June 8, 2017
Tom Cruise in a still from "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"
On his latest press tour for “The Mummy,” Tom Cruise has taken questions about his stunt work, his co-stars, his “Top Gun” sequel — all the toothless, boilerplate stuff Tom Cruise usually gets asked.
But why won’t anyone pose the one question he really should answer: How can Cruise possibly remain not just a Scientologist but its leading ambassador?
Even those with a glancing knowledge of the organization understand it’s deeply sinister. Yet over the past few years, the American public has learned more about Scientology, and Tom Cruise’s crucial role in it, than ever.
The publication of Lawrence Wright’s award-winning book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” in 2015 exposed allegations of the abusive, corrupt and demented space-alien fiction it was long rumored to be. A harrowing HBO documentary followed, as did apostate Leah Remini’s memoir “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” and her docu-series “Scientology and the Aftermath,” which A&E picked up for an expanded second season, airing this summer.
Remini was raised a Scientologist from age nine and only left in 2013. “Even though I had been a member of the church for a very long time, I was stunned by some of things I learned,” she told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the show’s debut. “This series is breaking ground in bringing that information to light.”
Cruise, 54, has been an avowed Scientologist since the early 1990s, saying that the group helped him with his dyslexia. As he aged, things got weirder: He offered “detoxification therapy,” which Scientologists believe can eliminate toxins and drug addictions through vitamins and saunas, to 9/11 rescue workers. In 2004, he went on TV and castigated a “glib” Matt Lauer for not believing, as Cruise did, that “psychiatry should be outlawed.” The following year, he publicly criticized Brooke Shields for taking medication for post-partum depression, calling her “irresponsible.”
“These drugs are dangerous,” he told Access Hollywood. “When you talk about post-partum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is use vitamins.”
“Tom should stick to saving the world from aliens,” Shields replied.
The spectacular end of Cruise’s third marriage in 2012, with Katie Holmes seeming to flee in the night with their daughter and her freedom, aroused genuine suspicion. If someone with the protections of Holmes’s wealth and fame was afraid, what was really going on with Scientology?
It strains credulity to think Cruise, Scientology’s most important member and primary beneficiary, is unaware of the public perception of mind control, physical abuse and slave labor.
In an expose that same year for Vanity Fair, Maureen Orth detailed Cruise’s highly enmeshed relationship with David Miscavige, the head of Scientology. After declaring Cruise’s second wife Nicole Kidman insufficiently devout, Miscavige had her declared a “suppressive person” — or “S.P” in church parlance — and reportedly helped turn the couple’s two children, also Scientologists, against her. (Scientology vigorously denied basically all the claims made in the Vanity Fair article and other reports.)
After Kidman and Cruise divorced, Miscavige and his wife Shelly were tasked with finding Cruise’s next girlfriend in-house: only a fellow Scientologist would do.
As if this were a movie, audition tapes were submitted. The stakes were absurdly high. “You can’t do anything to displease Scientology,” said Marc Headley, the then-member who watched the reels, “because Tom Cruise will freak out.”
According to Vanity Fair, 25-year-old Iranian-born member named Nazanin Boniadi was chosen. In October 2004, she was prepped for one month without ever meeting Cruise or hearing his name; she was told only that she would meet a high-level church official. No matter that she had a boyfriend she hoped to marry; the church convinced her to end it. She was told to change her hair and remove the braces on her teeth prematurely. She was made to write a 20-page essay, single-spaced, on what she wanted from life. She was also made to sign two non-disclosure agreements and warned that if she made a single mistake, she’d be exiled.
“That’s how important this project is,” Boniadi was told.
For the first three weeks of their relationship. Boniadi was only allowed to talk to Cruise and his entourage, no one else. Cruise didn’t like the way her incisor teeth looked; he wanted them redone. Her hair also met with scrutiny, and Cruise’s own stylist Chris McMillan was called. When Cruise received the church’s Freedom Medal of Valor, Boniadi told him “very well done” and subsequently spent hours per day undergoing treatments to help her understand one did not speak to Tom Cruise like this. They might be sleeping together, but they were not equals.
Boniadi’s last real time with Cruise, Orth wrote, was on a trip to Telluride, with the star’s entourage along “to keep Cruise happy and to let him know how much money he was bringing into the organization, how many people joined Scientology because of him, and how much he was doing to save the planet.”
After a bad fall from a snowmobile, bruised and suffering menstrual cramps, Boniadi was denied medicine. The circumstances, according to Scientology doctrine, didn’t warrant it. In pain and isolated, Boniadi’s only resource a credit card belonging to Cruise’s production company, she burst into tears. She was then told to go chat with the Miscaviges, and after reportedly offending David by politely asking him to repeat himself a few times, was shipped off to a Scientology outpost in Florida.
There, Orth reports, Boniadi spent two months forced to clean bathrooms on her hands and knees, using a toothbrush and acid. In the dead of night she was forced to dig ditches. During the day, she was sent outside in the hot sun to stand on street corners and beg passersby to read Hubbard’s book “Dianetics.” Wherever Boniadi was, video of Cruise accepting his Freedom of Valor award played over and over.
A few months later, Cruise was dating Katie Holmes.
Orth’s piece also detailed how other Scientologists were put to work for Cruise. One high-ranking member called J.B., former brother-in-law and bodyguard to David Miscavige, said he customized Cruise’s airplane hangar, movie trailer, personal vehicles, cleaned his guns, and ran Cruise’s homes in California and Colorado, overseeing Cruise’s vast staff, all at a salary of $50 per 80-hour work week.
As of 2015, Tom Cruise’s estimated net worth was $470 million.
“I was used to build a limo from scratch,” J.B told the magazine. “I personally was one of David Miscavige’s tools that he used in his control of Tom Cruise and his family.”
In 2007, David Miscavige’s wife Shelly reportedly disappeared, and in 2013, Leah Remini filed a missing person’s report in Los Angeles. The LAPD reported the case closed that year. “The LAPD has classified the report as unfounded, indicating that Shelly is not missing,” Detective Gus Villanueva said. He added that detectives met with Shelly in person, though where or when he didn’t know. She has not been seen since.
Think of all questions that await Tom Cruise. How is it that such a stratospherically famous person — one so publicly involved in an organization, that, based on all that’s come to light, most closely resembling a brutal cult — remains so coddled?
It’s no surprise that the Hollywood Industrial Complex protects such a proven moneymaker, but it’s journalistic malpractice to allow Tom Cruise to continue his greatest role — that of a decent human being — uninterrupted.