How Scientology almost destroyed Tom Cruise’s career

How Scientology almost destroyed Tom Cruise’s career

The Church of Scientology is a crooked and twisted mystery. Beginning with its very name: Scientology. Scientology could not be farther from science. Based on the belief that human beings are plagued by immortal alien souls called thetans brought to the Earth by the galactic emperor Xenu billions of years ago, Scientology’s central cosmology reflects its founder’s career. The Church was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1953, and his worldview appealed to one of the most famous and high-paid actors of our time: Tom Cruise.

Today, society has almost forgotten about Cruise’s days as the poster child of Scientology. In the 2000s and 2010s, countless top pop culture news articles centered on Cruise’s troubled marriage to Katie Holmes and his adamant support for Scientology. Cruise’s custody battle with Holmes over their daughter took over the front pages. Reportedly, Holmes spent two years planning the divorce to ensure she could retain full custody of their daughter. Her primary concern was saving her daughter from Scientology.

Prior to this public divorce, Cruise was seen as the perfect gentleman. Chivalry was central to Cruise’s persona as he embraced the old-fashioned action-hero masculinity that appealed to the public. To many, he still seems the same way.

However, generations old enough to remember Tom Cruise from the 2000s to the early 2010s can never look at Cruise the same way. Older adults often remark on something always being “off” about Cruise, something that irks them about his personality. Cruise’s couch moment on the Oprah Winfrey Show is infamous. From then on, his popularity plummeted, his reputation was tarnished, and he almost lost the Mission: Impossible franchise.

Scientology is suspected of being an abusive cult, with former members reporting forced labor and human trafficking. Rightfully, many people were turned off by Cruise’s connection to the Church. Yet, Scientology provides Cruise with the reasoning behind his “chivalrous” manner. Scientology teaches that the world is under attack from evil forces that can only be stopped by one good man who sees past the rules of society. The Church told Cruise that he was destined to save the world, and Cruise believed it.

As their central public figure, the Church works hard to keep Cruise happy. They helped him tap his ex-wife Nicole Kidman’s phone. Arguably, most disturbingly, when Cruise wanted a new love interest, they recruited a Church member, gave her a makeover to Cruise’s specifications, and later broke up with her for him when he tired of her. When the woman told a friend about what happened to her, the Church reportedly sentenced her to months of menial labor. Cruise openly defended Scientology and criticized those who spoke out against it. As Cruise’s behavior became more and more turbulent, his popularity fell from the 11th most-liked celebrity to 197th in just a few months.

The question on many people’s minds: How did Cruise regain popularity? How did he move past the darkest days of his career?

Cruise worked hard to reshape his image in the decade after his divorce from Katie Holmes. He cut down on talking about Scientology and kept making movies. Today, he is seen as one of the last great movie stars and is experiencing what many call a “late-career Renaissance.” Top Gun: Maverick was the biggest hit of 2022. The Mission: Impossible franchise is still ongoing and continues to be one of the most adored film franchises of all time. Cruise’s latest movies utilized aggressive marketing tactics that garnered views from new generations of fans. At 61, Tom Cruise is still jumping off cliffs, flying F1 jets, and running for his life across the silver screen.

Despite this rebirth of popularity, to many, something is still off. There continues to be a certain uncanny strangeness around Cruise’s image, something false behind his famous movie star smile. While most people have forgotten the scandals of the 2000s and 2010s, Cruise’s persona lost something during that time, leaving an emptiness he may never be able to fill.

Is Tom Cruise aware of the true nature of the Church of Scientology? Is he genuinely exposed to all the horrors of the Church? Or do they not give him the complete Scientology “experience” in order to keep their shining star? It is clear that Cruise enjoys being told he is the hero; clearly, the savior persona that the Church has invented for Cruise has gone to his head. 

Many things about the Church of Scientology remain a mystery. The Church can afford multiple Super Bowl ads every year. The ads portray the institution as a utopia, an awakening to a better life, a better world. Rooms are pristine, floors shine, and people stare in awe as their valiant leader, David Miscavige, smiles. Like Cruise, Miscavige’s smile is off-putting, his gaze, chilling. Everything begs the question, what really goes on inside the bright blue walls?

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Lili Bazargan
Lili Bazargan, News Editor

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