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TOM CRUISE CAUGHT ON TAPE: Saving face after a Scientology disaster

[Tom Cruise in 2006 — from ‘Mission: Impossible III’]

In November 2006, Tom Cruise was at a major crossroads in his charmed life. Early that month, he and his producing partner Paula Wagner had become heads of a studio and were about to meet their new employees.

Someone recorded that meeting, and now, nearly 13 years later, you get to hear it for the first time.

To appreciate it, it’s important to understand why Cruise’s career was in utter turmoil.

Cruise became a breakout star with 1983’s Risky Business, and 1986’s Top Gun confirmed his status as a major Hollywood star. It was later that year that he began dating actress Mimi Rogers, who had grown up in Scientology. Mimi began taking Tom to Scientology courses at a satellite office she had partly owned at one time, and soon Cruise was a dedicated Scientologist — the couple was married on Dianetics Day, May 9, 1987.

But Scientology leader David Miscavige, as thrilled as he was to have a major star joining the flock right when the church was still reeling from the January 1986 death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, had concerns about Cruise’s relationship with Rogers. She was the daughter of a “squirrel,” Scientology slang for someone who had left the church but continued to practice its processes independently. In 1990, when it became clear that Cruise had become infatuated with Nicole Kidman, insisting that she be cast with him in the racing film Days of Thunder, Miscavige had Cruise’s Scientology auditor encourage him to have an affair, as we explained in our full story about how Cruise’s first marriage was broken up by the church.


Cruise then married Kidman, and at first she seemed genuinely interested in Scientology. Former church auditor Bruce Hines says he guided her all the way up to OT 2, a remarkable level of commitment, and in a very short time. But by 1992, Kidman had soured on Miscavige, and she pulled away from the church, pulling Cruise with her. It only came out later that from 1992 until their breakup in 2000, Cruise and Kidman were pretty much entirely out of Scientology. (In 1998, Cruise made an exception and spent some time at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre doing strange exercises with the Tone Scale in the parking lot of a grocery store, described so well by Lawrence Wright in his 2013 book Going Clear).

After Cruise and Kidman broke up, Miscavige made getting Cruise back into the fold his top priority. In the movie version of Going Clear, former church executive Marty Rathbun described how Cruise’s dedication was cranked up to a fever pitch. And to reward him for his newfound zealotry, Cruise was rewarded in October 2004 with a special “Freedom Medal of Valor” from Miscavige.

Cruise was then unleashed on the world as Scientology’s ambassador. After replacing his longtime publicist with his own sister, Cruise in 2005 went on a disastrous publicity tour for Scientology, including his infamous debate with Matt Lauer on the Today show, arguing about psychiatric drugs. With the additional spectacle of his couch jumping on Oprah’s show, the media began to seriously question Cruise’s sanity.

In fact, it cost Cruise his job. Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone was so turned off by Cruise’s antics, including his criticism of Brooke Shields taking medication for postpartum depression, Redstone announced in August 2006 that Viacom’s Paramount studio was ending its 14-year relationship with the actor.

“We don’t think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot,” Redstone said, claiming that Cruise’s promotion of Scientology with the press had cost between $100 million and $150 million in ticket sales for Mission: Impossible III.

At that point, the Wall Street Journal reported, Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner were making up to $10 million a year in their deal with the studio.

So the two of them scrambled, and by November 2, 2006, they announced that they were going from working for a studio to running one: They had become part owners of United Artists, the legendary studio founded in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. UA had been sold and resold so many times in the years since, it had become moribund. But now, Cruise and Wagner were taking their shot at resurrecting it and becoming moguls.

Cruise personally had a lot else on the line as well. In April 2006, he and Katie Holmes welcomed a daughter, Suri, after revealing a year earlier that they had started dating. And now, on November 16, they were going to have a lavish wedding in a castle outside of Rome. (And which became the scene of Leah Remini’s fateful question about the whereabouts of David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly.)

So, as Cruise and Wagner began their stewardship of UA, and a couple of weeks before his wedding, and after more than a year of disastrous press as the clown prince of Scientology, the Mission: Impossible star had a lot on his plate.

Now imagine that you were a United Artists employee at the time. You’d have a lot of questions about your new overlords as they took over on November 2. Was UA going to become some kind of outlet for L. Ron Hubbard adaptations? Would Cruise and Wagner sound bitter after the way they were treated by Redstone? Did these two, who clearly knew how to produce quality movies, actually know how to run a studio?

Well, now we get a peek at what the experience was like as Cruise and Wagner introduced themselves for the first time to their new employees in a conference call. A recording made during that call has found its way to the Underground Bunker, thanks to our old friend, remarkable Hollywood gadfly and private dick Paul Barresi.

Barresi wondered if some of what Cruise says in the recording reflected his Scientology training, particularly the moments where he seems to be humbling himself in a bid for sympathy. We told him we didn’t think so, but we reminded Barresi of the context we’ve presented here — this was a remarkable moment for the actor, and he had a lot on the line. We thought Cruise’s pitch was simply good salesmanship, and yeah, the guy is charming.

It’s just fascinating as hell to sit in on this moment, and imagine what it was like for UA’s employees to meet the new bosses.

Within two years, anyway, everything had gone to shit. Here’s how the inimitable Nikki Finke described it at the time as Wagner announced her UA exit in 2008…

Tom and Paula together own about 30 percent of the studio; MGM owns the remainder. But UA never established itself as anything other than a vanity deal for Cruise with Wagner at the helm — which is exactly what I said this would be when it was announced back on November 2nd, 2006. Their UA made just two films, both starring Tom — Lions For Lambs, which bombed, and Valkyrie, whose release was delayed amid bad buzz.

Of course, Cruise has gone on to much success since then, and Wagner produced Jack Reacher with Cruise. They aren’t hurting. But their failure at UA is an interesting bit of Hollywood history, and we’re glad Barresi shared it with us.

The quality of the recording is how we received it. We’ve done our best to put captions on it, and we’ll be very interested on your takes on it. Hit us up in the comments as usual.



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Kelly Preston, Beck, and Anne Archer]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Why Scientology is a haven for sexual abusers — it’s the way L. Ron Hubbard designed it
[TWO years ago] Hey, moneybags, Scientology has a bridge to sell you. Here’s the new price list!
[THREE years ago] The dapper CEO’s detailed response: Scientology wasn’t forced on disgruntled employee
[FOUR years ago] Why no one should ever believe anything said by Scientology Sea Org or staff members
[FIVE years ago] Jon Atack: Escaping the trap Scientology sets for the mind
[SIX years ago] PZ Myers Helps Us Plunder the Riches of L. Ron Hubbard’s Book of Scientology Evolution!
[EIGHT years ago] The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 24: David Touretzky


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,533 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,662 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,166 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,686 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 706 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 597 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,904 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,772 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,546 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,320 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,666 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,232 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,151 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,319 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,900 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,161 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,200 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,912 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,438 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,527 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,667 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,987 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,843 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,962 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,317 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,620 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,726 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,128 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,000 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,583 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,078 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,332 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,441 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 9, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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