Hollywood director Paul Haggis, a former Scientologist, is now accusing his former church of trying to spy on him under the guise of a journalist working with Time magazine.
Haggis, who was featured in the Alex Gibney HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief has previously chronicled harassment at the hands of members of the church, but now he tells Tony Ortega that on April 7, he received an email from a man named Mark Webber–who identified himself as a journalist–requesting an interview.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Webber claimed to be working on an article for Time. In the email, which was also obtained by the site, the man said he was interviewing several directors for a story titled the “Golden Age of Film,” which would mention Haggis’ Oscar-winning film Crash.
Haggis then forwarded the email to members of his staff so they could arrange a telephone interview with Webber, but the staff was unable to verify the man’s work. The staff then contacted Time’s entertainment editors, who disclosed that they had never heard of Webber, and they were working on no such article.
Haggis’ team then reportedly conducted an investigation into the origins of the email and found that it was sent from a computer at the Anthony Building at 5165 Fountain Avenue in Los Angeles, CA, which is allegedly owned by the Church of Scientology.
Additionally, the Yahoo email account the message originated from was reportedly created on April 1, less than a week before Haggis was contacted.
A representative for the Church of Scientology told The Hollywood Reporter the group “knows nothing about this.”
“There is no one with that name at that address, there is no such IP address at the Anthony Building on Fountain Avenue, it does not exist,” that person told the site. “The entire story is fabricated.”
The Webber email reads:
Dear Mr. Haggis,
I am writing a piece for Time Magazine on the ‘golden age’ of film. – I would very much like to interview you for the piece and include “Crash” as a example of recent film that has that beautiful cinematic ‘touch’
Other directors participating in the film include David Lynch, Jean-Luc Godard, Francis-Ford Coppola, Sam Mendes, Darren Arronofsky and David Fincher.
This can be done over the phone or via email. My deadline for the piece is April 15th, 4pm EST.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Haggis’ team attempted to contact Webber through email again, but he never replied.
In Going Clear, Haggis speaks candidly about his thoughts on reaching Scientology level OT III, which finally allows followers access to materials handwritten by Hubbard that tell the story of Xenu the galactic overlord and the church’s myth of creation.
In the film, he reacted with, “I’m like, what? The f**k are you talking about?”
Scientology has been accused multiple times over the years of stalking or bullying those critical of its teachings, especially former members. Haggis also spoke of a previous encounter with the church, where he was asked to interview with the group’s Freedom magazine:
Several years ago I was contacted by Scientology’s Freedom magazine. They were enraged by the New Yorker article and demanded that I agree to be interviewed by them. I asked them to send me their questions; they did. While some of the questions were quite ludicrous, I answered them all — and said I would gladly return it to them. I only had one condition, they had to publish the interview unedited. They would not agree to that, so it ended there.
He also stated the church is “infamous for taking and using quotes out of context.”
Read more details of allegations Haggis and others made here.