VANITY FAIR — Tom Cruise was in a state because he didn’t have a girl. “Can you believe my sister can’t even get me a girlfriend?” he said to David Miscavige, the chief of the Church of Scientology International, as Miscavige joined him and Cruise’s sister Lee Anne DeVette at the opening of the Madrid Scientology center, in September 2004. Mike Rinder, the founding director of Scientology International and former head of the Office of Special Affairs, claims that the star had just said the same thing to him minutes before as they waited for Miscavige, who is referred to by Scientology honchos as C.O.B., chairman of the board. Miscavige, according to Rinder and Marty Rathbun, Scientology’s former inspector general and No. 2, prided himself on being able to produce with a snap of his fingers anything Cruise desired, as well as to remove whatever he considered to be obstacles in the star’s life, such as his last wife, Nicole Kidman, and his last girlfriend, Penélope Cruz. (Rinder and Rathbun are part of a group of former high-ranking dissidents no longer connected to the organization. They and the other sources in this article, virtually all of them on the record, have been dismissed by Scientology as disgruntled apostates and worse. A lawyer for Miscavige refers to Rathbun and Rinder as “a dynamic duo of lunatic venom and untrustworthy bile” and denies that the incident above ever took place. (Tom Cruise and David Miscavige declined to be interviewed by Vanity Fair.)
According to several of these on-the-record sources, Scientology more and more came to be whatever Miscavige said it was, and both Kidman and Cruz had been found wanting in their embrace of the organization and therefore unsuitable for the highly prized Cruise—Kidman especially. They say the church had determined that Kidman was its most dangerous type of enemy, a Suppressive Person (S.P.), who could threaten the spiritual well-being of Cruise and the two children the couple had adopted during their 10-year marriage. Cruise sued for divorce, and the children—Bella, then eight, and Connor, then six—were reportedly given a course in identifying Suppressive Persons. As Penélope Cruz became Cruise’s new love interest, she took her own set of courses, but, the sources say, she soon ran afoul of Miscavige, who dismissed her as a mere “dilettante” when it was learned that she was unwilling to forsake her Buddhist beliefs. Cruise post-Cruz was apparently tired of having these ecclesiastical pillow fights interfere with his sex life: he needed a devout Scientologist to sleep with.
Thus began an elaborate auditioning process, the sources say, to find him a drop-dead-beautiful true believer to share his life, someone who would not object to having the mercurial Miscavige as a powerful presence in the relationship. Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, was put in charge of the top-secret project, they tell me, and the ruse was to call in actresses from the organization’s rolls, tell them they were being given the honor of auditioning for a new training film, and then ask them some curious questions, such as: What do you think of Tom Cruise?
“It’s not like you only have to please your husband—you have to toe the line for all Scientology,” explains Marc Headley, a Scientologist from age seven, who tells me he watched a number of the dozens of three-to-four-minute audition videotapes when he was executive producer of Golden Era Productions, Scientology’s in-house studio. “You can’t do anything to displease Scientology, because Tom Cruise will freak out.” The timing was especially delicate, for Cruise was burrowing deeper and deeper into the church, and Miscavige was actively pushing him. According to Headley’s wife, Claire, who grew up as a Scientology cadet and worked directly under the Miscaviges in the Religious Technology Center (R.T.C.), Scientology’s supreme headquarters, located outside the California desert town of Hemet, 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, “They couldn’t find a woman to have the relationship with at a time when Cruise was talking about donating his excess millions to fund Scientology buildings.” (Scientology spokespeople deny that there was any such special project. They also deny that Kidman was considered a Suppressive Person, or that they objected to Cruz’s religious beliefs, or that Cruise’s children took a course on how to identify Suppressive Persons. They strongly deny that Miscavige has any involvement in Cruise’s personal life.)
There can be no underestimating how valuable Cruise was to Scientology. “Dave [Miscavige] told us in a meeting that if he could he’d make Tom Cruise inspector general—second-in-command,” says Marc Headley, “that if he weren’t Tom Cruise the actor he would be the number two.”
Both men had humble beginnings. Cruise, who is 50, came from a broken family and was on his own by the age of 18. He joined Scientology in 1986, when he was 24, and he credits its study methods with helping him overcome dyslexia. He has gone on to make more than 30 films and reign as one of Hollywood’s top stars for nearly three decades. His films over the years have grossed almost $7 billion worldwide, and his last one, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, brought in $700 million on its own. This year he was listed by Forbes as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, with earnings of $75 million.
Miscavige, two years older and a couple of inches shorter than Cruise, began working with L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, as an assistant cameraman in 1977, when he was 17. Neither Cruise nor Miscavige attended college; Miscavige was a high-school dropout. By 1982, Miscavige was Hubbard’s top aide, and in 1987, the year after Hubbard’s death, he became the leader of the whole organization. Scientology has claimed to have eight million adherents around the world. Many question that figure, some putting it as low as 40,000. In October 1993, during the first year of the Clinton administration, Scientology received its disputed status as a tax-exempt church. In the years leading up to that, thousands of Scientologists had sued the I.R.S., claiming discrimination after the government began to audit their tax returns. The organization employed the services of a former deputy assistant attorney general, Gerald Feffer, then a member of Washington’s well-connected Williams & Connolly law firm. Feffer’s wife, Monique Yingling, is still a top lawyer for Scientology.
