Cruise and Miscavige: The Ultimate Bromance
The most powerful Scientologist in the world has the actor under his thumb. How does David Miscavige do it?
Tom Cruise barely had a breather between what had to be one of the most challenging summers of his life and the smash opening of the new Scientology-inspired movie The Master in New York and Los Angeles.
The Master examines what one reviewer has called the "crypto-romantic relationship" between a charismatic cult leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and his "favorite disciple" (Joaquin Phoenix). The movie, which director Paul Thomas Anderson screened in advance for Cruise, comes on the heels of Cruise being abruptly dumped by his third wife, Katie Holmes, in July and subjected to a humiliating media feeding frenzy, some of which included speculation about Cruise's close relationship with Scientology's powerful and controversial chairman, David Miscavige. Ex-Scientologist Marc Headley, who says he worked closely with Miscavige for 15 years during his long tenure with the church, calls it "the most intense, expensive bromance in history."
The church's star member has turned out to be a liability as well, much the same way Phoenix's character eventually becomes a source of trouble for "the Master." Holmes' divorce action against Cruise has set off more exposés of the church's controversial inner workings and practices than ever in its history.
Some people, both in Hollywood and within the circle of former church members, wonder whether Cruise might leave Scientology -- as a smart career move, if nothing else. Some insist he'd never defect or turn on Miscavige.
"Why should he?" asks veteran publicist Howard Bragman. "You've got to realize the difference between a crisis and a controversy in Hollywood. For most people, this is just a controversy. It's not necessarily going to impact his career."
According to Mike Rinder, the former chief spokesman for Scientology who left the organization in 2007, people in Hollywood seem content to look the other way as long as Cruise is making hit movies, "but they act as if his association with Scientology is as harmless as Madonna spending time with the Kabbalah people. They don't realize Tom Cruise is hanging out with someone who is the emotional equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer."
In interviews during the past two months with dozens of former Scientology members who freely divulged church secrets, no one said they thought Cruise's relationship with Miscavige is romantic or sexual. But they describe it as symbiotic. Rinder says Cruise was a "really nice guy" when he joined the church. But over time, he says, he took on more and more of Miscavige's personality traits. "In Scientology, it's called being in someone's valence," says Rinder. "Cruise has assumed a lot of Miscavige's qualities." Church literature defines the otherworldly-sounding concept of valence in part as "another's identity assumed by a person unknowingly; a valence is a substitute self taken on after the fact of lost confidence in self or a failed valence or as a solution to a problem."
Karen De La Carriere, who says she was one of Scientology's most well-known and respected auditors until she left in 2010, notes Cruise was "practically channeling" Miscavige during his widely mocked interview with Today's Matt Lauer in 2005.
"The way he lit into Matt Lauer, calling him glib and attacking him -- that was exactly how David Miscavige deals with people," says De La Carriere. "That was the purest example of how Tom is in Miscavige's valence. It's a scary thing to watch."
If true, being in Miscavige's valence might be why Cruise remains so devoted to him amid what former Scientologists say are Miscavige's frequent betrayals of the actor.
Former Scientologists told Vanity Fair as well as THR that Miscavige openly mocked Cruise behind his back. (The letter Scientology lawyers sent to Vanity Fair and published on their own site denies that Miscavige read these files aloud; in fact, it denies their very existence.)
"Miscavige doesn't give a damn about Cruise," says Tom DeVocht, who worked closely with Miscavige for years until he left the church in 2005. DeVocht says his belief that Miscavige and Cruise were close friends was shattered when he was with them both at the premiere of Vanilla Sky in 2001.
"As soon as Tom was out of earshot, Miscavige started putting him down," says DeVocht. "He made fun of Tom's new SUV that Tom had made a point of showing us. Dave said his car was better. Tom was with Penelope Cruz at the time, but after the premiere was over, the first thing Miscavige said to me was: 'Penelope isn't going to work out. She doesn't make eye contact with me.' "
Because Scientologists at every level are strongly discouraged from reading newspaper articles about the church or watching TV news reports, Cruise might never learn that Miscavige allegedly ridiculed him openly and trashed him behind his back.
But if he ever did find out, watch out: "If the dupe ever links up," says Rinder, using church jargon -- meaning, if Cruise ever realizes Miscavige might have been disloyal -- "I don't think he'll try to take over the church, but I do think he'd turn on Miscavige like a rabid dog."
(For anyone working on a conspiracy theory, former senior church officials who have fled Scientology in recent years because of Miscavige say Cruise could never take over the organization. "He's just a movie star; he isn't remotely capable of carrying out the administrative skills," says De La Carriere, who notes Scientology executives must familiarize themselves with and master an enormous body of writings that entail the running of the church.)
De La Carriere says there is another reason for what many see as Cruise's baffling loyalty to Scientology despite the barrage of bad press he gets for it. "People wonder all the time how anyone can stay in a church that sounds so horrible and creepy … but no one ever really explains why," she says. "Well, why do you think all of us stayed in for 25, 30 or 35 years? We're not stupid, and we didn't want to be part of what the church has become either."
What non-Scientologists don't understand, says De La Carriere, is how some of the church's so-called technology can have an enormous and life-changing effect on adherents. "It's as if you almost feel like a supernatural being. Have you heard of remote viewing? I'm not talking about airy-fairy, woo-hoo nonsense," she says. "Every now and then during auditing sessions, you feel as if you have left your body and you're looking at it from 3 feet away. Tom is hooked on that. Most people are once they're lucky enough to get a taste of that euphoria."