When it comes to evangelizing, Tom Cruise today stands as the Jimmy Swaggart of Scientology. But there was a time, say insiders, when the controversial church almost lost the star.
About 10 years ago, after being introduced to the sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard's sect by ex-wife Mimi Rogers,
Cruise had achieved the Operating Thetan III level of instruction (in which true believers are said to learn the story of the cosmic ruler Xenu).
The stress of learning - or believing? - that Xenu stacked his alien enemies in volcanoes, and then blew them up with H-bombs, was starting to wear on Cruise, according to one Scientology veteran who trained with Cruise.
He was "pretty screwed up," the source tells Kim Masters in Radar magazine. "He just got that pasty skin and that foolish look.
"He just wanted Scientology to be away from him. He wanted to do no more auditing [the church's mind-cleansing program], just nothing with any of that stuff, just go back to Hollywood."
Apparently worried that he was ready to bolt their Celebrity Center, his instructors are said to have backed off.
Cruise was "taken off any kind of real heavy auditing and [told], 'Let's have some fruit, let's get exercise, come to the exercise room,'" says his audit-mate. "'Let's play basketball.'"
Cruise later embraced the faith with renewed vigor. In 2002, sources say, he came to the aid of fellow Scientologist Colleen Camp during her divorce from Paramount president John Goldwyn.
When Goldwyn claimed in divorce papers that the church was holding up the dissolution of his marriage, Cruise sought to head off bad press by confronting Goldwyn in front of his then-boss, Sherry Lansing. Mindful that Cruise's contract with the studio was up for renewal, Goldwyn withdrew the offending papers. (Goldwyn declined comment.)
Another studio exec is said to have asked Cruise to temper his discussion of Scientology while promoting "War of the Worlds" - to no avail. "[He] does what he does," the executive told Masters.
While Steven Spielberg doesn't criticize his star, his rep Marvin Levy said the director regretted that media attention to the actor's proselytizing "took some of the emphasis away from where we would have liked it."