HBO’s pending Scientology doc likely to anger Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise at the Ben Stiller Handprint and Footprint Ceremony at Dolby Theater on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

(RNS) Words to alert lawyers (and maybe unnerve Tom Cruise): HBO is finishing up a tough documentary on the Church of Scientology.

The Hollywood Reporter says that a “bombshell” film on Scientology and its hold on some Hollywood stars will air in 2015.

HBO confirmed only that Oscar winner Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) is doing the film and HBO plans to run it.

Tom Cruise at the Ben Stiller Handprint and Footprint Ceremony at Dolby Theater on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Photo courtesy of Helga Esteb via Shutterstock

Tom Cruise at the Ben Stiller Handprint and Footprint Ceremony at Dolby Theater on Dec. 3, 2013, in Los Angeles.

The film is expected to feature new revelations about the controversial church and its famous followers, such as Cruise and John Travolta. If it’s finished in time, it will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in January.

THR says the film is based on the book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright.

No matter what Gibney’s film says, no matter how well sourced it is, no matter how respected HBO’s documentary unit is, the notoriously litigious Church of Scientology is likely to be peeved.

Wright’s book stemmed from his 2011 New Yorker profile of filmmaker, Oscar winner and former Scientologist Paul Haggis, who incurred the church’s wrath after he publicly left in a huff in 2009 and started criticizing its teachings and behavior toward members.

HBO is ready for any protests, says Sheila Nevins, HBO’s president of documentary films. “We have probably 160 lawyers (looking at the film),” she told THR.

This turns out to be an exaggeration for effect, but it is true the cable network has many lawyers on standby, which they might need.

For instance, “Going Clear,” a National Book Award finalist in the U.S., was never published in Britain because the church exerted pressure on the British publisher, which then dropped it on advice from its lawyers.

When THR excerpted Wright’s book in January 2013, it focused on the church’s “seduction” of Cruise and its role in his divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman. A church spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, responded with a long, written statement critical of Wright.

scientology book

“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief,” by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lawrence Wright . Photo courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

“The one thing ‘clear’ about Lawrence Wright’s book is that he continues to carry water for a handful of angry, bitter individuals led by a pathological liar still consumed with vengeance a decade after being removed for malfeasance. Mr. Wright produced a work of fiction that does little more than regurgitate six decades of false, bizarre tabloid allegations about the religion’s Founder, its leadership and its prominent members,” the statement said.

The film is HBO’s first specifically about Scientology, but it is not the first time the network has run into trouble with the church. Its 1998 documentary “Dead Blue: Surviving Depression” inspired Scientology protests at the network’s Manhattan headquarters because it presented anti-depressant drugs in a positive light.

Scientologists oppose psychiatry in general and anti-depressant drugs in particular, a stance that garnered attention in 2005 when Cruise publicly attacked his friend Brooke Shields for taking medication for her post-natal depression. He thought she should have taken vitamins instead.

(Maria Puente writes for USA Today.)

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Maria Puente


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  • “Cruise publicly attacked his friend Brooke Shields for taking medication for her post-natal depression. He thought she should have taken vitamins instead.”

    Look at how dangerous this nonsense is.

    Easy to laugh at Scientology. There is a price we pay for religion.
    It will be a better world when all religious philosophies are abandoned for what they are; ridiculous, cowardly, irresponsible nonsense.

    “I shall kill her children with Death” – Jesus (Rev. 1:22-23)

  • My biggest complaint with Clinton is that it was his administration that recognized the cult as a religion. Scientology’s money ultimately goes to a for-profit entity which essentially receives revenues that individuals have deducted from state and federal income tax.

    As a religion Scientology does not file annual reports with the IRS and they provide no information that is available to the general public.

  • Yet another example of Christian Privilege.

    While Christianity has no more real a basis, and rakes in millions of dollars for every dollar that goes to Scientology, Christianity will never be subject to this kind of an expose. Why? Simple Christian Privilege.

    Is Scientology based on falsehoods? Is it, at it’s core, a business? Does it mislead and bilk followers? Does it, overall, harm society?

    Yes to all. But, each of those is even more true of Christianity – yet Christianity continues to get special protection, received your tax dollars a huge number of ways, and be given a pass when the much larger harms it causes happen.

    Documentaries like this may be well deserved, but until the dominant religion also has to answer to them, Tom Cruise will be right about feeling cheated and unfairly singled out.

