When Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, much of the subsequent news coverage focused on revelations by former Church of Scientology executive Mark “Marty” Rathbun that the church actively “drove a wedge” between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, helping to end their relationship. Rathbun said that Scientology leader David Miscavige had even helped propel that breakup by ordering Kidman’s phone to be tapped, and the organization also worked to have Tom and Nicole’s adopted children, Isabella and Connor, turn away from their mother.
If the Church of Scientology was so active helping to break up Tom Cruise’s second marriage, how involved were they in ending his first, to actress Mimi Rogers?
In 2012, Rathbun told Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth that Scientology had a hand in ending both relationships: “I participated in the Mimi divorce and in the Nic divorce. Both women got cold on Miscavige. He was integral to the breakup of the marriages,” Rathbun said. But Orth offered no more details on what had happened with Rogers. In Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book, Going Clear, which Gibney’s film is based on, there are a few more details about the split, including a quote from Rathbun about how he took divorce papers to Mimi and told her it was the best thing for Scientology.
But Rathbun tells us that there’s a much more involved story than has ever been published about how Scientology was involved in the breakup of Cruise and Rogers. With the help of Rathbun and several other sources, some of whom have never spoken for publication before, we’ve put together a story that should fill in some important gaps in the record.
Mimi Spickler was the daughter of a Scientology mission holder, Phil Spickler, who had taken up Dianetics in 1952 and had worked with L. Ron Hubbard at the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington DC. He was part of the old guard who helped Hubbard build Scientology, in part through the mission network, which funneled new members into the organization and could be lucrative for the mission holders themselves.
But after Hubbard went into total seclusion in 1980, the missions were targeted by a new cohort of leadership in the church, which included a very young David Miscavige. Miscavige and other members of the Sea Org held an infamous meeting in San Francisco in 1982 which decimated the missions. Phil Spickler left the church in disgust, but he didn’t abandon his interest in Hubbard or the subject of Scientology itself. (By church standards, that made him a “squirrel,” someone who practices Scientology outside of official channels.)
Mimi had grown up training in her father’s Palo Alto mission, becoming a Class VIII auditor. In 1977, she married Scientologist Jim Rogers, and they opened a field auditing office in Sherman Oaks they called the Scientology Enhancement Centre. She divorced Rogers in 1980 and sold the Enhancement Centre, but she still used it with one of her best friends, Kirstie Alley.
In 1985, Mimi Rogers met Tom Cruise, who was already becoming a major Hollywood star. They started dating in 1986, and she introduced him to Scientology, taking him to the Enhancement Centre.
A close family friend to Mimi tells us that part of the reason Mimi wanted to get Cruise Scientology training was that she thought it would help him handle what she perceived to be his major flaw — his philandering. “Tom was fucking everything that moved,” the friend tells us. “But they were all women. I know why the gay rumors started later, but it had nothing to do with who he was having sex with. He slept with women, and he slept with a lot of them.”
Mimi was six years Tom’s senior, and two inches taller, but she accepted when he asked her to marry him. They had a small, secret ceremony in upstate New York with just a few people present, including Emilio Estevez, who was Tom’s best man.
The date: May 9, 1987, a date that is very important to Scientologists. On May 9, 1950, L. Ron Hubbard first published the book that changed his life and led to the Scientology movement, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The family friend says that Tom and Mimi then tried to have children, and when she didn’t get pregnant, the gay rumors started, and Cruise has never shaken them. Rogers later had two children with her current husband.
As Lawrence Wright explains in Going Clear, Cruise’s involvement in Scientology presented David Miscavige with a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, after L. Ron Hubbard’s death in January 1986 Scientology desperately needed a new celebrity of Tom’s stature to improve its image. But on the other hand, he had got in through Rogers, who was connected to her “squirrel” father. “It would be one thing to have Tom Cruise as a trophy for Scientology, but it would be a disaster if he became a walking advertisement for the squirrels,” Wright pointed out.
If Mimi Rogers was hoping Scientology would help cure Tom of his predilection to sleep around, Marty Rathbun tells us that Miscavige was determined to use Scientology to encourage Tom’s adventures as a way to push Rogers away.
