When Judd Apatow criticized Tom Cruise over his Scientology beliefs at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Feb. 18, he demonstrated that people in Hollywood may have been less afraid to publicly criticize the actor or the controversial cult organization, a former Scientology Executive. he said.
Karen Pressley, who spent two decades as a recruiter at the Scientology Celebrity Center, said it was especially surprising that Apatow, the awards host, took not-so-subtle takes aim at the “Top Gun” star’s alleged choice to distance herself from his daughter. Suri after her 2012 divorce from Katie Holmes. Vanity Fair first reported in 2012 that Holmes left Cruise in part because she didn’t want her daughter, now 16, to be raised in the Church of Scientology.
“These are serious digs,” Pressley said of Apatow’s jokes in a newly released podcast interview with journalist Tony Ortega, a leading critic of Scientology.
When roasting Cruise, Apatow first made some of the usual jokes about the actor’s height of 5’7″, his infamous 2005 couch jumping on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and his desire to pull off increasingly dangerous stunts in movies, such as how riding a motorcycle off a cliff, Variety reported. The famous producer and director turned to the actor’s controversial statements about psychiatry and medication and made a striking reference to his personal life and his choices as a father.
“The only thing he seems to be afraid of is co-parenting and antidepressants,” joked Apatow. “I doubled my Prozac today just for this. I doubled! Do you think if Tom Cruise took antidepressants he would say, ‘I’m not jumping off a cliff (expletive). I am rich!'”
Pressley said Apatow’s reference to Cruise’s alleged estrangement from his daughter was “huge, really huge” in terms of people feeling increasingly free to criticize Cruise for adhering to controversial Scientology practices.
Pressley shared his belief that Cruise was so “radicalized” by the church that he would allegedly “abandon” his daughter and break up his first two marriages to Mimi Rodgers and Nicole Kidman at the organization’s behest. Pressley discussed the “double-edged sword” of Cruise’s “brand”.
“Everyone who works with Cruise on a professional level: they see his brand,” began Pressley. “He’s a guy who is now in the running jokes because he abandoned his daughter, broke up three marriages and supports a cult that is involved in prosecutions for human trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse and so on.”
“These are his values,” Pressley continued. “And yet he is a fabulous filmmaker. On a professional level, his brand is superlative-when it comes to making movies. But when it comes to his personal values, he is labeled a vile human being. … I think he really deserves it because his values are at the bottom. He turns a blind eye to crime and oppression.”
Cruise’s reported decision not to be a part of Suri’s life, leaving ex-wife Holmes to raise her alone, is related to Scientology’s “disconnection” policy, according to former members. The church expects members to cut ties with friends, colleagues and even close family members who are considered “potential sources of trouble” or “repressive people”. Former Scientologists, including Pressley, who left the church in 1998, say the disconnect has broken marriages and separated children from their parents.
Presley agreed with Ortega that Cruise was probably not expected to “disconnect” from Suri, given his stature in Scientology. Ortega said that Cruise, unlike the lower-tier members, probably could have continued to see his daughter but chose not to. Presley said this choice indicates the extent of Cruise’s “radicalization”.
“Let’s just look at Cruise’s life,” Presley said. “This guy’s family life is very unsuccessful. I have to believe it was because of radicalization.”
Following Apatow’s quips, some publications noted that he and Cruise have “a history”. In 2021, Apatow’s friend and collaborator Seth Rogen told Howard Stern that Cruise tried to recruit him and Apatow into Scientology in 2005, Indiewire reported. That was the year Cruise drew negative attention to himself by promoting “War of the Worlds,” jumping on Winfrey’s couch to proclaim his love for Holmes and pressing Scientology’s opposition to psychiatric medications in a controversial interview with the host of “Today ”, Matt Lauer.
Rogen said he and Apatow visited Cruise at his Los Angeles home and the “Mission: Impossible” star blamed the pharmaceutical industry for his recent bad publicity and compared his plight to the media’s treatment of his “friend” Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam.
“A few hours into the meeting, the Scientology stuff comes out,” Rogen recalled of his and Apatow’s meeting with Cruise. “He said, ‘I think the pharmaceutical industry is letting me down. You should see what they do to my friend Louis Farrakhan.’”
Rogen continued, “I’ll never forget the words he used: ‘It’s like with Scientology. If you let me tell you what it was really about, just give me 20 minutes to, like, really just tell you what it was about. You would say no (expletive). No way (expletive).’ I remember being like, the text was like, is that a nice thing to say?
The “Superbad” co-writer added that he and Apatow looked at each other during the “very charged moment” and hoped they could “get out of this” encounter with Cruise without facing repercussions for turning down Scientology. Presley confirmed that in the past Scientology would organize public relations campaigns to discredit and silence critics. He would even hire private investigators to find embarrassing private information about a critic that he could make public.
Nearly 20 years later, Apatow didn’t seem too concerned about the repercussions when he joked about Cruise and Scientology at the Directors Guild Awards. With the church’s power appearing to be waning, it’s unclear whether it would mount an effort to discredit Apatow, but Presley said it wouldn’t be surprising if, in the near future, some scandal was linked to him.
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