Tom Cruise’s consuming passion for Scientology is now evident in a most unprecedented way: promotional videos made in 2004 but not publicly seen until this weekend have started showing up on the Internet.
In the videos, Cruise expresses his disgust for psychiatrists — vowing to “crush” them with “no mercy” — spews Scientology lingo and addresses the group’s dead founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as if he were still alive. Hubbard died in 1986.
Cruise, who does not have a college degree, is also described in the videos by a voice-over narrator as a NASA spokesman and an expert on illiteracy.
The videos became available online in advance of a new unauthorized biography that cites Cruise as “the number two” in Scientology in the world. “Number one” would be David Miscavige, the Cruise-like leader who succeeded Hubbard two decades ago.
One of the videos was up for a while at radaronline.com. Several others have come and gone on other sites. Some media outlets — like this column — have some of the videos but can’t host them because of concern over copyright issues. Since Saturday night, the videos have been appearing and disappearing on the Internet.
One can be found for now on gawker.com (click here).
I am told the promotional DVD that contains all the videos started circulating a couple of months ago among anti-cultists and critics of Scientology.
As a regular critic of Scientology and of Cruise, I’ll tell you something startling: I feel sorry for him after seeing all of the videos. Cruise is impassioned but inarticulate and a little uncertain of what he’s saying. For all the “control” he’s supposedly exhibiting, he looks manipulated and programmed.
Janet Maslin wrote in her recent positive review of Andrew Morton’s book, “Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography”: “Mr. Morton is … in some larger sense an astute observer. His overall impression of Mr. Cruise makes sense. He provides a credible portrait extrapolated from the actor’s on-the-record remarks and highly visible public behavior. This book describes a controlling, fervent figure…”
The videos, along with the book, could affect what’s left of Cruise’s career. The actor is so consumed by Scientology at this point that he seems to have no awareness of the ridicule he’s subject to all over the Internet. It’s been caused by many things, not the least of which is his current, strange marriage and all its attendant publicity.
The Scientology problem has been harder to pin down until now. But one look at the videos and it all becomes quite clear. Cruise spouts “LRH” lingo by rote, using all their terms and acronyms like “KSW” (keep Scientology working) and something called “half-ack,” not realizing what the latter sounds like.
Cruise is totally subsumed into the Hubbard world. In one video, which played on YouTube, he says: “Being a Scientologist you know absolutely you look at someone and you know you can help them. It really is KSW. I don’t mince words with that…”
But KSW also has made Cruise sound like a megalomaniac. “Being a Scientologist,” he says, “when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past, you know you have to do something about it. Because you know you’re the only one that can really help.”
This sense of self-importance shouldn’t come as a surprise. In recent years, Cruise has sent out press releases from time to time in which he boasts of having saved people in feats of derring-do that have always come across as suspicious and have never been confirmed.
They include a 2006 incident in which he claimed to have come to the roadside aid of a stranded motorist and several episodes in 2003 while he was filming "The Last Samurai" in New Zealand, including supposedly assisting a local family in changing a flat tire on a country road and helping a young girl catch her runaway horse.
Watching the videos, at first, you think they can’t be real. One person who saw them told me they looked like sketches from “Saturday Night Live.” They’re alternately funny and scary.
In all of them, the theme song from “Mission: Impossible” plays in the background. In one of them, the Scientology promo makers use unauthorized clips showing Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and other media figures introducing Cruise as “the biggest movie star in the world.”
In one particularly jarring moment, Cruise and Miscavige appear before a cheering crowd of the faithful at what seems to be the Scientology center. It’s an ornate room with a full-size portrait of Hubbard. Cruise lavishes praise on the diminutive Miscavige as a great leader.
“And I’ve met the leaders of leaders, OK: I’ve met them all. So I say to you sir, C.O.B. [Chairman of the Board], we are lucky to have you and thank you very much.”
Cruise then addresses the portrait of Hubbard as if he were alive.
“To you, Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, sir, I take this as a half-ack.” The crowd laughs and cheers wildly. “I will be on my way. These are the times now people, these are the times we will all remember. Were you there, what did you do. I think you know I am there for you. And I do care so very, very much.”
But there’s a lot that Cruise doesn’t care for. While many of the videos simply show him spewing the party line and proclaiming his love for Hubbard’s work, there are more serious moments.
Certainly, the worst of these is when the movie star declares his “disgust” for psychiatry and psychiatrists. Scientology disapproves of the use of pharmacological drugs and requires all of its members to sign an agreement never to seek treatment for mental health.
“We have the ability to improve conditions to see the realities, to be able to fight and to have the courage to crush these guys.” A booming narrator’s voice then intones: “Specifically, psychiatric drugs at the core of all education failures.”
Cruise concludes, with absolute seething: “Psychiatrists, I’ve had it, I’ve absolutely had it. It’s disgusting to me.”
What will be the fallout from these videos and the Morton book? It’s hard to say. Cruise’s recent box office trend is downward, starting with a disappointing showing for "Mission: Impossible 3," and then heading into the disastrous "Lions for Lambs." He’s currently filming his movie about Hitler, “Valkyrie,” which already has cost $90 million or more and isn’t finished.
Meanwhile, many in the entertainment press were aghast Monday when ABC’s Diane Sawyer failed to ask Katie Holmes a single question on “Good Morning America” about the book, the videos or any of the other controversies that have swirled around her nearly three-year relationship with Cruise.
Sawyer, who prides herself on being a great journalist, managed to elicit from Holmes only that she liked wearing pink during her pregnancy.