Perhaps the most notable joint public appearance of Cruise and Miscavige occurred weeks after the opening in Madrid, when Miscavige conferred the organization’s Freedom Medal of Valor—an award created specially for Cruise—on the star at a black-tie ceremony outside London. Cruise appeared both in person and on a bizarre videotape—wearing a black turtleneck and extolling Scientology—that subsequently went up on the Internet.
Marty Rathbun says Miscavige clearly wanted to make sure that Cruise was securely locked in and unable to drift away, as he had during his marriage to Kidman. All during that time, he claims, the organization got reports on the couple through members of their personal staff—devout Scientologists. The staff “was reporting every single detail going on in the house during the entire marriage with Nicole—how they were getting along, their disputes, what he was doing movie-wise, and his relations in Hollywood. One assistant was always saying, ‘Reach back. Get audited.’ ” (Scientology representatives deny that such reports were made or that Cruise ever drifted.)
Auditing is a very big deal in Scientology, its expensive version of Roman Catholic confession, administered by an auditor posing hundreds of questions to a paying subject holding on to two metal canisters wired to an Electropsychometer, or E-Meter, which measures the body’s reactions to the questions somewhat as a lie detector does. Subjects are encouraged to bring up any disturbing past memories or transgressions and get them out in order to be “cleared” to go up the Bridge to Total Freedom, through many levels leading to eternal spiritual happiness, a process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to Nicole Kidman’s last auditor, former Scientologist Bruce Hines, in the early 1990s she got all the way up to O.T. II, just one step below the coveted O.T. III, or Wall of Fire, where one is allowed to read Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s secret writings, which reveal the church’s most sacred beliefs—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. Their excess emotional baggage can haunt the human hosts, however, so it needs to be cleared out. “That’s when the penny drops,” Marc Headley tells me. “People either say, ‘What the hell,’ or ‘I’m out of here.’ ” Headley, who was personally audited by Cruise as a teenager, when Cruise was learning how to self-audit, claims that Cruise had reached the O.T. III level before he followed Kidman’s lead away from the organization. Numerous sources say that Kidman, a Catholic, was never considered safe by Scientology, because her father, in Australia, is a psychologist, by definition a Suppressive Person, since Scientology rejects psychiatry and all psychotropic drugs. (Scientology representatives deny that Kidman was ever considered unsafe. They say that they simply “oppose psychiatric abuses.”)
According to Amy Scobee, a former director of Scientology’s Celebrity Centres for 10 years and a member of the Sea Org—the church’s version of clergy—as a result of Cruise’s purported drifting, one hapless woman involved with Kidman’s case was punished at Hemet by being made to wear a black “boiler suit”—a signal that no one at the R.T.C. was to talk to her—and sleep on the floor. “For months and months she was assigned to hard manual labor, pushing a wheelbarrow.” (A Scientology representative disputes that such punishment took place.)
After Cruise’s marriage with Kidman collapsed, in early 2001, and his relationship with Cruz faded, there were to be no more slipups. Rathbun asserts, “I was spending 50 percent of my time during that three-year period just securing Tom into the Scientology camp.” Rathbun says that he audited Cruise, and according to Claire Headley, who backed up Rathbun, unbeknownst to Cruise, his confessionals were secretly taped by cameras hidden in a lamp and in a piece of furniture. “There were two views—one close-up of the E-Meter dial and the other a long shot over Marty’s shoulder, showing Tom Cruise holding the cans.” Marc Headley adds, “We used hidden cameras behind mirrors, in picture frames, in alarm clocks. I know every single covert camera made. I installed hundreds and hundreds of them.” (According to a 2010 BBC documentary, the organization admits that it videotapes audits and that this is not a secret, but to Vanity Fair it denied that Cruise’s auditing sessions were ever videotaped.)
At the end of each of the auditing sessions, which covered Cruise’s entire life, Rathbun would give a written report to Miscavige, who, according to Claire Headley, also received the videotapes, which she says she observed being delivered to him. Today, Rathbun states that disagreements over Scientology were at the heart of Cruise’s two previous divorces, from the actress Mimi Rogers, who was also a Scientologist, and from Kidman. “There were allegations and counter-allegations about fidelity, but the central problem was Nicole did not want to deal with Scientology,” he says. “I participated in the Mimi divorce and in the Nic divorce. Both women got cold on Miscavige. He was integral to the breakup of the marriages.” Of Miscavige, Rathbun tells me, “I felt I used every tool I knew in the Scientology tool book to overcome Cruise’s weaknesses, and I saw Miscavige use those frailties and weaknesses in order to manipulate.”
