Our commenters didn’t miss it yesterday when director Alex Gibney, in a talk at the New York Times building about his new documentary, Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief, dropped the news that his movie will open in theaters next week.
And what a date — Friday, March 13, on L. Ron Hubbard’s 104th birthday.
Your proprietor was on hand yesterday as Gibney and some of the stars of his film — director Paul Haggis, New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright, and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder — had a lively conversation with Times contributor Logan Hill, who asked smart questions about the movie and about Scientology.
In case you didn’t get to see it, here’s the entire thing, embedded…
Afterwards, at a nearby restaurant, Larry Wright told us that the gentleman in the audience who asked the night’s final question, challenging Wright about how he made sure the facts in his book were correct, was Freedom magazine’s Dan Luzadder.
Wright handled the question deftly, telling the now legendary tale of Scientology’s then-spokesman Tommy Davis coming to the offices of The New Yorker with his wife Jessica Feshbach and four Scientology attorneys in tow, and brought with them 47 binders of data for the fact-checkers at the magazine. Wright explained that he’d been trying for months to get the church’s side of things, and had been repeatedly rebuffed by his efforts to schedule interviews with top Scientology officials. Now, Davis had arrived with thousands of pages of data for the magazine to plow through. Outside of the conference room, Wright said New Yorker editor David Remnick teased him — “You know what you have? You have a book!”
And what a book. Wright turned his New Yorker profile of Paul Haggis into his 2013 book, which Gibney in turn used as a blueprint for his movie.
The point of Wright’s answer to Luzadder was that it was Scientology itself that provided the corroboration for much of what he wrote — and the same is true for the film. Although Scientology has spent lavishly to plaster a bizarre advertising campaign questioning the eight main people interviewed in Going Clear, it’s really the church’s own archival footage and documents that, along with the accounts by Haggis and Rinder and the rest, make the film such a strong one.
Luzadder was assigned by Freedom to keep an eye on Wright quite a while ago. The former newspaper journalist won part of a Pulitzer Prize for team coverage of a flood for the Ft. Wayne News Sentinel in 1983. Then, like so many other ink-stained wretches, he ran into some lean times as the news industry struggled through a difficult economy and changes brought on by the Internet. And now he’s found some work at Scientology’s strange propaganda organ, Freedom. Here’s an example of his work, a piece accusing Vanity Fair of lacking diversity, which is rich, coming from the whitest church on earth. (Why pick on Vanity Fair? We’ll give you one guess.)
Although Luzadder has been assigned to Wright for at least a couple of years, the closest he’s come to taking a swipe at Larry was this weak rebuke of the book-reviewing policies at the New York Times with regards to Going Clear.
Wow, that’s easy money. And we bet it wasn’t cheap for Scientology leader David Miscavige to fly Luzadder out of Colorado to New York so he could line up at a microphone and ask a hard-hitting question that just happened to be right in Larry’s wheelhouse.
Anyway, we had a good laugh about the entire night’s shenanigans over dinner…
Left to right, that’s Aaron Smith-Levin, who had flown up from Florida to attend the event, your proprietor, Gibney, Wright, Rinder, and Haggis.
We had a very nice time listening to wild tales from all of them, but it was off the record, so you’ll just have to imagine all the good stuff.
Anyway, Gibney told us he’d get us details soon about the venues where the film will be opening on the 13th in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. As soon as we get that info, we’ll post it.
UPDATE: We just heard from Gibney, who confirmed that the Going Clear opening on March 13 in New York will be at the Francesca Beale Theater at Lincoln Center. Please note the change from what we posted earlier.
Bonus photos from our tipsters
There’s an interesting 1979 letter that L. Ron Hubbard wrote to his old sci-fi pal and literary agent, Forrest Ackerman, up for auction at eBay, with a minimum bid of $750. Imagine how much more it would go for if there was actually something interesting in it.
Ooh, big closed-door meeting tonight at the Tampa org. Is there actual news, or just another fundraising session? Someone let us know!
Dave is apparently the biggest kid at the Mace-Kingsley Family Center. Or something.
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 3, 2015 at 07:00
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