Friday, 7 January 2011

Hollywood director to spill beans on Scientology

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Director Paul Haggis left Scientology in 2009
Intriguing news via Gawker, which reports that New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright is working on a book about Hollywood film-maker Paul Haggis's time in the Church of Scientology. The Crash director, who is cooperating with Wright on the project, spent 35 years in the cult before coming one of the most high-profile members to walk away, or "blow" when he left in 2009.

While less well-known former members, such as Marc Headley (who I interviewed last year), have turned whistleblower, few celebrities, with the exception of actor Jason Beghe, have told their stories, so the Wright-Haggis book has the potential to be a highly revealing exposé of life inside the bizarre bubble of Scientology.

The forthcoming book, entitled The Heretic of Hollywood: Paul Haggis vs.The Church of Scientology, is featured in a catalogue from Wright's literary agent, Andrew Wylie. It is set for completion in June, but lacks a publisher at present (wonder who will step up and show a willingness to face up to the fiercely-litigious Church?). Here's the blurb from the catalogue:
"The Academy Award winning writer and director, Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), spent three decades in the Church of Scientology. Haggis was one of the church's Hollywood trophies, along with Tom Cruise and John Travolta, whose paths cross with Haggis's. His resignation from the church in August of 2009 was a crushing disappointment to the organization. This is the first time Haggis has spoken about his experience.

The roots of Scientology are explored in this book, particularly the life of its eccentric founder, L. Ron Hubbard, whose flashes of brilliance and insanity are woven into the fabric of this elaborate belief system. Through Haggis's eyes, we discover the appeal of Scientology, especially to talented and ambitious members of the entertainment industry. Haggis conducted a personal investigation of the church, in which he was told about the wanton physical abuse on the part of its current leader, David Miscavige, of senior members of the organization. He was told that young volunteers in the Scientology clergy, called the Sea Org, are subjected to conditions approaching slavery or imprisonment, and that many female members have been forced to have abortions.

The most profound reckoning to date with this powerful and secretive organization, The Heretic of Hollywood is also a moving human story of the lure of extreme faith and the price of leaving it."
Sounds fascinating – I can't wait. And on the subject of Scientology, if you haven't read it already, take a look at Michael Bywater's exploration of the 'ideas' of cult founder L Ron Hubbard, from our current issue. If you ask us, exposure and mockery are complimentary strategies in the face of something like Scientology.

Update: It was since reported that Haggis won't be "collaborating" with Wright, although his experiences will inform Wright's exposé of Scientology
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