Sunday saw the debut of Going Clear, HBO’s latest documentary. The topic: Scientology, the controversial religion that counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members. The organization has been a lightning rod ever since its founding by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952. But given the sheer amount of shocking detail that Going Clear manages to pack in 119 minutes of run time, the church is bound to face even more scrutiny in the weeks ahead.
The film’s most stunning moments seem to belong to Cruise. We all know that he’s been a Scientologist for decades, but Going Clear drops some seriously mind-blowing details about Cruise’s personality, lifestyle and relationship to the church. For example …
His laugh is … interesting
Cruise has appeared in propaganda films for Scientology, films that Going Clear shows in detail. In one sequence, Cruise is interviewed about his relationship with Scientology, and he laughs in a way that …
Put it this way. It’s guaranteed to feed the meme machine for a very, very long time.
His second marriage apparently broke up because of Scientology
Going Clear is full of interviews with defectors who once served in Scientology’s top echelons. One former church operative, Marty Rathbun, alleges that he, under orders from top brass, “was to facilitate the breakup with Nicole Kidman.” According to Rathbun, tactics included wiretapping Kidman’s phone; aggressively psychoanalyzing Cruise; gathering personal information on him; alienating Kidman from her children; and sending any relevant intelligence to church leader David Miscavige. The film doesn’t spell out precisely what caused the couple to split.
He’s revered in Scientology
Going Clear shows clips from a church propaganda film that depicts Cruise as a kind of Scientology super-ambassador. In the footage, he’s seen receiving a “Freedom Medal of Valor” from Miscavige. The footage also credits him with somehow spreading Scientology doctrine to more than 1 billion people.
He almost had a Scientologist wife, but …
The film alleges that the church tried to play matchmaker for the actor. Budding actress Nazanin Boniadi was reportedly recruited (without her knowledge) to be a potential girlfriend for Cruise circa 2004. She was persuaded to dump her boyfriend and get a makeover, all under the guise of being an ambassador for the church, before she was finally ushered into Cruise’s presence, and her real mission impossible was revealed. The relationship broke down, the documentary alleges, after Boniadi inadvertently offended church leader Miscavige.
If he knows about the alleged abuses in Scientology, it apparently hasn’t deterred him from boosting the church.
The film is full of allegations of abuse. Former members say they were physically beaten, alienated from their families, threatened, harassed and made to live and work in squalid conditions. Meanwhile, the film contends, the church treats Cruise like a king, tricking out his house with audiovisual equipment, buying him vehicles, and outfitting his air hangar in Santa Monica. Church members even had to create a meadow for Cruise and Kidman to run through—a fantasy of the actor’s—according to the documentary.
Can’t wait to watch? Find more in the book. Get ready to keep your eyes wide shut.