Miscavige eagerly awaited the Cruise reports and those of other high-profile Scientology members at his Gold Base headquarters, in Hemet. According to several sources, he often read them out loud to entertain whomever he was with. “I know he did it with [the reports of] Lisa Marie Presley, back in ’95, when she was married to Michael Jackson, and I know he did it a number of times with Kirstie Alley. I saw and heard him,” Claire Headley tells me. “He loved to dish about celebrities,” says Tom De Vocht, Miscavige’s former close aide, who went on to run Scientology’s large operation in Clearwater, Florida, where Scientologists from all over the world go to study. According to De Vocht, Miscavige—often joined by his wife, Shelly—would whip out a bottle of Macallan scotch at two or three in the morning in the Officers Lounge, play backgammon, and read the Cruise reports with a running commentary. “He’s probably got a lot of embarrassing material,” De Vocht says, adding that Miscavige’s comments were usually about Cruise’s sex life. “He would roll his eyes and say, ‘Jeez, can you believe it?’ ” All the while, Miscavige claimed to be Cruise’s best friend. (Scientology representatives dispute this account and insist that Miscavige has always “rigorously upheld the sanctity and confidentiality of ministerial communications.”)
The audition process for the next Mrs. Cruise did not yield much at first, according to the Headleys. By the fall of 2004, they say, dozens of the organization’s members had been run through the video process and considered unsuitable. Cruise himself was reportedly unable to entice a number of beautiful, well-known actresses—including Sofía Vergara and Scarlett Johansson—to accept his devotion to Scientology. Finally, however, according to several sources, the screeners at Gold Base headquarters came upon a believer they thought could actually wear the glass slipper: a gorgeous, petite, Iranian-born woman in her mid-20s who had been raised in London and whose mother was also a Scientologist. The same type of glamorous brunette as Penélope Cruz—five feet three, 100 pounds—she had graduated with honors in biological sciences from the University of California at Irvine, had plans to go to medical school, and was an accomplished violinist. She seemed perfect. But she had a boyfriend.
Nazanin Boniadi, 25, who had not yet become the human-rights activist for Amnesty International and the actor she is today, was summoned in October 2004 to meet an important church official at the Celebrity Centre International, in Hollywood. She arrived to find the high-ranking Greg Wilhere, who, according to a knowledgeable source, told her she had been selected for a very hush-hush mission that would entail meeting dignitaries around the world. He added that if she succeeded she would be helping to make the world a better place. Thus began a month-long preparation process that entailed her getting audited every day and telling Wilhere her innermost secrets, including every detail of her sex life. Nobody who had been in a threesome, for example, would be considered—a rule that apparently eliminated one candidate. Since Boniadi was a gung-ho Scientologist who had already attained a level of O.T. V—beyond the Wall of Fire—she embraced the church’s motto “Think for Yourself” and threw herself into every task she was assigned. Wilhere, meanwhile, had frequent whispered phone conversations with the person he called “the project director,” says the source. Early on, he sent Boniadi to a photo shoot, which revealed that she wore braces and that her naturally black hair had red highlights. She was told that she had to lose the braces and make her hair one color to emphasize her ethnicity. It didn’t matter that she still had a good six months to wear the braces; they had to go. So did her boyfriend.
Boniadi had been dating an Iranian man and was eagerly looking forward to becoming engaged. She had brought him into Scientology. According to the knowledgeable source, a Scientology official asked what it would take to make her break off with him. According to a number of people who have heard her story from her, Boniadi was then shown confidential information from her boyfriend’s auditing files; she chose to end the relationship. “She was crushed,” one of her confidants told me. “They gave her auditing to make her feel better, and they took her to Saks and Burberry in Beverly Hills to buy her an expensive wardrobe.” (Scientology denies any misuse of confidential material.)
Next she had to sit down and prepare a 20-page, single-spaced essay on what she wanted and needed in her life in terms of a partner, family, and work to satisfy her goals and aspirations. Once the paper was sent off for approval, accompanied by new photos showing dark hair and no braces, the knowledgeable source says, Boniadi was presented with a confidentiality agreement, which she didn’t even read to the end, though she was told that if she decided to leave without Scientology’s approval or “messed up” in any way she would be declared an S.P. and shunned by every member of the organization, including her mother. “That’s how important this project is,” one official said. Boniadi never received a copy of the agreement, according to the source, though she several times asked for one.
Meanwhile, Claire Headley says, she had been assigned by Shelly Miscavige to buy $5,000 worth of new suits and shoes for Wilhere, who would temporarily trade his Sea Org nylon pants for designer clothes in order to fly first-class with Boniadi to New York the first week in November. Upon arriving there, they checked into the Parker Meridien. (Scientology denies that any such clothes were purchased or that any such trip took place “for this phantom project that never existed.”) According to the knowledgeable source, Wilhere suggested that the young woman get a good night’s sleep, for the special project for which she had been put through hoops for a month was finally about to begin. The next day, their first stop was in the theater district, at Scientology’s New York center. Wilhere took her to the deserted second floor, and while she was facing away from the entrance, she heard a voice say, “Holy shit. Greg Wilhere, what are you doing here?” It was Tom Cruise.
