Tom Cruise Vanity Fair Story: Paul Haggis Weighs In on Scientology's Alleged Girlfriend Audition

Million Dollar Baby filmmaker sounds off on claims that his erstwhile organization groomed one of its members to date the Hollywood star

By Josh Grossberg Sep 04, 2012 5:15 PMTags
Katie Holmes, Paul HaggisVANITY FAIR, Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Paul Haggis' beef with the Church of Scientology is well known after he publicly rejected the religion several years ago.

So given his status as a former Xenu-phile, the Crash helmer is now in a unique position to comment on Vanity Fair's October cover story, which alleges the church auditioned a female member by the name of Naz Boniadi to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend before the A-lister hooked up with Katie Holmes.

And what Haggis has to say is pretty revealing.

In an email to Showbiz 411 published Sunday, the Oscar winner confirmed that he met Boniadi three years ago while he was looking into allegations against Scientology and before he wrote his now-infamous resignation letter.

 "[Naz] never wanted it to come out, so I kept silent," wrote Haggis. "However I was deeply disturbed by how the highest-ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members; how they so callously punished her and then so effectively silenced her when it was done. It wasn't just the threats; they actually made her feel ashamed, when all she had been was human and trusting."

A rep for the church, Karin Pouw released a statement to E! News calling the allegations "hogwash."

"There was no project, secret or otherwise, ever conducted by the Church to find a bride (audition or otherwise) for any member," read the statement. "The allegation and entire premise of the Vanity Fair article is totally false."

The spokeswoman also labeled Haggis an "apostate" who's "attempting to grab headlines and falsely slander his former religion."

Additionally, Cruise's attorney, Bert Fields spoke out about the article. "Vanity Fair's story is essentially a rehash of tired old lies previously run in the supermarket tabloids, quoting the same bogus 'sources,'" Fields said in a statement released today. "It's long, boring and false."

The VF article has been the talk of Hollywood this week since alleging that Boniadi went out with the Top Gun star from November 2004 to January 2005 and even briefly moved into his house after being selected by Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Scientology honcho David Miscavige. The report goes on to state that before meeting Cruise, the Iranian-born thesp was ordered to get rid of her braces, lose her red highlights and dump her then-boyfriend, not to mention sign a confidentiality agreement with the church.

After the relationship soured, the story alleges that a distraught Boniadi ended up telling a friend about her ordeal, and the friend reported her to Scientology officials, who punished her by having her scrub toilets with a toothbrush, clean bathroom tiles with acid and dig ditches in the middle of the night.

Haggis added, "I've met quite a number of people who have been treated shamefully but are afraid to speak out. This story will draw attention because of our fascination with celebrity. Most of the others are just ordinary people whose stories, if told, would not appear in a magazine. They live in fear of retribution, legal, financial or personal, even some famous ones."

The filmmaker concluded by expressing support for Boniadi, who left the church a few years ago and is now a spokesperson for Amnesty International.

"In Naz's case, she has no right to feel ashamed. She is not only a terrific actress at the beginning of a very promising career, she is a dedicated human-rights activist and a truly lovely and caring person. The last thing she wanted or needed is this kind of publicity, but here it is, and I am sure she will deal with it with the same grace and dignity she exudes in her daily life," he said.