The fact that Tom Cruise has been more vocal in his support to Scientology since his encounter with Kate Holmes has brought the subject of Scientology in the awareness of many - together with the controversy that surrounds it. This page attempts to provide some background from the viewpoint of an independent observer.
Last Update: May 7, 2006
Born a Catholic (who even aspired at some stage to become a Catholic priest!), Tom Cruise was recruited in Scientology around 1986 by J. Spickler, father of actress Mimi Rogers, who was to become Cruise's first wife. Like his daughter —who, at some stage, worked for the Church full-time—Spickler has since left Scientology. It is only in 1990, however, that Cruise publicly announced he was embracing Scientology, and that the church's teachings helped cure him of dyslexia, which had plagued him all his life.
Cruise marriage to Mimi lasted from 1987 to 1990. They are still in good terms, though, as she defended him in the media during the recent controversy.
Tom's second marriage, from 1990 to 2001, was to Nicole Kidman, with whom he has two (adopted) children, Isabella, 12, and Connor, 10. Kidman is not a Scientologist, but their children, like John Travolta and Kelly Preston's kids Jett and Ella, are home-schooled using Scientology "study tech".
Tom's third wife-to-be may be Katie Holmes, now just Kate Holmes, the 26-year-old Batman Begins actress, to whom he proposed from the top of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Kate got involved in Scientology through Tom.
Until recently Tom almost never discussed Scientology publicly. He even disapproved of Travolta's enactment of Scientology founder's novel "Battlefield Earth". This seems to have changed around the time of 9/11, when he co-sponsored a Scientology detoxification center near ground zero.
It has spanned off from there.
He put Scientology tents on movie sets, claimed publicly that his Endless Love co-star Brooke Shields' use of antidepressant in postpartum depression only "masks the problem", snapped about Ritalin and psychiatry at Today' show co-host Matt Lauer, and took a Details reporter aboard his futuristic motorcycle to visit several Scientology organizations.
Some say that Tom's higher involvement in proselytizing Scientology is due to him having attained "OT VII". This level is supposed to be one of the pen-ultimate one in Scientology auditing hierarchy. It is usually delivered on the "Freewinds", the Church of Scientology flag ship docked for the most part off the the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
I personally do not believe that this has anything to do with Tom's current behavior. I believe that the reason he is doing what he is currently doing is exactly for the reason he says he is doing it - as expressed in a June 2003 Entertainment Weekly interview:
That is, in spite of the negative effects this may have on his career, Tom believes he has a personal responsibility in helping people out of the evils of this world using the tools he believes to be the best tools to tackle these evils: those provided by the Church of Scientology.
It is also possible, however, that his more prominent stand in favor of Scientology has been in part influenced by his sister, Fellow Scientologist Lee Anne DeVette, who was his appointed publicist between March 2004 and November 2005.
Why the grip with Psychiatry?
The hatred for psychiatry permeates all of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's writings. The constant repetition sinks in the adherent's mind eventually, just like his constant repetition about the exclusivity of Scientology leads followers to think that Scientology is the "only way out".
You will hardly find a long-time Scientologist who has not espoused Hubbard's idea on psychiatry, and Tom Cruise is far from being the only Scientology celebrity to crusade for the church's agenda against psychiatry. Kirstie Alley and Cruise's co-star in 'Jerry Macguire' Kelly Preston, for example, tearfully testified in favor of an anti-psychiatry bill that almost got passed as legislation in Florida, had it not been ultimately vetoed by Gov. Jeb Bush.
The point is that these Scientology celebrities, like most long-time adherent, really end up believing psychiatry is as evil as Hubbard's portray it to be. They will therefore find it their responsibility to help get the word out, and offer Scientology as an all-in-one alternative.
Not that there is nothing to criticize in Psychiatry. In fact, it very well might be that much of the criticism levied by Scientology front groups against psychiatry are justified. What strikes me, however, is the predictable way a Scientologist would behave in this respect. The fact that these are more like borrowed ideas than their own is what I find awkward.
By their mere affiliation, celebrities do a lot to promote Scientology. Scientology critics are very inventive to try and explain the cognitive difference created by this fact and the image they wish to project of Scientologists. They leave out, however, the main reason: the spiritual appeal Scientology exert on the seeking soul. See my page, Scientology Celebrities, for a more detailed analysis on that topic.
War of the Worlds
Since he declared his love for Katie Holmes on the Oprah Winfrey Show, using her sofa as trampoline, and since his comments on Brook Shields medications, public interest in Scientology skyrocketed.
My own web site, that used to have a modest traffic of about 300 unique visitors a day, boomed to 4,000+; the Church of Scientology claims its official web site shot up 263 percent to reach 375,000 visitors per day; many Scientology critics reported a marked increased in traffic too; and Google listed Scientology as the 10th fastest gaining query for the week of June 27, 2005.