According to the knowledgeable source, Boniadi was incredulous that Scientology would set her up. She was shocked, and she felt manipulated, but she was also flattered that Tom Cruise would have wanted to know so much about her and then shown up to meet her. Given her Iranian background, she sensed that this was possibly going to be an arranged marriage, particularly when Wilhere allegedly told her, “This is Mr. Cruise. We can’t let him down.”
Mr. Cruise, for his part, was apparently determined to make a great first impression. Before leaving California for her first trip to the East Coast, Boniadi had been asked for her idea of the perfect first date. She had said sushi and ice-skating. Voilà! But first, according to the knowledgeable source, Cruise and Wilhere took Boniadi on a tour of the Empire State Building, along with Tommy Davis, a top aide in Scientology, his then wife, Nadine, and the woman who would become his next wife, Jessica Rodriguez, as well as Cruise’s sister Lee Anne and her daughter, Lauren. Then the party went for sushi at the stylish restaurant Nobu. The skating rink at Rockefeller Center had been closed to the public so that the group could skate without interference.
Cruise and Boniadi spent the first night together but did not have sex, according to several sources. Nevertheless, Cruise is said to have told her, “I’ve never felt this way before,” at the Trump Tower, where he and the entourage had taken an entire floor. The next day Boniadi went to the set of War of the Worlds, in upstate Athens, New York, where Cruise paraded her around and kissed her in front of 200 extras. In the limo back to the city without the star, Davis gave Boniadi another confidentiality agreement to sign, this one specifically about Cruise. When she balked, the knowledgeable source says, Davis told her that if she ever did anything to harm Cruise she would have him to deal with. She signed but was not given a copy of that agreement, either.
From that point forward, through November and December, Boniadi and Cruise were practically inseparable, and she was soon head over heels in love. Cruise overwhelmed her with the intensity of his affection, and he apparently liked it to be on public display. Once, says the knowledgeable source, he even complained that she was not sufficiently demonstrative: “I get more love from an extra than I get from you.” Virtually their only time alone, though, was in the bedroom. The rest of the time they were surrounded by the entourage. The degree of control Boniadi was subjected to by Cruise and the organization was mind-boggling, according to several sources. For the first three weeks she was isolated and not permitted to communicate with anyone. Despite the fact that her parents were deeply worried, she was allowed to tell them only that she was in New York on a special Scientology project, never that she was with Cruise. (Her father, who is not a Scientologist, lives in London.)
If Cruise found fault with anything she said or did, according to the knowledgeable source, he immediately reported it to Tommy Davis or a member of the staff, and she would then be audited about it. This process started with the first words she ever spoke to him, “Very well done,” about his receiving Scientology’s Freedom Medal of Valor. Evidently that was not sufficiently doting; according to the source, her “Very well done” implied that Cruise was her junior. She spent two to three hours of her day, every day, purging herself of “negative thoughts about Tom.” Though the first month on the project was bliss, by the second month Boniadi was more and more often found wanting. Cruise’s hairstylist, Chris McMillan, was brought in to work on her hair; in addition, says the source, Cruise wanted Boniadi’s incisor teeth filed down. Finally, she was allowed to tell her mother that she was involved with Tom Cruise. Her mother, a hairdresser, did not like the fact she was now out of the picture, not even allowed to do her daughter’s hair, and she frowned upon the age difference between her daughter and the then 42-year-old actor. She reportedly also had to sign a confidentiality agreement, but she never reached the point where she qualified to meet Cruise.
The End of the Affair
By late November, Boniadi felt even more isolated as she and Cruise flew to Telluride, along with the entourage, whose sole purpose, it seemed, was to keep Cruise happy and to let him know how much money he was bringing into the organization, how many people joined Scientology every day because of him, and how much he was doing to save the planet.
In Telluride, Boniadi was audited frequently by Jessica Rodriguez. Shortly before New Year’s, David and Shelly Miscavige arrived. One afternoon when everyone was on snowmobiles, Boniadi, who was feeling sick from her period and from the altitude, fell off her vehicle and was badly bruised. According to the source, she was in excruciating pain, but Scientologists do not believe in medicating in such circumstances. She asked to go back to the house, where she burst into tears, believing that she was completely shut off; her only source of money was a credit card issued in the name of Cruise’s production company. After lying down to rest, she was told that she had to go downstairs and help entertain the Miscaviges. David Miscavige speaks rapidly, and she had trouble following his American English. According to the knowledgeable source, she had to ask several times, “Excuse me?” That was a fatal mistake. “Miscavige took that as an insult,” says a confidant of the woman’s. (In Scientology, the ability to have your communication “land” is crucial.) The upshot was that Cruise was furious with her for offending Miscavige. After the Miscaviges left the next day, Boniadi was summoned by Davis into Cruise’s office, where the actor delivered a blistering denunciation about her disrespect of the chairman of the board. (According to his representative, “Mr. Miscavige doesn’t remember any girlfriend of anyone, in his entire life, insulting him.”)
