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How much will a Paul Haggis book hurt Scientology’s image? [Updated]

January 6, 2011 |  3:54 pm


Director Paul Haggis has already been the worst kind of publicity for the Church of Scientology, penning this letter in August 2009 in which he resigned from the group over its support of Proposition 8.

Now he could become more than just a thorn in the church's side. According to this Gawker report, the Oscar winner is shopping a book with New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright about his experience with Scientology –- an experience that he says included, among other things, his wife cutting off contact with her parents at the order of church officials.

[Updated at 10:25 a.m. Friday: A representative for Haggis said that although the book will be done with Haggis' full collaboration and will be focused exclusively on him and his odyssey, Wright will be its sole author.]

According to an agent's listing for the book, "The Heretic of Hollywood," as it will be called, will give voice to much of what the director has felt but hasn't yet said in the time since he left the church.

"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," reads the synopsis.

For those interested in the intersection of religion and celebrity, the book could have a particular resonance. "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," the synopsis states.

There’s no publisher yet, but a tell-all book about a famous ex-Scientologist would obviously have a huge impact. As a 35-year member of the church, the director has more than his share of credibility, since, as his letter demonstrates, he genuinely did (and perhaps still does) believe in certain of its credos.

Maybe more important, while Haggis’ films have recently been a mixed bag -- his 2010 release “The Next Three Days” failed to land with audiences -- as a Hollywood personality there are few who shoot straighter. We experienced that firsthand when we interviewed the filmmaker a few months ago for that film; he was a beacon of straightforwardness to star Russell Crowe's squirminess.

There will be those who read about the book proposal and say Haggis is trying to cash in -- though given the church's alleged propensity for smearing former members, many will likely see in his actions a truth-to-power element as well.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Paul Haggis. Credit: Nathan Denette / Associated Press


Russell Crowe: One tough interview

Comments () | Archives (68)

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Scientology's image died with the advent of the internet which allowed ex-members to communicate about their experiences in the cult... and then the famous crazy Tom Cruise video.

However, a good book by Wright/Haggis could nail the coffin shut on this scam, finally!

Ut oh...did the LA Times just write a semi negative article about $cientology?? Don't they know that the LA Celebrity Centre has a bunch of aliens in their back room monitoring the internet ready to jump on and tell you how you should come in and "see for yourself"!!! Here they come...just wait....

Excellent article. The title made me laugh though because I don't think that the Scientology enterprise can have a much worse public image than it already does.

There are at least ten thousands pages on the internet with information about how the company abuses people, whether members, ex-members, or public critics such as journalists, authors, and publishers.

Whether true or not, sounds like it's positioning to cash in on the movie rights, excellent, can't blame em'.

I loved Crash...who cares about his religion? I dont make my decision to watch a movie based on the directors moral code or belief system. Seems like he's doing HIM and not trying to please anyone else which I can appreciate. After all, how many people havnt walked away from their religion for similar reasons? This isnt limited to Scientology...Christianity is battling the same thing yet its a lot less publicized because its not as cool to pick on.

I can has Scientology book by Haggis??!!!??

I will buy 100 copies of that, Paul, if you please.

The truth needs to get out to the general population about this sect, and one place to start would be to ask why the razor wire is configured to prevent people from escaping at major COS compounds, such as Gold Era Productions in Riverside County.

Obviously this a more complicated matter than any single observer can make it out to be, particularly based on rather incomplete reporting and conjecture. Anyone reading the note from Paul can understand that he's had a crisis of faith, one that he admittedly wanted to keep personal. Even this article points to the paradox in his relationship with his religion - having left the church he perhaps still beliefs in many of its tenets. Haggis goes to lengths in his letter to defend the good that Scientology has done in his life and for others he knew. Not exactly a scathing attack or even real news. Should this kind of letter come from a celebrity in response to Catholic or Mormon positions - other embattled faiths - it wouldn't even register.

A prosecutor could make a name for himself exposing the outrageous human rights abuses Scientology has committed and is today committing.

Under the leadership of David Miscavige, it has devolved into a spiritless, money grubbing organization.

Thank goodness for the Internet.

This should be good. I hope it gets a publisher soon. Paul's knowledge and experience combined with his notoriety and ability to tell an amazing story should all make this a captivating read. He better hurry though if he wants his book to sell. An author named Janet Reitman is publishing the results of her investigation into Scientology this July. Most people are probably only going be interested in reading one book about Scientology scandals, so let's see who gets their story out first. It's a win-win for me though; I'll be checking out both of them.

