“Crash” director Paul Haggis, pictured here at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, isn’t done with the Church of Scientology yet.
Screenwriter and director Paul Haggis’ public exit from the Church of Scientology continues with a long exposé in this month’s issue of The New Yorker, in which Haggis describes his troubled early years, his initial embrace of L. Ron Hubbard’s religion and the fallout from his very visible sign-off from Scientology. Also, actor Josh Brolin chimes in with a “really fucking bizarre” moment he says he witnessed between John Travolta and an injured Marlon Brando.
The New Yorker:
Tommy Davis told me, “People started calling me, saying, ‘What’s this letter Paul sent you?’ ” The resignation letter had not circulated widely, but if it became public it would likely cause problems for the church. The St. Petersburg Times exposé had inspired a fresh series of hostile reports on Scientology, which has long been portrayed in the media as a cult. And, given that some well-known Scientologist actors were rumored to be closeted homosexuals, Haggis’s letter raised awkward questions about the church’s attitude toward homosexuality. Most important, Haggis wasn’t an obscure dissident; he was a celebrity, and the church, from its inception, has depended on celebrities to lend it prestige. In the past, Haggis had defended the religion; in 1997, he wrote a letter of protest after a French court ruled that a Scientology official was culpable in the suicide of a man who fell into debt after paying for church courses. “If this decision carries it sets a terrible precedent, in which no priest or minister will ever feel comfortable offering help and advice to those whose souls are tortured,” Haggis wrote. To Haggis’s friends, his resignation from the Church of Scientology felt like a very public act of betrayal. They were surprised, angry, and confused. “ ‘Destroy the letter, resign quietly’—that’s what they all wanted,” Haggis says.