Things were never the same after that. Boniadi flew back with the staff the next day to Los Angeles and moved into Cruise’s house, but she spent her time confessing her transgressions at the Celebrity Centre. When Cruise arrived, he was withdrawn and barely acknowledged her, though they still shared a bedroom. (She had been asked by a Scientology official to sleep alone, according to the source, but she cited the organization’s rule that in a loving relationship a couple does not go to sleep with unresolved issues.) During the third week of January, Boniadi was asked to pack a bag and move into the Celebrity Centre. When she demanded to know why, the source says, Tommy Davis admitted, “He wants someone who has her own power—like Nicole.”
The special project and their pre-arranged meeting in New York were never acknowledged to Boniadi by Cruise, according to the knowledgeable source. The closest anyone came to explaining what went wrong was when Greg Wilhere allegedly told her, “Naz, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Her parting glimpse of Cruise was seeing him working out in his home gym on her way out. When she asked why Tom would not break up with her himself, she was told he was not to be disturbed.
Boniadi was then packed off to Scientology’s Mecca, the Flag building, in Clearwater, Florida, according to the source, where, thanks to the generosity of Cruise, she could get counseling and atone for her errors. Strictly forbidden to mention her relationship with Cruise to anyone, she spent much of her time crying, devastated that her entire previous life had been stripped away. Cruise’s video from the Freedom Medal of Valor ceremony played near her in a constant loop. One night, the knowledgeable source says, Boniadi ran into Cruise himself, who had come with his children to Flag for auditing. She did not see him at first in the dark, but he invited her to sit down on a bench in a public area. Tommy Davis was standing nearby. According to the source, Cruise offered her a piece of gum and said, “How are you?” Boniadi had been taught in her counseling that if someone is constantly upset after breaking up—as she was—it is because she did something wrong. She was also aware that anything she said would come out the next day in auditing. She replied only, “Well, you see. It is what it is.” At one point, says the source, Bella and Connor approached her and asked when she was coming back to the house.
Finally, Boniadi broke down and told an inquiring friend why she was weeping all the time. According to the knowledgeable source, the friend promptly wrote up a 10-page “Knowledge Report” on her, and for more than two months Boniadi’s punishment was to scrub toilets with a toothbrush on her hands and knees, clean bathroom tiles with acid, and dig ditches in the middle of the night. She was also harangued for hours and made to confess what a horrible human being she was. After that she was sent out to hawk L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics book on street corners, a job she continued to do when she was finally allowed to return to L.A. (A Scientology spokesperson responds: “The Church does not ‘punish’ people, especially in [that] manner.”)
“Tom never broke up with her,” Marc Headley tells me. “He never spoke to her.” The whole time Cruise and Boniadi were together, according to Headley, the film people never stopped cranking out new audition tapes. “O.K., boom, next one. O.K., boom, next one,” he says. “She gets kicked to the curb. And a few months later he’s madly in love with Katie and jumping on couches.”
John Brousseau, who is known as J.B., spent 32 of his 54 years inside Scientology—he left in 2010—and was not only David Miscavige’s brother-in-law for 16 years but also his bodyguard. As an internal-security officer, J.B. says, he put the bars on the doors and windows of the “Hole” at Hemet’s Gold Base, where Sea Org members who fell out of favor were kept virtual prisoners, sometimes for years, often for minor infractions. J.B. says, “Miscavige had to find fault or else he wasn’t the perfect one.” J.B.’s principal job, though, was to act as the artistic technical wizard and customizer behind Cruise’s ostentatious toys—his specially wired trailer, his fully fitted Ford Exposition S.U.V., his many motorcycles, his private airplane hangar. Brousseau also cleaned guns for Cruise when he was learning to skeet-shoot, and he oversaw the meticulous maintenance of Cruise’s houses in Beverly Hills and Telluride, all for $50 a week and room and board as a Sea Org member, usually working at least an 80-hour week. Along the way he became a pal to Cruise’s children Bella and Connor—“I was like Uncle J.B., this cool guy they could ask technical questions.”
When Naz Boniadi told J.B. her story, he says, he made a promise to her and to himself to reveal what he knew about Scientology. “She told me in minute detail. I know I am speaking to a woman scorned, but I saw the pain in her eyes and the tears on her cheeks… Her story wrenched me, and that is why I am speaking out,” he tells me. “I firsthand observed the type of control from David Miscavige into Tom Cruise’s household. I was used to build a limo from scratch, to customize a million-dollar trailer. I know how Miscavige insinuated himself into Tom’s life to control every single part of it. I personally was one of David Miscavige’s tools that he used in his control of Tom Cruise and his family. I can tell you from my perspective what I observed.”
