Nine Celebrity Morsels from Lawrence's Wright's Scientology Book

Esther Zuckerman

Yesterday we told you why people are saying Lawrence Wright's Scientology book is so great. Today the book is finally out and we've taken some time to skim for the juiciest nuggets of celebrity gossip beyond the excerpts published in The Hollywood Reporter about Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Here are nine tidbits we found in the text. 

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Jenna Elfman's Campaign Against Milton Katselas Katselas was credited with bringing a number of celebrities into Scientology through his acting class. But there was eventually a revolt against him, and one of its leaders was bubbly Dharma & Greg (and now 1600 Penn) star Jenna Elfman: 

He was an OT V and a very public Scientologist, but he had stopped moving up the Bridge, in part because he refused to travel to Flag, where the upper-level courses were offered. Moreover, he had gotten into Ethics trouble because of his behavior with some of his female students. Jenna Elfman was a leader of the revolt against Katselas. She had been one of his prize students, winning a Golden Globe Award in 1999 for her free-spirited performance in the sitcom Dharma & Greg. Allen Barton, who had become a teacher at the Playhouse, wrote Elfman a letter in June 2004, begging her to relent. He called the movement against Katselas "Scientological McCarthyism," harking back to the blacklisting of Hollywood celebrities in the 1950s because of their supposed Communist sympathies. (pp. 258-259) 

Who knew? Jenna Elfman: Scientology's McCarthy. 

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Oliver Stone's Month in Scientology Got Him Laid At one point in the book Wright explains that director Oliver Stone didn't know that Paul Haggis was a part of Scientology. However, Stone also spent a month in the church. 

"It was like going to college and reading Dale Carnegie, something you do to find yourself." The difference was that in Scientology there were nice parties and beautiful girls. Scientology didn’t answer his questions; but on the other hand, he noted, "I got laid." (p. 260) 

Cruise's Anti-Crazy Campaign In 2008 following the Internet release of a video of Cruise discussing Scientology and the ensuing Anonymous protests, Cruise called up Haggis for help. 

He wanted to gather a group of top Scientologists in Hollywood— Kirstie Alley, Anne Archer, and Haggis— to go on Oprah or Larry King Live to denounce the attacks on Cruise as religious persecution. Haggis told Cruise that was a terrible idea. (p. 318)

We can only imagine what would have happened if that had come to pass. 

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Sea Org Members Were Battlefield Earth Seat fillers Battlefield Earth, which starred John Travolta and was based on a book by L. Ron Hubbard, is widely known to be a box office and critical disaster. So much so that the church used Sea Org members as seat fillers: 

Even at the premiere, Sea Org members had to be bused in to Mann’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to fill the empty seats for as many as three shows a day. For some of them, it was the first movie they had seen in years. (p. 284).

Tough gig. 

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Kelly Preston Could Have Been in Crash Haggis had sent fellow Scientologists Preston and Travolta the script, asking them to play the district attorney and his wife. But then he needed big names to get the money. 

Haggis immediately sent a note to Preston, telling her he was withdrawing his offer. As a matter of pride, he felt it was wrong to use his friends in such a way— especially other Scientologists. Preston was miffed, since he had failed to explain his decision. (pp. 253-254). 

The role was eventually played by Sandra Bullock. 

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The Spielberg Recruitment Attempt We got some of this story in Wright's New Yorker piece, but now it's fleshed out. On the set of War of the Worlds Spielberg remarked to Haggis that the Scientologists he met seemed like the "nicest people." Haggis then replied "Yeah, we keep all the evil ones in the closet." Haggis then met with Greg Wilhere, a church senior executive who was Cruise's personal auditor. According to Wright: "Wilhere was livid because Haggis had upset Tom Cruise by subverting years of work on Cruise’s part to recruit Spielberg into the church" (p. 256): 

[Haggis] said he had no idea how that could have undermined Cruise’s efforts to draw the most powerful man in Hollywood into Scientology. Wilhere said that Steven was having a problem with one of his seven children, and Tom was working to “steer him in the right direction.” All that was ruined, Wilhere said, because Spielberg now believed there were evil Scientologists who were locked in a closet. (p. 256). 

Movie Trips  Anne Archer's son Tommy Davis, who worked for the president of the Celebrity Centre Karen Hollander, would attend to celebrities: 

Lisa Marie Presley was often there, as were Kirstie Alley, and writer-director Floyd Mutrux. John Travolta would drop by occasionally. Also in this crowd was a clique of young actors who had grown up in the church, including Giovanni Ribisi and his sister Marissa, Jenna Elfman, and Juliette Lewis. Davis would arrange for them all to go to movies together. (p. 336) 

Miscavige Talked About Outing Travolta The church's executive director Bill Franks talked to Travolta about producing and starring in Battlefield Earth. Following that David Miscavige became interested in Travolta, but Miscavige's private dialogue about the actor was hostile. 

Travolta was excited about the prospect. Suddenly Franks got a call from Miscavige saying, "Get me John Travolta. I want to meet that guy!" Miscavige began wining and dining the star. "He just moved in and took over Travolta," Franks recalled. But he says that privately Miscavige was telling him, "The guy is a faggot. We’re going to out him."  (p. 169). 

Travolta Acknowledges The Church's Bigotry Haggis and Travolta once had a conversation about the church's bigotry after Travolta reprimanded an Operating Thetan who called the waiter at his house a "faggot": 

After the other guests had departed, Haggis and Travolta had a conversation in his small study. They talked about the bigotry they had observed in the church. Haggis confided that Katy [one of Haggis' daughters] had been made to feel unwanted at the Celebrity Centre. Travolta said that Hubbard’s writings had been misinterpreted, and he later provided some references that Katy could use to defend herself. (p. 308)