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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)

The comments to this entry are closed.

His wife cutting off contact with her parents "at the order of church officials" is the best of what he's got? BOR-iiinnggg!!!!!

I'm guessing none at all because anyone who believes in any religion turns a blind eye to reality: basically all religions are based on unproven stories of one to a few people. Where is the proof? Oh yeah, faith.

At last a few OSA bots have chimed in, but they seem kinda listless. A bit smirkier than usual, but their hearts don't really seem to be in it. Maybe that's the new tactic, try to be snarky like the critics. Well that would work except that great snark requires a sense of humor and $cientologists tend to have their senses of humor removed at some point during auditing. Unlike their money, they usually do get their sense of humor back when they leave. Yeah and to the "$cientology rocks" dude! Ugh, that's like back in the 60s, when my parents would say things were "cool" or "groovy": tragic and utterly lame. Why are Scilon's comebacks are always so lame? Must be all the entheta.

The OSA-bots are in this comments section in full force.

I'd buy it!

When did the LA Times become the agent of a gossip rag? The answer to this ridiculous question is "...about as much as he ever helped anyone...not at all."

If you do a Google News search for "Scientology", you'll notice some of the positive paid press releases that the Scientology PR department desperately spams all over the place to try to counteract all the bad press Scientology gets for its unethical activities.
Truth and rational thought are the enemies of the scam of Scientology.

My friends and myself think you disgruntled ex-members are nuts. We have a very fair system of "Ethics Committees" and now that you are gone, good riddance.

As far as Haggis and his disagreements with the Church, look I can only say to him that in my long experience, GLT are welcomed at the Church, and that there is no sexual policy, as to what one can do, or can't do: There is no gay therapy. A Scientologist can be gay, or of any religion, or of any belief, or non-belief, just treat others with respect and do so ethically. In other words, help everyone and yourself survive a little bit better. We are all in this "mess" together; we all have to contribute to each other, in some way or another. Let's have some fun together.

this is truly disappointing for me for I now will have to go and see his movies multiple times at great expense in order to thank him for exposing what has happened to me and countless like me with the destruction of the family. The euphemisms "auditing", "ethics", etc belie what is behind the scenes and only after hours and hours of research have I come to understand what this organization stands for and had it not been for serendipity (I found a Scn exam in my son's car) I would still be in the dark.

The funny thing is, only the San Diego org of Scientologists publicly endorsed Prop 8.

It is solely the fault of whatever genius decided to break from the herd and take some initiative, probably org president David Meyer.

So if there are any Scientologists reading this, I'm sure RTC would love to hear your concerns!

Shame the USA every gave in to this cult and gave it religious status. It was an extension of the money-spinning-pseudo-science 'Dianetics' and, by its founder's admission, was never meant to be a religion; it was only went in this direction for tax purposes. Good thing the UK, France and Germany and others didn't give in. $cientology's demise has left a trail of controversial policies and practices (fair gaming, dead agenting, disconnection, brainwashing, video recording 'confessions'/auditing sessions) and crime (the biggest incident of domestic espionage in the history of the United States, fraud, breach of public trust), quite aside from its extra-terrestrial space alien aspects (Xenu) and celebrity botches. A whole host of exposes and better freedom of information, including court records and release of hidden "Church" material (space opera OTIII scriptures) mark the welcome end of the formerly thriving cult of greed and power, aka $cientology.

I don't think it's going to have much effect, @ least not among the general public. Most folks either already thinks it's a joke, or just don't pay much attention to it. The kind of people who really care already know all about the various abuses and scandals of Scientology, and this is just one person speaking out. It's not any different than Marty Rathbun or Jason Beghe (sp?) speaking out.

@ this point, I don't think anything's going to really change unless a BIG celebrity scientologist defects, like Travolta or Cruise.

The Scientology handles will be out in full force on Amazon if this book gets published, check out the resident Scientology handler on the Dianetics:Modern Science of Mental Health if you ever need a good laugh. The way this Amazon Scientology handler attacks any criticism and refuses to answer direct questions is a very telling example of these Scientology "superpowers".

Here's a news bulletin: Scientology does not have an "image" that can be "hurt" at this point, at least among most intelligent people. If you were paying attention you would know that.

It's good for people who have left scientology to speak out. Anyone who has had scientology auditing (their counseling) has left behind a written record of their sessions perhaps detailing, perhaps excruciatingly, indiscretions, actions, feelings, thoughts of past lives - things embarrassing at least and possibly with real and horrible consequences here and now. And yes, it is official scientology policy to never drop an address from their mailing list. This means that anyone inside the church who endeavors to comply with someone's request to not receive mail will be sent to the church ethics officer for corrective action. It means that scn. sends tons of unwanted mail, wasting paper, adding plastic wrappings to landfills, and counting all those persons as active members. The rationale is that anyone who once contacted them made a correct move to rescue themselves and therefore scn. has to keep the faith that they will come back to scn. I am waiting for someone to publicly ask one of the big celebs why there are no scn. libraries. I know their answer: they believe a person can't/won't value a book unless they have to pay for it. Take that, Andrew Carnegie.

None. Because this book will pretty much lack any subtlety to start an intelligible debate. Everyone knows Scientology is a scam, but for some reason people think they are going to be sued or killed if you say it. The followers have already paid thousands of dollars towards this religion, so they are obviously too embarassed to get out.

Another book? Better read Dianetics first

Well, Director Paul Haggis has his right to choose. Since he chose to leave Church of Scientology, then, Church of Scientology's termination on his membership is just apt.

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