  • I can go to mass forever and other services and not give them a cent (although you will be encouraged to give if you are able). With Scientology this is not true. In order to become/remain a member you MUST give them what you have–you are not given a choice.

  • I hope this documentary exposes the Church of Scientology for what it truly is, false religion.

    It is not based on God’s Word, the Bible, at all and is a “money-making business,” designed to “improve” peoples’ lives in exchange for huge sums of money.

    I have a friend who belonged to this Church, who gave up house and family to become “clear”, and she ended up suing them for damages and settling the case, and was not allowed to say the terms of settlement.

    Unfortunately, we are all imperfect and sinful persons. The only means of gaining perfection and everlasting life on earth is through God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44) and the ransom sacrifice of God’s son, Jesus (John 3:16).

    Even contributions of millions of dollars to this church, in exchange for “improvement” or “clearance” in life is a lost cause, since money cannot get rid of sin, sickness and disease, old age and death!

    But God’s kingdom or heavenly government can and will!! (Revelation 21:1-4). And Jesus himself said, about his preaching and teaching about God’s kingdom, “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8)

  • So Religion News Service is reporting what USA Today said, which is reporting what The Hollywood Reporter said.

    No wonder so there are so many blatant falsehoods out there.

    But the compulsive desire to believe the lies, to condemn without knowledge, to comment with such venom begotten in ignorance – that just continues to amaze met.

    It’s one thing to be ignorant, and another to choose it, especially from a position of such sanctimony.

  • “… to condemn without knowledge, to comment with such venom begotten in ignorance…” stop living in $$$$$$$$$$$cientology bubble and check the web Stewart, it’s all out there, stories filled with tragedies and bone chilling personal accounts from thousands of ex members who are saying the exact same thing where they lost EVERYTHING they had. Hubbard’s tech and policies is what is destroying each one of you. $$$$$$$$cientology is a mind-altering crime syndicate and unfortunately you support this.

  • Fran, what do you mean by the words “false religion” used in line 1-2 ?

    Do both words have absolute negative weight: (i.e. false = bad ; religion = bad)
    and so it is 2x bad/wrong/evil


    Does one have absolute negative weight (false = bad) and the other a neutral weight (religion = neutral).


    Does one have absolute negative weight (false = bad) and the other a positive weight (religion = good), and the use of the two terms together creates emotional dissonance of something bad influencing something good?

  • Lauren,

    When I mention “false religion”, I am referring to religion or spiritual teachings and doctrines that do not give accurate knowledge or truth from God’s Word, the Bible, about the only true God, whose name is Jehovah (Psalm 83:18); his son, Christ Jesus (Matthew 3:17); and God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 24:14).

  • What I don’t understand is why Churches are tax exempt at all? If we took the tax exemption away from all Churches then all of them, including Scientology, would need to report to the IRS just like the rest of us do.

  • Money can’t get rid of sin, sickness, disease and death, but the data in Scientology can do a great deal in that direction. Don’t underestimate the knowledge in Scientology. It can help people be more honest, can help extend lives by removing causes of at least psychosomatic illnesses. It won’t end disease and death, but it can help change unwanted attitudes such as “fear of death”. I’ve had over 60 years experience with Scientology, both in and as a resigned member of the Churches of Scientology and the technology is not only workable but advanced of what is taught in universities. If you don’t believe that, then what is it that attracts people to Scientology? No matter how “opposite to the initial goals of Scientology” that the organized religion practices, it wouldn’t survive as well as it does if it didn’t have something valuable to offer in exchange for money.

  • Patricia,

    We are all imperfect and sinful humans, so of course, there is always room for improvement!!

    A huge number of self-help books are out there; however, the advantage of reading God’s Word, the Bible, is that it provides, from God , wisdom, instructions and principles to guide us on how to live to make life very happy and satisfying and also what to avoid.

    Who knows us better than our Creator and what is best for us? It is our Creator or God who will get rid of all imperfection and sin we have inherited from our first parents.

    The Bible is the BEST self-help book on the planet that is available worldwide, and that is where I will turn to for the BEST advice possible while in my imperfect state.

    In addition, I am not afraid of death since the condition is not being conscious of anything at all (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) and we only end up in the grave, or return to the dust (Genesis 3:19).

    There is no such place of torment forever for wicked ones (referred to as “hellfire”); just the common grave, which is a loving arrangement from God, instead of fire!

