I keep reading that Tom Cruise is the last great movie star, like he’s some noble but dying animal. I think his people need to put it in the PR frame to Top Gun 2, though the Lord knows what his peers make of it. Think Tom Hanks, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, De Niro… all Oscar winners (unlike Cruise) and all with a better claim to being the last big star.
Tom Cruise himself seems comfortable with the idea. It walks and talks like the LGMS – controlled, confident, impeccably dressed with just a hint of helpful Cuban heel. But the higher his star rises, the weirder it seems that no one mentions what cult he belongs to, or how he behaves. Former members of the “Church” of Scientology have testified to intimidation, blackmail, forced labor and a form of child abuse: separating children from their parents. This is the era of the call. No one can even retweet a joke without being canceled. So where are the crowds with signs outside Top Gun: Maverick at the LA multiplex?
It’s not like Tom is a casual or junior member. In Scientology circles, he is a kind of Hercules, half-man, half-god. He lives, at least part-time, in a two-story penthouse in a building built by a Scientologist, a few meters from the organization’s world headquarters. His sisters and two older children (all Scientologists) live on the third, fourth and fifth floors. His best friend, and twice best man, is Scientology’s CEO, a pint-sized troll called David Miscavige, who heads the Sea Org, Scientology’s governing body. Miscavige is by all accounts (including his own father’s) a rage-filled narcissist with a trigger-happy temper. His former spokesman said his boss regularly yelled at him and beat him more than 50 times.
“I’ve never come across a more tolerant, more compassionate person,” Cruise said of Miscavige in 2004. It was the day Miscavige presented Cruise with a special medal invented just for him, the Freedom Medal of Valor, for “bringing freedom to mankind”. ‘.
And where is the outrage against Shelly Miscavige? Shelly is David’s wife, and like her troll hubby, she was born into the chosen ones of Scientology and was fired at the age of 12 to serve its founder on his ship. In 2005, Shelly began voicing her concerns about the cult, and shortly thereafter she simply disappeared, says Mike Rinder, former Scientology director of special affairs. She did administrative work without her husband’s approval, says Tony Ortega, another ex-Scientologist, who is now investigating the cult: “There [Miscavige] just blows its stack. He had the biggest tantrum of all time. A week later, she disappeared.
Some say Shelly is being held against her will at a church in San Bernardino County, California. “She does not miss and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology”, explain her lawyers. “Shelly? She will never be free,” her stepfather, Ron, told 60 Minutes Australia.
This week, the excitement in Hollywood was that Top Gun 2 could exceed the billion dollar mark. Remember the #FreeBritney movement? Could it just be #FreeShelly time?
Tom Cruise doesn’t do many interviews anymore. He seems to prefer appearances, like an ex-president or a minor royal, though he makes an exception for a few reliable privileged ones. A few weeks ago he had a simple chat with the BBC’s Ali Plumb. Just before the recording stops, Tom leans forward, looks deep into Ali’s eyes, and whispers something to him.
In some ways, it would be great if Ali had the chops to ask Cruise where his old friend Shelly is, or about the hits Miscavige is dishing out, but that would also be pointless. It’s clear what Cruise thinks. According to Sea Org law, anyone with doubts about Scientology is a “suppressive person”, contaminated by the evil alien Xenu. And if you’re an SP, you deserve all the punishment you receive. There is a video online, designed for young Scientologists, in which Tom talks about MS. An interviewer, off-screen, asks him if he’s ever met one, and he starts cackling with disbelieving disdain. The contempt on his face and how intoxicated he is with his own relative power is fascinating.
In the 2015 HBO documentary Getting to the Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, one of Miscavige’s fixers, Marty Rathbun, confessed that he was delegated by Miscavige to break up Tom and his second wife, Nicole Kidman, fearing that she might not be a super passionate Scientologist. Part of his mission, Rathbun said, was “a re-education program” for Cruise and Kidman’s adopted children, Isabella and Connor, to “conclude that their mother was a suppressive person.” To each his own, one might say. One man’s alien Xenu is another man’s Satan. But if your guru tells you to turn your children against their mother, then it’s time to turn against him, I would say.
Tom is unlikely to have the bottle. Despite all his audacity and concentration, he is a fragile man. He was bullied at school and by his father, Thomas Cruise Mapother III. He has trouble controlling his anger. “I was so scared of Tom,” says his mission impossible 3 co-star Thandie Newton. “He was a very dominant individual. He wasn’t awful. It was just… he was really stressed. I think he thinks without Scientology he would crumble.
I grew up with Tom Cruise. All members of Generation X have done this. Superior gun, Cocktail, rain man… I like him and I hope that one day he will recover, not only for his mental health, but for his career. Since Miscavige brought him back after the collapse of his marriage to Kidman, Tom Cruise has remained largely loyal to the action-man schtick: Impossible mission, Reach, Superior gun, all abdominals and run with the strange cocky smile. I don’t expect the Sea Org to want their Hercules playing a weakling. But deep down, Tom Cruise loves movies; he dreamed of being an actor when he was a child. I hope one day he wins an Oscar, but unless he abandons his parasitic best friend, I doubt he ever will.