Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis has condemned the media for its failure to hold Tom Cruise accountable for the movie star’s leading position in the controversial Church of Scientology.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Haggis, a former Scientologist who belonged to the church for 35 years, criticized journalists for failing to follow up with Cruise on allegations leveled against the religion in the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Haggis details his own time inside Scientology in the film, which premiered to massive ratings earlier this year on the pay-cable network.
“We forgive anybody anything if they’re a movie star, I guess!” the Crash writer-director told the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern about why Cruise’s latest Mission Impossible film has performed well at the box office despite the controversy.
When Stern pointed out that journalists failed to ask Cruise about any of the Scientology allegations during the Mission Impossible press tour, Haggis said he wasn’t surprised: “Yeah, because then they can’t get the interview.”
“Well, fine, but there are things called journalistic integrity, and there are things more important than promoting a movie sometimes,” Haggis told the outlet. “It was so glaringly obvious. There was this huge elephant there, and every journalist agreed not to address it. Why? You’re just a PR person at that point. Shame on you.”
Haggis’s criticism echoes that of Going Clear director Alex Gibney, who called on Cruise to address the allegations after an early screening of the film at HBO headquarters in New York in March.
“It seems to me [Cruise] has an obligation to speak out,” Gibney said at the time, calling the actor’s silence “palpably irresponsible.”
Haggis also discussed his new HBO miniseries Show Me A Hero, which premiered last week. The series, set between 1987 and 1993, follows Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) as he attempts to get a federally-mandated public housing facility built in a white, middle-class part of town. Haggis directed all six episodes of the miniseries off of a script from The Wire creator David Simon.
Haggis told the Daily Beast that despite parallels between the events depicted in the miniseries and race issues in the United States today, he began working on Show Me A Hero before Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.
Haggis was also asked whether he thought race relations had improved since the 2004 release of his Academy Award-winning film Crash, which dealt with racial tension in Los Angeles.
I remember a review when Crash came out and it said, “You know what? If this movie came out ten years ago, we’d call it brave and timely, but we don’t have these problems anymore.” Honest to God. That day I was reading it, there was a race riot in Santa Monica. As liberals, we love to think we’ve solved problems because we’re good people, and we wouldn’t let these things exist. All we do is throw enough money at them and a little bit of attention to make them go away so we can’t see them right now, and then we feel better going about our lives and going off and doing our shopping and daily routines. That’s what Crash was about. It was the people who thought they were “good” people who paid the biggest price, and the people who were closer to understanding it were the folks who were the racists, who were bigoted. They were wrong—dead wrong—but at least they were engaged in the conversation instead of living in denial. I don’t know which one is better, but denial doesn’t solve anything.
Despite the tough criticism of his fellow liberals, Haggis didn’t take it any easier on conservatives, whose views on immigration the director characterized as “politics of fear.”
“Immigration? They believe people with different-colored skin will come and take your job, and steal your wife, and date your sister, or they’ll come in with big knives and guns and kill you,” Haggis said. “That’s their politics right now, really. Those topics you mentioned (ISIS, abortion) are all problems we should be discussing, but there are so many more here in front of us that are being ignored.”
Check out Haggis’s complete interview with the Daily Beast here.
Parts three and four of the six-part Show Me A Hero premiere Sunday night on HBO.