    Besides that, God has the power and love to bring many persons who have passed away back to life on earth to be reunited with family and friends (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). He will do this by his kingdom or heavenly government.

    That is something no church or religion or self-improvement course can provide.

  • Patricia,

    I believe in only one true God, just as his son, Jesus did (John 17:3); however, many religions still believe in a trinity doctrine, or 3 gods in one; so there are many conflicting beliefs out there!

  • Any genuine investigator has to look at both sides, not just the side they want to see.

  • It’s a shame you WILL not see, it’s called “denial/repudiation of the truth” but then again we, anti-scientology, know where this comes from and how you are instructed to not think for yourself:

    “When somebody enrols, consider he or she has joined up for the duration of the universe – never permit an ‘open-minded’ approach… The proper instruction attitude is, ‘We’d rather have you dead than incapable.’”
    – L. Ron Hubbard, KEEPING SCIENTOLOGY WORKING, 7 February 1965, reissued 27 August 1980

  • Some day, time will come your beliefs. classes and based religion will just be a history. 2 more generations or so. we will die out as well as our grandchildren,
    to remove this nonsense.

    Evolution will take its place. and history doesnt have to repeat itself, people are becoming smarter. and can act morally without judging and harming someone.

  • “What I don’t understand is why Churches are tax exempt at all?”

    Because the handful of people in my minority religion that need to meet in one another’s houses for worship since we can’t afford to maintain a building really don’t need a government reaching into our wallets every time we want to organize a get-together or event.

    People who harp on the tax exemption thing NEVER seem to consider minorities, apparently you’re all convinced that every religion is a for-profit megachurch. Just a heads-up: major religions and large churches can easily afford taxation. Every small religious group would struggle with it. It only harms minorities, while mildly inconveniencing the majority faiths.

  • Totally misinformed and wrong.
    Scientology underwent a MASSIVE IRS audit involving literally tons of records from its headquarters, national offices, churches, mission and public-benefit groups.

    Have you ever known the US IRS to be “nice”??

    Were they eager to give up the revenue they’d have got from back taxes, penalties—and future income—if the Church hadn’t thoroughly proved its non-profit status? Very reluctantly, IRS had to grant all those bodies tax exemptions (except on the items every non-profit pays taxes on).

  • Inaccurate.
    “You must give them what you have”?? That’s a complete falsehood.
    First, there are probably 15 intro courses require donations of under $100 each.
    Next, if you like those and want more—yet can’t pay, or just wish to help—you can become a contractor at the organizations to get small pay plus free courses.
    Please learn what’s true before alleging.

  • Wow, if you really believe this way I feel truly sorry for you. 15 intro course that ‘require donations’. It is not a donation if it is required… pull that wool further over your eyes.

  • I think the point he is trying to make is that religion is nonsense. Why can’t I go do something nonsensical, like believe in super heroes, and pray to them and write comics about them and sell them and not be taxed? It’s the same garbage sob story from all religions.

  • North Korea is still ‘surviving’ without anything valuable to offer in exchange for money … what is your point? North Korea is horrible.

  • You think people have become smarter? People are no different then they have been in the past. They are like sheep. They follow without delving into both sides of the issue. They accept what is easiest. I don’t know about Scientology at all but before I condemned it I would Look at both sides of the situation. It shocks me to see people who make a decision and haven’t read anything or much about it

  • Just wanted to say – I’m starting my own ‘religion’ based on dinosaurs and Flying TeaKettles of Wisdom. All may join – we just have a few questions to be used as blackmail later, and – oh , yeah – the dues are outrageous.

  • It is sad that in 2015 people still believe they have to believe in a god to be happy. People have not evolded at all in that area. All that crap is based on stories written and told thousand of years ago, best stories ever told Lol. How come we have not seen any prophet, god like creatures lately !!! Wake up people!!! All people need is to believe in themselves because we are our own power, each of us are our own god/universe. we can change our own universe. We have the power within ourselves.

  • People have to believe in a god because they are too week to believe in themselves. Faith in ourselves should not cost anything!

  • I believe Christianity has allowed us to live in a free society, make scientific discovery, have free speech. Schools, hospitals, welfare, caring for elderly, orphans, and widows has, for centuries, been a “Christian” idea and practice. No other religion can lay claim to the freedom, women’s rights, prosperity and scientific discovery Christianity has afforded mankind.

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