While promoting Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) in London, Tom Cruise answered a question about Scientology by saying "I’ve been a Scientologist for over 30 years…without it, I wouldn’t be where I am. So, it’s a beautiful religion. I’m incredibly proud." It was a rare public statement for the actor, who has been noticeably silent on his embattled religion since following his own public foibles as its de facto celebrity spokesman and the release of HBO’s unflattering documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015). But Cruise wasn’t always so cagey when it came to defending his controversial belief system. In fact, there was a brief period when it seemed like his bizarre antics on behalf of the church were the only headlines running in the tabloids. Here’s a list of the times Cruise went nuts over Scientology.
That "recruitment" video
During a ceremony to award Cruise the prestigious Freedom Medal from the International Association of Scientologists, the Mission Impossible star appeared in a pre-recorded video. That footage, which was leaked online in 2008, claims Cruise introduced the church’s "technology" to more than one billion people. Wearing a black turtleneck and addressing the camera confessional-style, Cruise manically rambles about the benefits of the church, switching rapidly from what feels like forced laughter to fire-eyed intensity. The effect makes him come off looking like he might be on another planet entirely.
The statements he makes about the abilities of Scientology practitioners are equally out-of-this-world. In addition to "getting people off drugs using the mind, rehabilitating criminals, and uniting cultures," Cruise also uses a hypothetical car accident to exemplify what sets a Scientologist apart from everyone else. According to Cruise, if you’re a Scientologist you have to stop to render aid at the accident scene because "you know you’re the only one that can really help." So, jokes on you if you’ve been studying to become an EMT.
Needless to say, the leaked video became publicity nightmare to the notoriously press-shy church. It reportedly scrambled to get the clip removed from YouTube, which only intensified the buzz about it, and even sparked a protest by the hacktivist group, Anonymous. The video remains online for all to see and is generally considered a jumping-off point for anyone seeking to understand the alleged benefits of Scientology.
The church may have helped destroy his marriage to Nicole Kidman
According to former Scientologist Bruce Hines, actress Nicole Kidman gave Scientology a shot. In a Vanity Fair expose, Hines said he audited Kidman. "Auditing is a very big deal in Scientology," reported the magazine, describing the process as a sort of "Roman Catholic confession" meets "lie detector" test. Kidman supposedly reached the church’s O.T.II level, which was just one step below Cruise and his fabled O.T. III level, which is also known as the "Wall of Fire." According to Vanity Fair, church members at that level get to read founder L. Ron Hubbards "secret writings" that reveal—Are you ready for this?—"how 75 million years ago a galactic emperor named Xenu sent millions of frozen souls on spaceships from his overpopulated kingdom to the bases of volcanoes on Earth; the volcanoes were hydrogen-bombed, and today the scattered and reincarnated spiritual beings, or ‘thetans,’ pick up human bodies as ‘containers’ to inhabit."
Around this time, Cruise allegedly "followed Kidman’s lead away from the organization," Vanity Fair reported, and that supposedly did not sit well with Scientology head David Miscavige, who allegedly spearheaded an effort to bring Cruise back into the fold. Miscavige succeeded in "driving a wedge in Cruise and Kidman’s marriage," according to a panel of former Scientologists and the filmmakers behind the HBO documentary, Going Clear. In the film (via Vanity Fair), another former high-ranking Scientologist-turned-whistleblower named Marty Rathbun alleged that "at Tom’s behest," Miscavige ordered him to "go and tap Nicole Kidman’s phone." Granted, that’s hearsay upon hearsay, and, of course, the church vehemently denies it all, but there is no doubt that Kidman is no longer associated with Scientology and hasn’t been since the breakup of her marriage to Cruise. Something happened there, and we’re willing to bet it was a fundamental disagreement over whether or not to believe the human race is actually made up of ancient, frozen, alien souls.
Did he enlist the church to ‘cast’ him a new girlfriend?
Included in the aforementioned Vanity Fair investigation is a detailed breakdown of the "audition process" the church supposedly used to find Cruise a girlfriend. The so-called casting call was allegedly sparked by Cruise lamenting to Scientology head Miscavige that he "didn’t have a girl." Supposedly, Miscavige put his wife, Shelly Miscavige, in charge of something we’re calling Mission Should Be Very Possible: Find Tom Cruise a Date. According to Marc and Claire Headley, more former high-ranking Scientologists who worked closely with Shelly, the Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi was hand-picked for Cruise.
