Musician Behind Anti-Scientology Rap: 'The Master' a 'Game-Changer' (Q&A)
He looks like Tom Cruise, drives a red motorcycle like Tom Cruise and, up until 2010, he says he believed like Tom Cruise.
The son of two Italian Scientologists, Milan-born musician Tiziano Lugli, 34, says he was immersed from early childhood in the ways of the church. Before even making a permanent move to Los Angeles in his late 20s to further his recording career, Lugli claims, he had already gained access to the highest levels of the organization and was rubbing elbows with top-tier celebrity adherents like Cruise and Kirstie Alley.
But as doubts about Scientology's merits began to creep in, Lugli says he and his wife were swiftly excommunicated. Lugli has since made it his life's mission to help others leave what he calls a "dangerous cult."
His latest effort -- a protest rap featuring several high-profile former Scientologists, including Nazanin Boniadi, the former Cruise girlfriend profiled in a sensational Vanity Fair exposé -- has drawn a great deal of attention since a rough demo was posted to Gawker.com.
Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the Church, gave THR this statement about the video: “Tiziano Lugli’s so-called rap is nothing more than a thinly-veiled, desperate attempt to gain attention for himself in Hollywood and unworthy of comment.”
The Hollywood Reporter talked to Lugli about the song, "Blown for Good" -- the final version of which he's made available to THR -- as well as his own experiences fleeing the Church of Scientology.
Attempts to reach Scientology representatives for comment on Lugli and his protest rap have gone unanswered.
Listen to the song:
The Hollywood Reporter: How did "Blown for Good" come to be?
Lugli: [Former church member] Mark Headley wrote a book called Blown for Good. "Blown" is the term Scientologists use to say they’ve left, without properly “routing out" -- which means being subjected to interrogations until you figure out you’re not supposed to leave. About a year-and-a-half ago, we wrote a little rap together as a joke and thought why not have a lot of [blown Scientologists] rap on it. I told [former church executive] Marty Rathbun, and he [added his own] rap. A lot of these people had never rapped before. Naz [Boniadi] was one of my friends at the time and I was hanging around with her a lot. I wrote something and asked her if she wanted to do it.
THR: Why do you think so many former high-level Scientologists are coming out now so strongly against the church?
Lugli: Once the second-in-command, the third-in-command, the fourth, the fifth, everyone starts coming out, you listen. Everybody has a responsibility for having witnessed what they witnessed and having gone through what they’ve gone through to make sure no one else goes into the trap. And if they are already in the trap, maybe they’ll wake up.
THR: Was Paul Haggis coming out against the church in The New Yorker a game-changer?
Lugli: Everything is a game-changer. The Master is a game-changer. For me, [watching The Master] was deeper than for normal people who haven’t been in the cult.
THR: Why does the church continue to thrive?
Lugli: It hasn’t thrived in forever. The only thing they’re doing is squeezing the last bit of money from the last parishioners that they have to build these cathedral fronts. But stand outside the organization and count the people going in and out.
THR: So is the Church of Scientology going extinct?
Lugli: I think it’s already dead. It just takes a while to count the bodies.
THR: "Blown for Good" makes several lyrical references to Tom Cruise, calling him Miscavige's "BFF" and that "these half two men think they're really the bomb." Have you ever met Cruise?
Lugli: Yeah I met him, a few times. He seemed like a really nice guy. I was hanging out with his kid, Connor. I'd see him every day because we were in course study together and we'd chit-chat or play basketball or piano together. Tom would rarely come to Celebrity Center. There was a time when he was there for three to six months when he was fixing his house and he was living there. He had the sixth and seventh floor of the Celebrity Center. He would study in that room -- Number 303. Certain celebrities go there and there’s none of the military-style roll call of the regular classes.
THR: Who else did you see in Room 303?
Lugli: Priscilla Presley would be there in the mornings. Then you have John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman, Danny Masterson, Giovanni Ribisi, Juliette Lewis. Everyone has their own handler, their own auditor, their own personal ethics officer ... Tom Cruise’s mom would check me out [after study class] and make sure I could repeat certain [L. Ron Hubbard writings] verbatim. If I got them wrong, she’d go, “Flunk.” If I got them right, she’d say, "Pass," and sign my check sheet.
THR: Where do you think Tom Cruise is right now with regard to his involvement with the church, post-divorce and wanting access to Suri?
Lugli: It’s all a matter of speculation. I have no clue. He could still be drinking the Kool-Aid. Or he can figure out a way to restructure his life. It’s going to take a while and be very hush-hush. Who knows. I hope he wakes up. For you to chew the bullet and say, “I’ve f---ed up for over half my life, I’ve lived a life of delusion,” it’s too much for people to deal with. So you go into denial. What you do at that level is called “justifying the out-points,” within the church lingo. You start justifying the things that are wrong -- things that are obviously blatant mistakes or wrongdoings. But you can’t do it for that long with that [level of] abuse and that corruption that you’ve witnessed or been a part of.
THR: Did you live with Kirstie Alley?
Lugli: We were best friends for 10, 15 years. She’d stay at our house [in Italy] a lot, we would stay at her house. She’d rent a summer house in Florence and we’d stay there a month.
THR: Nazanin Boniadi calls her out by name in the song. Do you speak to Kirstie anymore?
Lugli: No, I’m shunned. Banned from talking to her and everybody around her -- all of her family and everyone who works for her. When I came out of the church, she called and wanted to know what the hell was going on and I wanted to meet with her. But others got to her before me, so I couldn’t even reach her after that. It’s so sad, but that’s the level of brainwashing we're talking about. She could be your closest friend. It could be your parents, your kids.
This article has been edited from a longer interview.
Pouw responded to the publication of this interview with this statement:
“As for his calling the Church of Scientology a cult, it shows that there is more work to do to rid this world of religious intolerance and bigotry that are hurtful to individuals of all religious persuasions. The Scientology religion is continuing to grow and its popularity is swelling because it offers unique answers to age old questions. The Church is growing at a record pace as evidenced by the proliferation of Church openings required to meet the growing needs of parishioners. That growth, as well as the good works of our staff and parishioners is documented at www.scientology.org. Anyone who reviews our programs will see for themselves our unwavering devotion to education, criminal reform, human rights and fighting drug abuse.”