In 1989, Miscavige brought Cruise to Scientology’s secretive 500-acre “Int Base” near Hemet, California and assigned the church’s “Inspector General” — Sea Org executive Greg Wilhere — to be Tom’s auditor. Rathbun says that he and Wilhere shared an office in one of the compound’s buildings known as “The Villas” (Miscavige had another of them all to himself as his residence) and he was privy to the daily discussions as Miscavige told Wilhere what he wanted said to Cruise during his counseling sessions.
“Miscavige was micromanaging the living hell out of it behind the scenes,” Rathbun says. “Miscavige wanted to own Tom. He didn’t want Spickler to have any connection to him. Dave was maneuvering himself into being Tom’s opinion leader and best friend. He needed Wilhere to convince Tom that anything good that happened to him, you have to attribute to Dave. The purpose was to make Dave a god in his eyes.” (John Brousseau, who escaped from the base in 2010, tells us Miscavige eventually prevailed.)
Filming for Days of Thunder began in the Charlotte area in the fall of 1989, and Cruise moved into a secluded lake house provided by Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports. About two weeks later, some household staff came into the dwelling and were surprised to see one of Cruise’s assistants waving at them, warning them not to come any further, and to keep quiet.
“He’s in there with a woman. We need to get out of here,” the assistant said. “He’s in bed with Nicole. I saw her arm and her hair, I know it’s her.”
Cruise had convinced producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to cast Nicole Kidman for Days of Thunder after he’d seen her in Dead Calm. As Wright points out in Going Clear, her presence on the cast doesn’t make a lot of sense — at 22, she was too young to be the neurosurgeon she plays in the movie. But Cruise wanted her in, and he got her. And then, two weeks into the shoot, they were sleeping together back at his lake house.
Soon they were inseparable on the set, but because Cruise was still married to Rogers, they made some concessions to propriety. When the production moved to the Daytona area and a party was thrown at a local nightclub, they were careful to arrive separately.
A few weeks after that relationship started, however, Mimi Rogers was scheduled to visit the set. And Wilhere was ready for her. He was also on set with Cruise, and was auditing him, encouraging him about Nicole, as Miscavige wanted. When Mimi arrived, one member of the crew tells us, “The Scientologists were waiting for her. And they ‘handled’ her, in their language.”
When she realized what was going on, Mimi demanded that she and Cruise go through Scientology’s version of marriage counseling. We’ve written in the past about Scientology’s marriage counseling, which is as odd as you’d probably expect it to be. Mimi and Tom would be asked to sit down with an auditor, with each of them taking turns being quizzed. In Mimi’s case, for hour upon hour, she would be asked only two questions: “What have you done to Tom?” and “What have you withheld from Tom?” Then, it would be Tom’s turn to answer the same questions about Mimi, over and over.
Rathbun tells us this process took place after the filming of Days of Thunder ended in May 1990, and at the International Base. He remembers that it took about a week, and Mimi left unsatisfied. “Both sides on that co-audit have to end up saying that they’re happy. That doesn’t mean that they have to stay married. But they never got there — Miscavige made sure of that,” he says.
After the counseling failed, Rathbun then stepped in to deliver the church’s instructions to Mimi that it was time for the marriage to end. He visited her, carrying divorce papers, and with an attorney whose very presence he knew would carry an unmistakable message. It was Sherman Lenske, who had been L. Ron Hubbard’s personal lawyer. Rathbun says the visit was intended to intimidate Mimi, and it worked. As he explained to Lawrence Wright, Rathbun told her something about how it was the best thing for Scientology (“the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics,” is how Scientologists are convinced to give up their own interests to the group). But visiting her with Lenske sent a more subtle message, that she would regret not signing the papers. She signed, and Mimi was out of the picture.
Disgusted with how she was treated, Mimi quit the Church of Scientology that year, 1990. But her close family friend says that to this day, she still talks about the “tech” with her close friends. Like her father, she still has an interest in the Hubbard philosophy she grew up with. But she isn’t talking about her experiences. “She’s made it very clear she’s not going to talk about Scientology and Tom Cruise. She signed an agreement with Tom not to to talk about it,” the family friend tells us.