One of the major projects J.B. undertook for Cruise was to impose cleanliness and order on his Beverly Hills estate, on Alpine Drive— the Alpine project of 2002–3—when “Penélope Cruz’s personal belongings were still there but she was not.” J.B., who headed a nine-person commando unit and a large workforce, reported to Shelly Miscavige. Tom Cruise’s sister Lee Anne was also living there. “How bad was it?,” I ask. Not so bad, he says. “There were two kids messing it up—Bella spilling nail polish all over the rug. There was no mom—Mom was an S.P.” As numerous sources have explained to me, Cruise would take the kids with him when he was getting audited, and they also took courses. Connor was then about Suri’s age now, and, according to Rathbun and others, he and his sister were taught how to recognize a Suppressive Person. “If you start failing or messing up, you learn it’s because you are connected to one,” J.B. explains, adding, “You keep giving them information, and the inevitable conclusion is that person is an evil person. You can never be guilty of telling them outright. Rather, you create shadows of doubt.”
The kids were home-schooled, so they spent all day surrounded by Scientologists. Marty Rathbun, who did the auditing on Cruise, says Cruise believed that Kidman was an S.P., and J.B. says he could see that attitude on display with Bella and Connor. “They rejected Nicole—they’ve been instructed,” J.B. says. “They took a course, P.T.S./S.P., Potential Trouble Source/Suppressive Person, for persons connected in their lives who are an S.P. They whispered to me, ‘J.B., Nicole is an S.P.! Our mom’s an S.P.—we hate going and seeing her.’ This was a secret thing they thought they could tell J.B. Probably that’s what Katie was terrified of, and it might have occurred to her that she could end up being one.” The ostracizing of Kidman within Scientology extended even to her movies, according to J.B. “The Scientology world hated Nicole. People in Sea Org were mandated to see every freaking Tom Cruise movie that came out. But if you ever mentioned an inkling to see a movie with Nicole, oh my God, you’d hear about it.”
J.B. says he was thrown out of the hallowed R.T.C. in 1998, along with his wife, Deidre Assam, who was put to work at Golden Era Productions. By the time of the Alpine project, he had worked his way back into the group’s good graces. Near the project’s end, J.B. took a walk down the long driveway at Alpine and perched on a stone wall near the guard gate with Shelly Miscavige, who told him they would like him back in the R.T.C., but without his wife. “She told me I was a very valuable person, one of those few still around since the 70s and privy to things. She said, ‘Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to do anything here. If you want to stay married to Deidre, fine. I’ll figure a job for you in a lower organization.’ ” Feeling that his first obligation was to the church he had joined, J.B. made a quick decision, as he says, “for the good of mankind.” Three days later he moved out of his marriage. (Shelly Miscavige herself has not been seen in public for several years.)
Much of J.B.’s work in Scientology was done for Cruise. He shows me photo upon photo to demonstrate the fine craftsmanship he brought to the actor’s private world. Indicating one of a large eucalyptus burl in the back of his pickup, he says he used the wood to customize the interior of a black Ford S.U.V. for Tom and Katie. Another photo shows Cruise’s 40-foot Blue Bird motor home, featuring cutting-edge audiovisual equipment (designed by another Scientology laborer) “to make sure T.C. had the most kick-ass TV-and-stereo system in the world.” J.B. has extensive files and documents he managed to take out with him, “because I knew they’d call me a liar.” According to J.B., Cruise had a hand-painted Honda Rune motorcycle with a design from War of the Worlds on it, a gift from Steven Spielberg, that he wanted J.B. to paint over in red so that it would resemble a motorcycle Miscavige had. J.B. refused: “There is no way you are going to have me sand down and paint over this paint job. If I were Spielberg, I’d be heartbroken.”
J.B. spent Christmas of 2007 at Telluride, overseeing the maintenance of the place, as he had done at Alpine. Every night he sat at the dinner table with Tom, Katie, and their guests. Suri was just a baby, a “bundle of joy” to all. He recalls, “They would be sitting by themselves late at night, talking and laughing and kissing—a picture-perfect couple who seemed genuinely happy.”
By May 2005, when Tom Cruise jumped backward twice onto Oprah’s couch—after having gone down on one knee Romeostyle to cry, “I’m in love!”—and then chased Katie Holmes all over the TV studio before dragging her onstage, he was beginning to attract unwanted media attention to Scientology. He was also becoming a headache for Paramount Pictures, whose executives had expected the publicity campaign for War of the Worlds to focus strictly on the movie. At that point he and Holmes had known each other only a month, and in July she got pregnant.
