have some mutual acquaintances and have run into each other at events in her native England and in Los Angeles. In 2011, they both appeared on a U.K. chat show and, according to the insider, bonded backstage. “They had a great conversation,” says the source, who notes Tom was still married to Katie Holmes at the time (they split in 2012), “so the meeting was purely platonic.”

    Michelle made quite an impression, however. “Tom’s always been impressed by her intellect,” says the insider, “and her graceful, classy persona.”

    SAD PASTS

    They both come with some baggage. Tragically, Michelle’s fiancé, John Dineen, died of a rare form of cancer in December 2015 at the age of 34. The Good Behavior actress was devastated, revealing in a 2017 interview that even though she and the Irish public relations exec hadn’t officially wed, she thinks of herself as a widow. “We were engaged, and married at heart, and so I do consider myself a widow,” she said. She spent years grieving before finally moving on with Jasper, who’s the brother of her pal Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Fleabag and Killing Eve.

    JOHN DINEEN

    Tragic Loss

    Michelle and John Dineen were engaged to be married when he passed away from cancer in 2015.

    JASPER WALLER-BRIDGE

    Rebound Romance

    One source says Michelle’s dating Jasper Waller-Bridge — but keeping her options open.

    Tom, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to truly connect with a woman on a long-term basis since his marriage to Katie fell apart. “Tom’s been single for some years now,” says the source. “Although he’s been on some dates, nothing’s really worked out.”

    READY TO SETTLE DOWN

    He’s hoping that’s about to change. “Privately, Tom admits it would be wonderful to find that special someone again,” says the insider. But he’ll have to get out of his own way first. “He’s very fussy and particular when it comes to dating,” says the source. And he’s been known to come on too strong in the past. (Who can forget the infamous couch-jumping incident, when he proclaimed his love for Katie on TV just a month into their courtship?) “Tom doesn’t do things in moderation — certainly not when it comes to romance,” says the source.

    “Tom’s a huge fan of Michelle’s. He’s watched Downton!”
    —a friend tells Star

    He’s gotten burned for it. “Tom’s close friends will tell you he’s had his heart broken when things haven’t worked out,” says the insider. The action star is softer than he seems. “Tom’s a lot more sensitive than people think,” says the source, “and he goes into each relationship with very high hopes that this will be the woman he’ll spend the rest of his life with.” Michelle’s already had some influence, urging him to reconnect with estranged daughter Suri, 13.

    A NEW TACTIC: BEING PATIENT

    Tom’s doing things differently this time around. While he’d love nothing more than to sweep Michelle off her feet with over-the-top gestures and gifts, he’s content to deepen their bond as friends first. “Tom’s taking a much more laid-back approach to this than he has in the past,” says the insider. (Rides on his private jet excepted!) He doesn’t want to seem pushy — and isn’t interested in trying to steal someone else’s girlfriend. “Michelle’s still seeing Jasper, so for now Tom has to be patient,” says the source.

    For now, he’s just laying the groundwork. “Tom’s not pressuring Michelle — he wants them to grow together as friends before committing to anything serious,” says the insider.

    And she’s not prone to making hasty decisions when it comes to matters of the heart. Some pals have warned her to be wary of Tom because of his strong ties to his controversial religion, Scientology. “She’s being advised to be careful,” acknowledges the source. “But you can be sure that if Michelle decides to get more involved with Tom, she’ll have properly thought it through. She’s extremely levelheaded.”

    DREAM GIRL

    She may be a challenge, but Tom is up to the job. “Tom’s a huge fan of Michelle’s — he’s watched every episode of Downton Abbey!” reveals the source. “He still has a long way to go to make her his exclusive girlfriend,” adds the insider, “but that’s his No. 1 goal!”