Meanwhile, Rathbun says that while the operation Miscavige had put in place through Greg Wilhere had produced the desired result, there was a new problem — it had worked too well. Now, Tom was talking about wanting to marry Nicole Kidman, and she had her own unsavory connections.
“It just shows you how twisted and corrupted Scientology is,” Rathbun says. “Why would Scientology want to promote Tom’s promiscuity? Because Mimi was connected to her father Phil Spickler, and Miscavige wanted to own Tom outright. But then, only a few months later, Wilhere got pummeled because he reported that Nicole had got her claws in, and Miscavige was now worried that she was going to lead him away.”
As Wright and Gibney explain in the film Going Clear, Kidman was “PTS” — a potential trouble source — because her father was a prominent Australian psychologist — a “suppressive person” or “SP” by Scientology’s standards. (Scientology hates psychology and psychiatry with a passion.) As Nicole began her own training in Scientology at the International Base, Rathbun says, it was his job to get her through the “PTS/SP Course,” which explains what it means for someone to be suppressive or a potential trouble source.
“I had to make my best effort to educate her that her father was an SP,” Rathbun says. “That didn’t fly too well.”
During one meeting when Miscavige came to the office shared by Rathbun and Wilhere, the Scientology leader asked Wilhere to drop a suggestion the next time he was auditing Cruise.
“He made this comment for Greg to try to get Tom to take another look at Nicole before getting married,” Rathbun says. “When they were together, Tom was saying how much he was into Nicole, and Dave was encouraging him. But behind his back, he told Wilhere to plant a seed to break them up.” And Rathbun says Miscavige expressed it in his usual tough-guy style.
“He thinks this Nicole thing is for real!” Rathbun says Miscavige screamed at Wilhere. “You son of a bitch, you better start planting a seed!”
But when Wilhere did try to suggest that Tom reconsider his plans, it backfired. “It pissed Tom off, and he reported it to David Miscavige. So then Miscavige made a public show of demoting Wilhere from his post as Inspector General. He was just like Captain Renault in Casablanca. He was shocked to learn that Wilhere would dare tell Tom such a thing. And the next thing you know, Dave is best man at the wedding of Tom and Nicole.” They were married on Christmas Eve, 1990.
Rathbun says Miscavige made a big show of stripping Wilhere of his position. “Wilhere was blown away. All of his certs were cancelled. And Miscavige was bragging to Tom that he’d busted him down,” Rathbun says. The role of Inspector General was then left open for seven years, from 1990 to 1997, until Rathbun himself was promoted into it. Wilhere then was rarely in a position to run anything — but Miscavige later used him to run the Nazanin Boniadi operation in 2004, as portrayed in Going Clear. (Wilhere was also one of the executives who ended up in “The Hole,” Miscavige’s bizarre office-prison, where his employees spent years at a time. Wilhere today is still working at the International Base.)
Meanwhile, Miscavige’s fears about Nicole’s commitment to Scientology proved prophetic. After a couple of years with Cruise, the two of them began pulling away from Scientology and then had very little connection to it from about 1993 to 2000, when their relationship came apart — and then in several ways that mirrored what had happened ten years earlier with Mimi Rogers.
Rathbun, who left Scientology in 2004, tells us he now regrets the part he played in the operation to separate Mimi and Tom. “I wrote to her and apologized for all that. She didn’t know the details of what we’d done, but she was generally hip to what was going on,” he says.
In 1993, Rogers posed for Playboy, and was asked by the magazine why she and Cruise had split up. “Well, here’s the real story. Tom was seriously thinking of becoming a monk. At least for that period of time, it looked as though marriage wouldn’t fit into his overall spiritual need. And he thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument.” The magazine said that she added, drily, “My instrument needed tuning.”
Ever since, this quote has been repeated to explain why the couple split — because Tom Cruise was some sort of celibate seeker.
But her close family friend assures us that wasn’t the case.
“Mimi has a wry sense of humor, and that was just a joke.”
Audit your toddler now!
Mace-Kingsley Family Center in Clearwater is doing videos now. We bet you can’t wait to get your little one on the cans!
Posted by Tony Ortega on April 12, 2015 at 07:00
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Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield