In this exclusive excerpt from THE PASSION OF TOM CRUISE, veteran reporter Kim Masters details the star’s troubled rise through the church’s ranks and his very close relationship with Scientology’s supreme leader.
ACCORDING TO A FORMER Scientologist with longtime experience in the Celebrity Centre, Cruise was introduced to the church “very gently” in the late ’80s through his then wife Mimi Rogers. Soon the actor’s handling was being personally overseen by the church’s supreme leader, David Miscavige. For some time, says the former insider, the star’s involvement with Scientology wasn’t well known even within the organization. His file was said to be kept under his real surname: Mapother.
Cruise’s early progress in the church was described in a 1998 interview with Jesse Prince, a onetime high-level Scientologist. (Prince’s account is posted on factnet.org, an anti-Scientology website.) A pro-Scientology website claims that Prince is a former drug dealer who was paid to attack Scientology. Asked about Prince’s account of his experiences as a Scientologist, a church spokesperson characterized Prince and other former high-level church members quoted in this article as “discredited sources” — “apostates” who could not live up to the church’s ethical standards. Attempts to locate Prince for comment were not successful.
Prince remembered that Cruise was a fast riser. “I mean, I’ve never seen a guy progress so quickly through the Scientology ‘levels,’” he said. “I know because I personally sat down and did E-meter drills with him…. When I first met him he was nothing.”
For years, according to former Scientologists, Cruise received the kind of special perks that one might expect any organization to lavish on a celebrity member. His treatment was described, in part, by ex–church member Andre Tabayoyon in an affidavit Tabayoyon filed in 1994 as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving the church. (The suit was later abandoned.) Tabayoyon appears to have been well-credentialed: He spent 20 years in the Sea Organization, Scientology’s upper-level staff, he says, and served as L. Ron Hubbard’s butler. When he joined in the early ’70s Tabayoyon signed a standard church contract committing him to one billion years of service. The contract, however, was broken when Tabayoyon, who testified he’d reached his limit for abuse, dropped out in 1992. Now, his wife says, he has nothing to say about the church or the contents of his lengthy affidavit.
During his testimony Tabayoyon said he had spent considerable time working at Gold, a lavishly appointed 500-acre resort built by the church near the high desert town of Hemet, 90 miles from Los Angeles. Tabayoyon said visitors to the resort were greeted by a full-scale replica of a clipper ship (Hubbard was fascinated by ships). Inside the vessel were a sauna, a Jacuzzi, and a large pool. Also on the property: an “orchestra-size” recording studio, film and sound editing facilities, a 32-seat theater, a nine-hole golf course, and a dining facility with seating for 1,100.
A Vietnam veteran, Tabayoyon told a series of breathtakingly dark tales of individuals driven to psychotic episodes, even suicide, as they went through the church’s regimens. He also spoke of forced labor and coercive measures taken by the church to prevent members from leaving: a “brainwashing and penal operation” that he likened to techniques he’d been trained to expect from the Vietcong.
But none of these allegations would have reached Cruise’s ears, because in those days only David Miscavige was allowed to talk to Cruise when he visited Gold, according to Tabayoyon. “One time one of the gardeners spoke to him, and this caused a major flap on the base,” he said.
Miscavige, who was born into the church and became part of an elite crew reporting to Hubbard at an early age, grew extremely close to the actor as they spent more time together at the resort. A physically fit five-foot-five-inch man who, like Cruise, is known for his intense drive and energy, Miscavige took pains to make his special guest feel at home. Both Prince and Tabayoyon reported that Cruise was awarded a luxurious private apartment. Tabayoyon said the actor kept two Yamaha motorcycles, a Mercedes-Benz, and a large motor home in what used to be Hubbard’s parking lot. Construction and renovation were handled with great care. In his affidavit Tabayoyon says he was asked to pour a concrete walkway “so that Tom Cruise would not have to walk on the desert soil. Before the concrete dried it rained. The concrete was spoiled.” Miscavige “went into a fury over that,” Tabayoyon said.