In March 2004, he had fired Pat Kingsley, his tough and powerful publicist of 14 years, who took a dim view of his proselytizing, and replaced her with his sister Lee Anne. Moreover, the Internet was becoming a thorn in the side of Scientology, which strictly controlled what its hierarchy at Sea Org could access. Most Sea Org members lived in a total bubble where world news was concerned. Normal education was minimized because of Scientology’s belief in reincarnation—everyone was already millions of years old. Children of Sea Org members born into Scientology before the 1987 ban on those members’ having children went to what Scientologists call “Chinese school,” where they had to memorize long passages of L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings. “Like Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?,” I asked Claire Headley. She did not know what I meant. When I asked Mike Rinder, who for many years coordinated all responses to the media about Scientology, whether, when Scientologists had a baby, they immediately started saving for college, he just laughed and said, “No, I don’t think so.”
On the 2004 video on which Miscavige presents Cruise with Scientology’s Freedom Medal of Valor, the two men salute first each other and then a portrait of L. Ron Hubbard. An unauthorized copy of the video went viral, and it was widely made fun of. Scientology went into overdrive to have the video removed from the Internet, which encouraged the hacker group Anonymous to single out the organization as a special target. Claire Headley, who worked on the film, says that Miscavige personally edited it. “We took six hours once on just a nod of Tom Cruise’s head,” she tells me. At one point in the film, Cruise declares, “I won’t hesitate to put ethics in on someone else, you know, because I put it ruthlessly in on myself… You’re either on board or you’re not on board.” At another moment, he roars with laughter as he recalls someone asking him, “Have you met an S.P.?”
What really got Scientology’s goat, however, was the November airing on Comedy Central of a South Park spoof of Scientology, called “Trapped in the Closet,” in which a kid named Stan pays $240 for auditing and scores off the Bridge as an O.T. IX, which makes everyone think he is the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. When Tom Cruise comes to pay homage, Stan tells him he prefers the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite—the teenage hero of the 2004 comedy—which so upsets Cruise that he locks himself in the closet with John Travolta, and they refuse to come out. Mike Rinder told me he was sent by Miscavige to meet with Cruise’s agents at CAA and with Bert Fields, his lawyer, to demand that they read Brad Grey, the new head of Paramount, the riot act, since Comedy Central and Paramount are both owned by Sumner Redstone’s Viacom. There was to be no rerun of the episode, Rinder told them, or else. According to an internal Scientology document that Rinder provided me with, the threatening message was very clear: “This is a twoway street. If there was no publicity for MI3 [Cruise’s film Mission: Impossible III, which was to premiere in May 2006] Paramount and Viacom would have a seizure.”
Other documents include demands to try to kill pending Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone stories on Scientology (both of which ran), as well as a proposed deal to kill an NBC Dateline piece planned on Scientology in exchange for an exclusive interview with Tom Cruise on another program. Rinder estimates that he met 10 times during a five-year period with Cruise’s people to demand that they get unfavorable stories about Scientology killed. “This was like the Keystone Kops,” he says, “everybody trying to do something with somebody, and the bottom line is nobody really had any control over the people putting together the problems.”
Cruise’s ostensible reason for appearing with Oprah was to publicize War of the Worlds, his new, $132 million movie. On the Universal lot, Cruise had pulled strings to have a Scientology tent erected—against the studio’s policy of not having any outside groups present during filming. A month after the Oprah show, Cruise appeared on the Today show and challenged Matt Lauer regarding the use of psychotropic drugs, in the process criticizing Brooke Shields for taking medication to relieve postpartum depression. “Does it make sense for Tom Cruise to tell Matt Lauer he’s glib and doesn’t know the history of psychiatry?,” Rinder asks me. “He’s appearing on national TV acting like a loony tune. I thought it was a disaster—what’s going on? But Miscavige is basically fist-pumping: ‘He’s not backed off! He’s not scared of his beliefs!’ ”
The world saw it differently. A cover line on the August 2005 issue of Vanity Fair read, DOMINICK DUNNE: HAS TOM CRUISE LOST HIS MARBLES? I ask Rinder if he ever dared to voice his opinions about Cruise’s strange behavior. “I could never say a word,” he replies. “That’s like saying Eva Braun is ugly.”
Many people have wondered about the dynamic between Miscavige and Cruise. Rinder calls their relationship “unnaturally close,” adding that he does not mean to imply homosexuality. Yet, he says, the relationship “is not what you would expect between someone who claims to be a leader of the church and one of its adherents. Miscavige treats Tom Cruise like his best buddy and confidant, his number two. That would be like the Pope saying Robert De Niro is like the College of Cardinals.”
Suri was born in April 2006. The gossip columnists had had a field day when it became known that Cruise had purchased his own sonogram machine to track the pregnancy. Mission: Impossible III came out in May. By August, Sumner Redstone had had enough. The South Park episode had not been rerun before Mission: Impossible III’s release, but Cruise’s lucrative contract with Paramount was not renewed either—a nightmare for both the studio, dependant on Cruise for its Mission: Impossible franchise, and for Cruise. Much of the negative publicity was quickly wiped away, however, when the first pictures of an adorable Suri were published in Vanity Fair’s October issue, with an accompanying story on the family’s still-unwedded bliss.