Though her romance with the Vanilla Sky (2001) leading man was a whirlwind—Boniadi supposedly even moved into Cruise’s lavish mansion—the courtship was strange from the start. According to Vanity Fair, Boniadi was scrutinized and monitored by church officials and subjected to instructions about how to behave around Cruise and how to alter her physical appearance. (Cruise allegedly brought in a hair stylist for her and also wanted her incisor teeth filed down.) Their tryst was brief. The perplexing final straw apparently occurred over Boniadi asking Miscavige to repeat himself in conversation (she is not a native English speaker), which for some reason enraged Cruise past the point of reconciliation. He supposedly then shipped her away to a Scientology center in Florida where she performed grueling manual labor (e.g. scrubbing toilets with toothbrushes) to atone for her "errors."
You can’t make this stuff up, or maybe you can, but that’s the way the story was reported in Vanity Fair. A Scientology spokesperson told the magazine, "The Church does not ‘punish’ people, especially in [that] manner."
He attacked Scientology’s nemesis: psychiatry
Aside from the time he jumped all over Oprah’s couch like a nerd who just convinced the Homecoming Queen to be his date to the dance, Cruise’s most infamous TV appearance has to be his fantastically bizarre reprimand of Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today. What sparked the confrontation was Lauer’s simple suggestion that psychopharmacological drugs couldn’t be entirely evil if some people experienced a benefit by using them. It’s important to note here that Scientology founder Hubbard despised the field of psychiatry so much that the church has a dedicated division called the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights," which claims to be a "watchdog investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights violations."
With that in mind, it becomes a little more clear why Cruise, who was defending his criticism of actress Brooke Shields for using drugs and psychiatric therapy to treat her postpartum depression, would go so far as to declare psychiatry "pseudo-science." What’s not so clear is why Cruise became so irritated with Lauer, calling the famous news anchor "glib" for not doing extensive research on Ritalin and the history of psychiatry.
We can’t help but ask: why would either man be expected to do that? Let’s be real: Lauer hosts a fairly light morning news program and Cruise starred in Days of Thunder (1990). Everybody could use a little medical advice from Cole Trickle, right?
Did he exile his 14-year-old niece from the family?
Since the Going Clear documentary debuted, Scientologists have been defecting left and right, and some have spoken out in-depth about their allegedly traumatic experiences with the church. Nick Lister is one of those defectors, and he has a particularly disturbing claim about his friend, Jamie Lesavoy, being "disconnected" from her family. Disconnection is the policy by which church members are instructed to cease all communication with people who are deemed an enemy of the church or a "suppressive person." Sadly, this policy also applies to family members, which has resulted in the fracturing of many families for many years.
Lesavoy is Tom Cruise’s niece, and according to Lister, she committed the egregious sin of kissing a boy at Cruise’s house when she was 14. She was caught on security cameras, which Cruise and others observed. According to Lister, (via The Underground Bunker), Cruise considered Lesavoy’s behavior "unbecoming of a Scientologist and out-PR" (creating a bad image for oneself or Scientology)." Consequently, she was allegedly banished to a Scientology center and then sent to live with another family to work on "lower ethics conditions," which are "a series of steps one does to make amends for having done wrong," according to The Underground Bunker. This reportedly took two years, and Lesavoy was allegedly limited to only phone contact with her mother until she was deemed fit to return to her family. Lesavoy is supposedly still a Scientologist, to which we have to ask: what are they serving at the annual Cruise family potluck that made suffering through that kind of treatment worth it?
He may have offered to help discipline insubordinates
Church leader Miscavige has a reputation for a fast temper and for utilizing brutal tactics to enforce his interpretation of the religion. With Cruise’s intense devotions, as well as the fact that he and Miscavige are extremely close, it’s no surprise the Eyes Wide Shut (1999) star allegedly offered to "beat the living [beep]" out of some insubordinate members for improperly preparing the church’s Hemet, Calif. compound for his visit. These claims were made public by Marty Rathbun, another former high-ranking Scientologist, who detailed the incident in a letter to Cruise’s lawyer, Bert Fields, which was then excerpted by the New York Daily News. Allegedly, three men were "incarcerated" and repeatedly beaten by Miscavige and others after Miscavige threatened that Cruise was on his way to take part, as reported in the Daily News. The church has denied up and down that the punishment even occurred or that Miscavige threw Cruise’s name into the mix.
Did he let the church assign Katie Holmes a chaperone?
