New Scientology Book Has a Scene from The Master—Starring Tom Cruise

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 9 2013 2:41 PM

New Scientology Book Has a Scene from The Master—Starring Tom Cruise

Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master.
Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master.

The Weinstein Company © 2012.

Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer Prize winner who also earned a National Magazine Award for the exhaustive reporting on Scientology he did for The New Yorker, has expanded on the subject in his new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. This morning The Hollywood Reporter excerpted one of the book’s most gossip-friendly sections, on the church’s relationship with Tom Cruise.

The focus of the article is Cruise’s buddy-buddy relationship with David Miscavige, Scientology’s current leader, and the many distinctive ways they’ve feted each other’s egos. Cruise reportedly based his performance as the Navy hero in A Few Good Men, Danny Kaffee, on Miscavige. In 2004, Miscavige hosted a party for Cruise’s 42nd birthday on board the Scientology ship the Freewinds, including clips and songs from many of Cruise’s movies. (Cruise took the mic himself for “Old Time Rock and Roll.”)

But one of the excerpt’s most striking scenes describes how Cruise trained to become a leader in the church, at the Gold Base, a Scientology outpost in the desert outside Los Angeles. One of Cruise’s first “audits” was Marc Headley, according to Headley himself, who described the encounter in his own memoir. Headley says that Cruise led him through something called the Upper Indoctrination Training Routines. Here’s how Wright describes the experience:

“Look at the wall,” Cruise would have said, according to Hubbard's specifications. “Thank you. Walk over to the wall. Thank you. Touch the wall. Thank you.” The purpose of this exercise, according to Hubbard, is to “assert control over the preclear and increase the preclear’s havingness.”
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If those directions sound familiar, you’ve probably seen The Master: They match almost exactly the lines Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) says to Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes. Other sequences from the Scientology-inspired film were taken almost verbatim from the religion’s handbooks—the “processing” scene uses several questions from Scientology’s “Oxford Capacity Analysis” test, as PTA has since acknowledged. But accounts of this touch-the-wall training practice have been harder to come by.

The excerpt also touches on such popular topics as the church’s possible role in Cruise’s relationships, and is worth reading in full at The Hollywood Reporter. Wright’s book was just dropped by its British publisher after Wright reportedly received “innumerable” threatening letters from the notoriously litigious church. (The publisher says that these threats were not the reason it dropped the book.) But it is set to be published by Knopf in the U.S. on Jan. 17. If it’s anything like Wright’s New Yorker article, it will also be worth reading from beginning to end.

Update, Jan. 11, 2013: The Church of Scientology has, as expected, denied many of Wright's claims, describing the Pulitzer Prize winner's book as "so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid." They've asked us to link to their statement on the book, which you can read in full over at the Scientology Newsroom.

Previously

How Much Scientology Made It Into The Master?

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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