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As Scientology sinks, does Tom Cruise really have to go down with the ship?


Sunday night we were still reeling from what we’d just seen on HBO and a scene involving three little words — “hold the door” — so when we turned to AMC at ten pm, we weren’t really in the best shape for taking in the craziness in the pilot episode of Preacher.

We knew that there was a fun reference to Tom Cruise somewhere in the show, but we couldn’t make it past the first few minutes of the episode. Blame it on the white walkers.

Anyway, the Tom Cruise joke in Preacher got plenty of media attention after the episode aired. News of the gag first emerged after the episode was shown at SXSW in Austin in March, so plenty of people knew it was coming.

In the show, an adaptation of a dark graphic novel series, an entity from outer space seeks out and inhabits a series of preacher types. The show opens with a scene in a church somewhere in Africa, and the minister giving his sermon is suddenly seized by the unseen force. Wide-eyed, the cleric announces that he’s become a prophet, and then he promptly explodes.


The entity seeks out a couple more holy men to blow up before finally settling into the preacher that the show is about, Jesse Custer, played by Dominic Cooper.

The show’s producers, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, have said that they were looking for a quick way to get through those early preacher explosions when they hit on the idea of blowing up Tom Cruise. The actor’s death happens off camera, and the viewer learns about it in a TV news broadcast playing as Custer is having a beer in a seedy bar. Over his shoulder, on the TV, you hear…

“Tom Cruise has died. This footage, just coming in from a Church of Scientology service Cruise was presiding over when apparently — the details are still coming in — he spontaneously exploded.”

Yee-ouch. It’s a funny joke, but it packs a punch. As in, it only works if you consider Cruise and his involvement in Scientology laughable. Which, for most of the population, is probably true.

Even Rogen has admitted that he knows the joke isn’t a flattering one.

“I will run into [Cruise] one day, though. That will happen. And I’ll have to explain that. I’ll have to come up with a way in my head to make it seem complimentary, but I haven’t done it yet,” Rogen said when he was asked about the scene, acknowledging that it doesn’t really make Cruise look good.

We tried to warn Tom Cruise that this day was coming.

In 2012, at the Village Voice, we wrote an open letter to the actor after we had seen Debbie Cook testify in a San Antonio courtroom. Cook, a former longtime Scientology executive, provided devastating testimony about what was happening inside the secretive church, including the imprisonment and torture of its executives, and child labor practices that were shocking.

Cruise, in 2005, had willingly become the face of Scientology (and then had quickly retreated after that proved disastrous), and as more damaging information about the church continued to surface, it was going to mean trouble for the actor and his fellow Scientology celebrities.

You are the public face for an organization that is becoming known for confining and torturing its own executives, that is employing children of public school age in ways that would make a nineteenth-century foreman blush. You are the symbol for an organization that beats confessions of homosexuality out of high-ranking members. That asks children to work around the clock without a chance to get real schooling. That does all this with claims that it is somehow helping the planet. Tom, you’re in a bad position here. All of these things, they’re being done at the behest of your best friend, the man who runs Scientology, and who appears obsessed with making you a kind of unofficial second pope. Increasingly, you will be seen as a tacit partner in these practices.

Since that time, we’ve only learned that things are even worse than we knew then. We learned in Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear, for example, that the FBI had heard about Tom’s relationship with an actress, Nazanin Boniadi, who had been auditioned for her role as Tom’s girlfriend. Boniadi said that Tom Cruise and Scientology leader David Miscavige are more than just best friends.

The two of them really do believe they are the two most important human beings on the planet, and the only possible salvation for mankind.

Predictably, that hasn’t gone over well with the public.

In 2014, LA Weekly film writer Amy Nicholson tried to convince her readers that we were all just imagining that Tom Cruise had gone off the rails. She said that Cruise had actually not jumped on Oprah’s couch in 2005 at all, but that it was just an Internet mirage.

Nicholson was completely wrong about that, but that didn’t stop NPR from celebrating her as if she were on to something. Of course, Cruise did jump on Oprah’s couch in actual fact. Twice. And we pointed out that Nicholson’s protective treatment of her screen hero ignored what was really going on. Cruise hasn’t become a punchline simply because he acted unhinged on an episode of Oprah. Nicholson completely ignored, for example, Cruise’s disastrous appearance in a 9-minute internal Scientology video that was leaked to the Internet in January 2008.

In the eight years since then, Cruise’s association with the weirdness and cruelty of the Church of Scientology has only been cemented in the mind of the public. And he’s not making things any better with his strange behavior regarding his daughter Suri.

On occasion, we’re asked by entertainment publications about Cruise’s troubling non-relationship with his own daughter. Is this a Scientology thing? Has Katie Holmes been “declared” a “suppressive person,” Scientology’s brand of excommunication, so Tom has to stay away from her and her child?

We explain that it’s very difficult to say with any certainty if that’s the case. The number one rule in Scientology is this: Celebrities get to break all the rules. Even if Scientology leader David Miscavige had declared Katie and labeled Suri “PTS” (a “potential trouble source”), as Scientology’s top celebrity Tom Cruise could ignore all that silliness and see his daughter any time he wanted to. But he doesn’t. So what does that say?

More frequently now, we’re asking the reporters who call us with this question if it has occurred to them that Scientology can’t really explain Tom’s strange behavior regarding his child. Have you considered, we ask them, that Tom Cruise is just a jackass?

As much as some publications want to believe that Tom will eventually wake up and leave David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology (and some claim that he already has), we have only seen evidence that he’s more dedicated to Scientology than ever. It must be difficult to turn away from the idea that you are mankind’s only hope, the true “big beings” on a prison planet of deluded fools. Tom Cruise may simply not have the intellect to extract himself from that mental trap.

In the meantime, as Cruise increasingly becomes more of a cultural laughingstock, we’ll extend the same offer we made four years ago.

Give us a call, Tom. It’s time we talked.




3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 24, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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