The Surprise Divorce
Like Princess Diana with Prince Charles, Katie Holmes had a mad schoolgirl crush on the older Tom Cruise, and, to many close observers, like Diana she had a third person in her marriage. At Holmes’s fairy-tale wedding, at Odescalchi Castle, in Italy, in 2006, David Miscavige did not officiate as the head of the Church of Scientology; rather, he was Cruise’s best man. Katie’s best man, it turned out, was her father, who had negotiated a prenuptial agreement for his youngest daughter that reportedly filled five bankers’ boxes. Because of it, when Katie Holmes made her bombshell announcement late last June that she was divorcing Tom Cruise, the case was able to be resolved in a mere 11 days.
As TomKat flooded the tabloids in 2005, Marc Headley, who had started working for Life & Style Weekly as a Scientology expert, heard that the editors had a source who said that Martin Holmes, a Catholic and a divorce lawyer in Toledo, Ohio, wanted to know how his daughter could escape Scientology’s clutches. Headley’s advice was to speak out publicly against Scientology and be labeled a Suppressive Person so that his daughter would have to choose between him and Cruise. “Then Katie became pregnant,” Headley says, “and I was told, ‘Forget it. He’ll write a pre-nup, and Katie will be taken care of.’ ”
According to Jared Shapiro, Life & Style Weekly’s editorial director, who worked with Headley, “To say we were talking to a family member would be accurate,” though he would not name that member. “I don’t think the wool was ever pulled over her father’s eye in that situation.” When Headley published his book, Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology, about his split from the organization, in 2010, he sent a copy to Holmes at his law firm. Marty Rathbun, whose blog is closely followed by disaffected Scientologists, adds that he personally did not reach out to Martin Holmes but that others did. He says, “Of everything out there, blogs included, he is aware. It is my belief he knows what the score is.”
Many of the entourage that was around for Nazanin Boniadi’s brief relationship with Cruise stayed around during his marriage to Katie Holmes. The couple never lived alone. Like Boniadi, Holmes disappeared for a couple weeks after she and Cruise met, and she distanced herself from old friends. Jessica Rodriguez became her handler, too. Unlike Nicole Kidman’s acting career, however, Holmes’s never really took off during her marriage to Cruise, while his went on unabated. In their seven years together, Cruise made nine movies, which cost nearly a billion dollars and required shooting all over the world. One of these, Jack Reacher, a thriller—and another possible Paramount franchise—is coming out before Christmas, and Oblivion, a futuristic science-fiction saga produced by Universal, will premiere next spring. Production has already begun on yet another big-budget, science-fiction project, All You Need Is Kill, for Warner Bros. Hundreds of millions of dollars are riding on Cruise’s box-office appeal.
Given his long commitment to Scientology and the demands of his career, Cruise has very little wiggle room. Life at his side is similarly circumscribed. Two years ago, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I sat next to Holmes at a Vanity Fair table, and Cruise sat across from us. All through the meal, people streamed up, asking for pictures and autographs. “My goodness,” I said to Holmes, “if this is what you go through here, what must it be like when you go outside?” She answered, “Oh, we don’t go outside very much.”
Scientologists believe that divorce should be handled inside the church; members are not supposed to sue one another. The fact that Holmes blindsided Cruise with the divorce and was able to keep primary custody of Suri and enroll her in a private school would be automatic grounds for disconnection if she were married to any other Scientologist—many hundreds of whom have suffered deeply for years because of mandated separation from their families. By being able to stay connected to Suri and Katie, Cruise proves once again to be a privileged exception. Nevertheless, many Scientology mothers I spoke to warn that although Holmes has won a battle she has not necessarily won the war. “According to Scientology doctrine,” says Samantha Domingo, who was formerly married to Placido Domingo Jr., when they both were Scientologists, “Katie has denied Suri her spiritual eternity in the church. There’s no chance for her now. Why would Katie deny their daughter her spiritual freedom? How suppressive is that?” She warns, “If he loves his daughter, he will never give up [on Scientology]. He will try to use every means available to help his child, and he does think he’s helping his child, but he’s also helping the church to control his life.”
Just as Princess Diana won the paparazzi over to her side by learning how to feed them a steady supply of photo ops, Holmes seems to be winning the media battle through frequent outings in New York with Suri in tow. Not to be outdone, Cruise has attracted photographers as the literal Disney World Dad, showering Suri with toys and taking her by helicopter from New York to the Hamptons, and after that to the Magic Kingdom costumed as the Little Mermaid.
By being dropped publicly without warning, Cruise was made to feel the sting he had bestowed on a number of women. Furthermore, though he is his church’s putative savior, he has probably brought more invasive attention to Scientology than anyone else. David Miscavige cannot be pleased. Meanwhile, the hunt for the next Mrs. Cruise may already be on. Batter up.
Original publication: Vanity Fair, October, 2012
Look for Maureen’s book, Vulgar Favors, the basis for the FX true crime series American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, from creator Ryan Murphy and starring Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz, Darren Criss, and Ricky Martin and coming January 2018.