We’ve already established that Scientology played an unusually large role in Cruise’s love life, so it should come as no surprise that Cruise’s entire marriage to actress Katie Holmes was peppered with strange church-related anecdotes, including the one about Holmes and her "Scientology chaperone." That’s right, human adult and successful actress Holmes allegedly had a woman following her around all the time for the purpose of—you know what? There is no good explanation for that.
Holmes’ chaperone was reportedly Jessica Rodriguez, a long-time, high-ranking member of Sea Org, "Scientology’s elite religious order, whose members commit to the church for one billion years," according to W Magazine. Rodriguez served as Cruise’s assistant for a while, but by 2005, she was reportedly spotted at every one of Holmes’ public appearances (right around the time Holmes and Cruise got together.) Rodriguez was also present for a now infamous W Magazine interview in which she says she and Holmes are "just best friends," despite the fact that they’d only known each other for six weeks at that point. According to Fox411, Rodriguez was "front and center" at Cruise and Holmes’ 2006 wedding, so even on the day she was marrying an allegedly controlling man, it seems Holmes still had to have an extra set of eyes on her. Did someone really want to drive home that whole "love and obey" vow?
He distanced himself from daughter Suri
After her straight-out-of-a-Lifetime-movie flight from their marriage—complete with burner phones, a clear exit strategy, and multiple lawyers in multiple cities—Holmes eventually agreed to a custody arrangement with Cruise. She has primary custody, and he apparently pretends to be a dad on those few days when he isn’t shooting or promoting a movie. Okay, that sounds like a harsh generalization, but Cruise is so busy with film and Scientology commitments around the globe that he’s admitted he doesn’t see Suri often. In 2012, Cruise sued the publisher of various tabloids that claimed he’d "abandoned" Suri, which opened him up to depositions that, in turn, prompted him to confirm that "Suri and I saw each other in person in July, August, November and December 2012," according to People. Wow, four whole months out of that year, huh?
In the years that followed, his track record does not seem to have improved. In 2015, TMZ reported that Cruise may not have seen Suri in nearly a year. The Daily Mail went even further and put the estimate at around 800 days. In 2016, he was noticeably absent on Father’s Day. Supposedly, the reason for his distance has less to do with Suri and more to do with Holmes having allegedly been declared a "suppressive person" by the church. That makes Suri’s lackluster relationship with her blockbuster dad somewhat of collateral damage.
Of course, all this could just be tabloid fodder. Perhaps daddy and daughter are hanging out right now, away from the prying eyes of the press. For the kid’s sake, we hope that’s the case.
Church members worked for him for little or no pay
John Brousseau is yet another defected high-ranking Scientologist who spoke out about his direct dealings with Miscavige and Cruise. Brousseau was Miscavige’s brother-in-law, so he supposedly had a front row seat to the exclusive treatment that Cruise enjoyed from the church. Speaking to the Village Voice about a Cruise and Miscavige family ski trip to Telluride, Colo., Brousseau said, "I made sure the servants knew what they were doing. They had to learn how to make things go right without being visible…I would show the staff that it’s not your job to bump into Tom in the hallway. It’s your job to make sure everything’s right, but be invisible. Anticipate his every move. You had to be there with a salt shaker before he even realized he needed it." Servants. He used the word "servants." Wow.
Brousseau was also something of a craftsman, and over the years, he was tasked with many special projects pertaining to Cruise—projects that don’t seem to have anything to do with spirituality. He claimed to have worked on the Honda Rune that Cruise and Holmes arrived in at the War of the Worlds (2005) premiere, as well as a custom Bluebird bus, Cruise’s airplane hangar, a tricked-out Ford Excursion, and Cruise’s home—and Brousseau has photos to prove it. Brousseau alleged that Cruise shelled out the cash for materials, but never a dime for labor, which was completed by church members. So, how much did the church compensate its laborers? "Only about $50 a week by the church, even though their hours could reach 100 a week," Brousseau said.
According to Forbes, Cruise made $53 million dollars in 2016 alone, and let’s be honest, it wasn’t his first year making that kind of scratch. And yet, if Brousseau’s story is true, Cruise was okay with "servants" waiting on him hand and foot and facilitating his lavish lifestyle for a wage of roughly .50 cents per hour. That’s not only crazy, it’s downright criminal.
All that being said, Cruise has never acknowledged any of the aforementioned allegations and scandalous tales. For all we know, he could be a delightful Jerry Maguire-esque Scientologist who has simply become an easy target for a growing number of former church members, outsiders, and gossip hounds. Whatever the case, the actor undoubtedly remains the most famous and most embattled member of the institution.