When Cruise married Nicole Kidman in 1990, Tabayoyon said, the church leader accompanied the couple to Colorado for the wedding. Prince said Cruise had “a fantasy of just running through a field of tall grass” with his new wife. He remembers workers at Gold “staying up overnight, just extended schedules, de-rocking, plowing a field, planting tall wheat grass, and when Nicole Kidman came — here’s a field. Now they’re running through the damn field of grass. It took weeks.”
Scientology hasn’t always been a romp for Cruise. Prince’s interview asserts that the star went through difficult times as he moved to the organization’s higher levels, hitting a rough patch more than 10 years ago, when he rose to OT III. (OT stands for Operating Thetan, thetan being Scientology’s term for the soul. Cruise is said to be at OT VII, one below the top level currently attainable in the church.) At OT III, according to former Scientologists, the story of Xenu is revealed. While the church disputes ex-members’ accounts, the gospel goes (briefly) as follows: Seventy-five million years ago Xenu, the head of a galactic alliance of 76 planets, was confronted with an overpopulation problem. His solution was to freeze billions of beings, transport them to earth, deposit them near volcanoes, and vaporize them with hydrogen bombs. Their remaining “thetans” — disembodied spirits — were captured and programmed with the false realities (including the major religions) that pervade the earth today. Some of these beings — “body thetans” — have attached themselves to our bodies either singly or in clusters; Scientologists must contact, handle, and release them.
Many former Scientologists found the introduction to OT III harrowing; according to Prince, Cruise was no exception. “He got onto OT III and he had black circles under his eyes,” Prince said. “He was, like, pretty screwed up…. After OT III he just got that pasty skin and that foolish look…. He just wanted Scientology to be away from him. He wanted to do no more auditing, just nothing with any of that stuff, just go back to Hollywood and his home.”
But the church was unwilling to watch its most celebrated member slip away. According to Prince’s account, the actor was given a break. “He was taken off any kind of real heavy auditing, and just, ‘Let’s have some fruit, let’s get exercise, come to the exercise room, let’s play basketball, let’s do this.’ I was leaving as that was going on.”
Tory Christman, a former Scientologist who once worked in the Celebrity Centre, believes that at some point Cruise rededicated himself to Scientology. In the early ’90s, Christman says, she was strongly urged to attend a big event at Flag, the church’s facility in Clearwater, Florida, during which Cruise spoke to the group. “Before that he was doing his thing. He wasn’t really a public Scientologist,” says Christman. “Travolta was. All of a sudden Cruise came out and was like, ‘I’m a Scientologist. I’m a trained auditor.’”
Watching the star’s performance, Christman concluded that Cruise had been “handled,” or brought into line with the church’s agenda. She had in the past observed similar handlings, during which individuals were told that they were uniquely qualified and essential to the church’s mission.
The truth about what kept Cruise in the fold may never be known, since at the time he wasn’t receptive to discussing Scientology with the outside world. In 1993, when reporter John H. Richardson began to research an article for Premiere magazine, Cruise would only reply to written fact-checking questions with the understanding that his answers would be printed without alteration. In response to one of those questions, Cruise complained, “I have no idea why my religion, or anybody’s, would be the subject of an article.”
What really riled him, however, were Richardson’s questions about his relationship with David Miscavige. “This question is just off the wall,” Cruise bristled. “We are friends. And how is this relevant to anything? It’s offensive that I should even have to answer this question.” After describing the leader as “a good friend,” the star lamented that they rarely saw each other.
A year later Tabayoyon painted a more revealing portrait of Cruise and Miscavige’s relationship. His affidavit says the two spent a lot of time together on the Hemet base. “Often they would hang out alone in the space designated for L. Ron Hubbard on the clipper ship we built in the desert,” testified Tabayoyon. “This space had a small kitchen, a little dining room, a little bar, and a bed…. On other occasions Miscavige and Cruise would work out in the expensive gym we built for exclusive and restricted use.”
The affidavit continues: “Obviously, Miscavige and Cruise have developed a special relationship.”