Sales of Dianetics (Scientology) in June 2005 have more than doubled, according to a representative for the publishing company Barnes & Noble; Church of Scientology organizations put up huge banners that read "find out why Tom Cruise is so passionate about Scientology"; and the number of Scientology-related articles in the press was almost unprecedented.
Some people wondered whether Cruise and the film he was promoting when he made his remarks would suffer as a consequence. The statistics clearly show that this was very far from being the case. War of the Worlds raked in $34.6m on its first day, the biggest opening to date for a movie starring Tom Cruise, as well as a record for any Paramount film ever showed. War of The Worlds also topped July 4th weekend box-office with $77.6 million, far ahead of $18.7 million second place Batman Begins. Eventually, "War of the Worlds" grossed nearly $600 million at box offices worldwide, to become Cruise's biggest hit!
I went to see the film too. Cruise is good, though I think another actor could have played this relatively easy role just as well. What is stupendous, however, is Steven Spielberg's realization, and this alone makes it an absolute must-see.
As to whether Scientology benefited from this sudden surge of interest or whether Scientology critics got there point across better is hard to say. On the one hand, many press articles staid away from the typical spurious and base attacks to be found on critical websites. On the other hand, these claims found their way in some of the key publications. As to whether Scientology effectively gained new adherents as a result of the publicity will probably remain a mystery.
Mission Impossible III
Almost a year separates "Mission Impossible III" and "War of the Worlds". In the meantime, A baby girl, Suri, was born of Tom's and Kate's union, though the actual wedding was postponed. Quite ironically, Suri was born the same day as the second child of Brooke Shields, reportedly in the same Los Angeles hospital. Kate Holmes' child birth was silent and painkiller-free, in accordance with Scientology's precepts. This revived somewhat the controversy over Scientology in the press.
After a year of high visibility in the internet landscape following his couch jumping behavior, anti-psychiatry statements, highly publicized romance, and pro-scientology declaration, Mission Impossible III is viewed as a sort of litmus test to measure the effect it all had on Cruise's audience perception, his career, and indirectly on Scientology's standing.
Reviewers rated the film at around 70% on average, which can be considered as fairly good, with user's review toping 80%. As for the box office after the opening week-end, here are the results:
Rev Movie Wks Avg/ Pct Total ($Mln) Screens Out Screen Chg ($Mln)
1. Mission: Impossible 3 $48.0 4,054 1 $11,840 - $48.0 2. RV 11.1 3,651 2 3,040 -32 31.0 3. An American Haunting 6.4 1,667 1 3,827 - 6.4 4. Stick It 5.5 2,044 2 2,702 -49 18.0 5. United 93 5.2 1,819 2 2,859 -55 20.1 6. Ice Age: The Meltdown 4.0 2,426 6 1,649 -44 183.3 7. Silent Hill 3.9 2,556 3 1,526 -58 40.8 8. Scary Movie 4 3.8 2,537 4 1,483 -52 83.7 9. Hoot 3.4 3,018 1 1,127 - 3.4 9. Akeelah and the Bee 3.4 2,195 2 1,549 -43 10.7
Though quite impressive by itself - $48 million is by no mean "weak numbers" but "solid numbers" - it does fall short of expectations. Indeed, independent trackers had predicted the third installment would top $70 million in the U.S. and Canada. A "mere" $48 million not only falls short of this admittedly high outlook, it also is lower than the opening of "Mission Impossible II", which grossed $57.8 million in 2000.
Does it mean that the film suffered from the "anti-Cruise bias" that ran high during this past year? Not so sure... First, Mission Impossible II" benefited from holiday-weekend releases, which wasn't the case for "Mission Impossible III". Second, as noted by Rob Moore, Paramount's president for worldwide marketing, distribution and operations, the opening domestic figure was close to that of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" last summer, which starred Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. One has to take into account, indeed, the fact that theaters are currently besieged by competition from other forms of entertainment and new technologies, and therefore the comparison time frame needs to be adapted in consequence. Moore also pointed out that the "Mission" franchise was struggling against the fact that it had been six years since the previous installment, meaning that in spite of lower figures than expected, a positive word-of-mouth would still lead to a profitable run as the summer unfolds. Others blamed a tiresome plot and a humorless marketing campaign.
By all means, the third installment grossed $118 million worldwide from Friday through Sunday, based on the studio's estimate, outperforming the second "Mission: Impossible" thanks to the overseas ticket sales. As for the claim that Cruise's couch jumping and Brooke slamming made him lose ground among female moviegoers, an important part of his fan base, the studio said that 44% of the audience was female, nearly matching the composition for the earlier "Mission: Impossible" films, while a survey by online ticket seller Fandango Inc. said women rated it more highly than men.
Whatever the reasons for the lower than expected figures, we still need to wait for the end results, knowing that Mission Impossible, which opened in May 1996, grossed $456.5 million worldwide, and "Mission Impossible II" $545.9 million.
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