Bold words. The filmmakers behind Sundance darling Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief did not hold back when discussing the Church of Scientology, its missteps, and its involvement with Tom Cruise and John Travolta in a TimesTalks event in New York City on Monday, March 2.
Moderator Logan Hill hosted a panel of the movie’s director Alex Gibney, author Lawrence Wright, who penned the nonfiction book by the same name that inspired the film, filmmaker and former Scientologist Paul Haggis, and Mike Rinder, a former high-level member of the Church of Scientology.
The men addressed one talked-about moment in their documentary film, in which they claim — as previous rumors have also alleged — that the Church purposely worked to split up Cruise and his then-wife Nicole Kidman.
“David Miscavige was terrified that he was losing control of Tom Cruise, because Tom Cruise is the greatest rainmaker really, for Scientology,” Gibney said of the Church’s leader and its most famous member. “Nicole Kidman’s father was a psychologist in Australia,” he explained, adding that psychology and Scientology stand in direct conflict.
“Miscavige was afraid that Nicole Kidman was slowly taking Tom away from the church,” Gibney recalled, going on to reference a former Scientology executive who worked directly with Cruise. “There was a concerted effort to get him back. One of the things they did was… at Tom’s behest, Marty Rathbun testifies in the film, that David Miscavige requested Marty to go and tap Nicole Kidman’s phone.”
A representative of the Church of Scientology tells Us Weekly, “This claim is entirely untrue.”
As depicted in Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Cruise is a much more vocal member of the church now than he was during his time with Kidman. After meeting in 1989, the couple tied the knot in December 1990 and started a family with the adoption of daughter Isabella, now 22, and son Connor, now 20. The two divorced in 2001.
“The other, more pernicious thing that happened was that they tried to turn their two kids against Nicole, which is really the most horrifying thing,” Gibney continued of the Church of Scientology’s involvement in the couple’s split. “They succeeded, so much so that we have people who told us that they began to refer to their mother privately as a suppressive person… and then they were told, ‘Now listen, the way you deal with suppressive people is, don’t let on to them that you know that they’re a suppressive person. So, be nice, smile, but be aware that this person is more dangerous and damaging than anything you could possibly believe.'”
Rinder added his two cents, saying the story about Cruise and Kidman was far from surprising.
“The circumstances surrounding that and his description of what happened, rings so true,” he spilled. “The mind-set of Nicole isn’t really with the program so here we go back to disconnection again, except it’s got a nicer name, it doesn’t exactly get presented that way to Tom Cruise. It’s ‘Tom, she’s not good for you, you better straighten out here and get your life in order and we’ll help you.’ That dictatorial control and efforts to control people’s lives is really the ebb and flow of the Church of Scientology… There are all sorts of examples like that.”
For its part, the Church of Scientology disputes much, if not all, of the celebrated documentary.
“This is not a film that is any way objective about Scientology,” the Church wrote in a statement to Us Weekly. “It is propaganda… Freedom of the press is not freedom to lie. The Church of Scientology has long fought against the kind of bigotry and religious hatred that Mr. Gibney and co-producer Lawrence Wright aim to incite. To fit their anti-religious agenda, they scraped the bottom of the barrel to cherry-pick a tiny collection of deadbeats.”
“The real story is that Scientology has seen greater expansion over the past decade than in the previous 50 years combined,” the statement continued. “Its 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups now reach every part of the globe, with 40 Ideal Churches spanning five continents opening since 2004 alone. Its humanitarian and social programs touch lives in 167 countries.”
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