Along with the requisite comments on shooting in 70mm and Joaquin Phoenix's return to cinema screens, cast and crew from “The Master” have by and large counted the film's Scientology parallels as the main source of discussion. The concentration of questions has lessened somewhat as subsequent press showings of the film have revealed a different focus entirely, but just as the pressure subsides for PTA and co., leave it to Tom Cruise to stir up speculation on Scientology once more, this time regarding the process surrounding his past marital courting.
“What do you think of Tom Cruise?” A question we've all been asked, but according to an upcoming Vanity Fair article, this was just one of the questions allegedly posed during “top secret” church "auditions" to be the actor's girlfriend in 2004. Utilizing accounts from former Scientologists including Mark Headley (who left the Church under police assistance in '05), the eagerly anticipated piece by writer Maureen Orth purports that women were brought in under the guise of a church orientation video audition, only to then be stealthily tested on their opinion of Cruise. “It's not like you only have to please your husband–you have to toe the line for Scientology,” Headley commented on the tapes, which he reports to have seen through his former position working at the Church of Scientology's in-house studio.
After much deliberation, in the end it was British actress Nazanin Boniadi (best known for a “How I Met Your Mother” guest appearance) who was selected for further grooming, moving on and beginning a relationship with Cruise in November 2004. However, due to a number of vague transgressions including implied social superiority and unease around church head David Miscavige, Cruise broke up with her in January of the following year, through a third party no less. This wasn't before severe punishments were apparently administered though, including Boniadi being forced to scrub toilets with a toothbrush and hawk L. Ron Hubbard's book "Dianetics" on the street. Naturally, Scientology church officials have vehemently denied the claims, stating that the Church “does not punish people, especially in [that] manner.”
Another view that supports Orth's claims is that of Paul Haggis, who at this point may be just as famous for his absorbing New Yorker profile regarding Scientology as he is for directing “Crash.” The director publicly left the church two years ago, and now has spoken out (via Showbiz 411) in support of Boniadi, whom he counts as a personal friend. “Naz was embarrassed by her unwitting involvement in this incident and never wanted it to come out, so I kept silent. However I was deeply disturbed by how the highest ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members; how they so callously punished her and then so effectively silenced her when it was done.”
All of which is to say, the tyrannical public image of Scientology has been revived with a vengeance, and even with the frenzy that “The Master” and its Sea Org depiction has stirred up thus far, Haggis and Boniadi's accounts comprise some of the most compelling recent accounts of the Church's behavior, and can be viewed in full when Orth's piece runs in Vanity Fair's October issue. [THR]