And hey, maybe this will inspire director Paul Thomas Anderson to get some courage and finish his Scientology movie The Master. It's funny how it went from no one talking about Scientology to a scramble to get the scoop :-)

Movie flop director Haggis and a bankrupt ghost writer desperately trying to find a publisher for their new piece of imagination. Who cares?

I figure there is so much information on the internet about the abuse of this cult. Any adult who gets involved with this organization totally deserves to get beaten, go looney and lose their life savings.

Funny. Haggis using Scientology for publicity? Sounds like that to me. He never came out as a Scientologist when he was one. Now, all of a sudden, he has opinions? I don't particularly like his movies although I respect is artistic license to do what he likes but I don't think much of his planned memoir. Puts him too much into the ranks of the gossip rags.

Scientology is toothless these days. like a prize fighter who has been around too long.
Mr Haggis will Set the bar high, Much to the dismay of David Miscavige.

I can't believe that one person has created a religion "so called scientology" (notice that I did not capitalize the s because it is not a real religion) and millions of people all over the world is following and living by this nonsense. It is just a bunch of 'bs'! I can definitely see that the devil is busy with you all. When judgment day gets here, you all will be sorry but then it will be too late! God bless YOU ALL!

Wow, a Scientologist actually posts on the comments condemning Haggis' book as pure "imagination". Which is quite amusing to me considering I have now seen it on 3 different articles on this subject...

New Flash $cilons....your madman messiah got you all hook-line-and sinker on his imagination. He wrote stories about Intergalactic Aliens coming to Earth using man-made technology to drop frozen souls into volcanoes and dropping hydrogen bombs on them...

All so you can have a reason to shell out thousands of dollars for their little psychotherapy sessions so that you can take one more step across an imaginary bridge to nowhere. You people are the laughing stock of the informed world. The only folks who defend you are oblivious to your organization's criminal past(Operation Snow White/Operation Freakout) and the financial scams you force upon your members. As time goes on, more people will become informed and you will have nowhere left to hide.

The information age is the death-knell for CoS.

Here's a good one... Former Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares didn't like being lied to by Scientology so he exposed the lie publicly. Scientology officials later confessed to trying to ruin Gabe's reputation by bribing Mexican authorities into creating a false marriage license so Gabe would appear to be a bigamist.

This clever, and somewhat amusing, attempt to "dead agent" an elected official is standard operating procedure for "the world's most ethical organization". I hope Mr. Haggis helps other celebrities stop supporting this dangerous, criminal cult.

I hope it sells a million copies. The clock is ticking on this pernicious cult.

Scientology OSA has posted this clip on all the comment sections of news sites running the Haggis story:

"Movie flop director Haggis and a bankrupt ghost writer desperately trying to find a publisher for their new piece of imagination. Who cares?"

Another example of how scientology tries to smear it's critics.

How sad that in this day and age that people still believe in handing over their life to organized religion. God is everywhere so the bigger question is at what desperate point are you in your life that you glob on to Scientology and "believe" their gobbedey goop and follow their "directions" to get "better" and "higher up" in life? Real self worth and self esteem come from the inner work and not from getting in on some booga booga group organized religion. And the oddest irony is that many of the well let's say "well known" and "famous" members are successful and apparently happy!

Scientology has been on a downward spiral since that Tom Cruise video was leaked out on the Internet. With the release of the Haggis book and the wrongful death trial of Kyle Brennan on the horizon, Scientology's day of reckoning is at hand.

Interesting. Crash was a study manipulation and so is scientology.

@Mz Yoyo: Hopefully it will comfort you to know that, while the cult claims millions of followers, they really only have somewhere around 20,000. They still claim me as a member, even though I haven't set foot in one of their buildings for decades. They still claim people who read Dianetics in 1956 and have been dead for 50 years. Millions of others were simply made up.

I'm stunned by the silence of the OSA-bots. Usually they chime in with their eerily identical, supernaturally cheery posts touting the cult and "find out for yourself." That's been their latest tactic in response to the growing mountain of online criticism since the summer of 1995 and Tom Cruise's Cavalcade of Entheta. The criticism is wonderful to see, and most of it is rightfully directed at Miscavige. But people need to remember that Miscavige may be dictatorial, abusive and grasping, but that he didn't distort or pervert Hubbard's "religion", he's a victim of it too.
So hooray for Mr. Haggis' upcoming tome, but not if it paints Miscavige as a monster and yet still wears rose colored spectacles to view the batsh•t crazy ramblings of the megalomaniac that made him that way.

Great news.

Let's see Cruise and Travolta explain this one away...

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