*Cue the lawyers and other supporters of the controversial Church of Scientology because some ish is about to go down! For one, when you start attacking people’s faith base, well – ‘dems fightin’ words…and for another, HBO must have their dukes up because they are putting the finishing touches on a scandalous documentary on the Church, according to The Hollywood Reporter, who describes the film as “a bombshell” that will reveal why it has a hold on some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Er, you DO know brother, Isaac Hayes, was one of ’em, right?
The film is set to air sometime in 2015. And the only casting info released by HBO is that Academy Award winning actor, Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) is confirmed.
You can expect new revelations about the controversial church as well as some of its famous followers, like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Isaac Hayes was also a longtime devotee prior to his death on August 10, 2008. In his final years, Hayes was the voice of Chef on the popular series, “South Park,” but according to celebrity writer Roger Friedman, who called himself a “friend” of Hayes, the Church wanted Hayes out because the show “lampooned Scientology.”
Push came to shove on Nov. 16, 2005, when ‘South Park’ aired its hilarious “Trapped in the Closet” episode spoofing Tom Cruise and John Travolta. “South Park” creator Matt Stone told me later that Isaac had come to him in tears.
“He said he was under great pressure from Scientology, and if we didn’t stop poking at them, he’d have to leave,” Stone said.
According to Friedman, the conversation ended there. Isaac performed Chef’s signature song at the Blues Ball a week later with great delight. Although he was devoted to Scientology, he also loved being part of “South Park.” He was proud of it. And, importantly, it gave him income he badly needed.
The film, allegedly based on the book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright, could be finished as early as January 2015, just in time for submission into the Sundance Film Festival.
Still, its probably no assumption that no matter how well documented it is, no matter how well it sits in the truth, the notoriously litigious Church of Scientology is likely going to have a problem with it.
Wright’s book apparently stemmed from his 2011 New Yorker Magazine profile of filmmaker, Oscar winner and former Scientologist, Paul Haggis, who incurred the church’s wrath following his very public exit in 2009; followed by criticism in the media of its teachings and behavior toward members.
But HBO is not worried about backlash. According to Sheila Nevins, HBO’s president of documentary films, they are ready for anything. “We have probably 160 lawyers (looking at the film),” she told THR.
This turns out to be an exaggeration for effect, but it is true the cable network has many lawyers on standby, which they might need.
For instance, “Going Clear,” a National Book Award finalist in the U.S., was never published in Britain because the church exerted pressure on the British publisher, which then dropped it on advice from its lawyers, according to a Huffington Post article.
When THR excerpted Wright’s book in January 2013, it focused on the church’s “seduction” of Cruise and its role in his divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman. A church spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, responded with a long, written statement critical of Wright.
“The one thing ‘clear’ about Lawrence Wright’s book is that he continues to carry water for a handful of angry, bitter individuals led by a pathological liar still consumed with vengeance a decade after being removed for malfeasance. Mr. Wright produced a work of fiction that does little more than regurgitate six decades of false, bizarre tabloid allegations about the religion’s Founder, its leadership and its prominent members,” the statement said.
HBO did a documentary in 1998 called “Dead Blue: Surviving Depression,” and although not specifically about Scientology, the film angered Scientologists and inspired protests at HBO’s NYC headquarters because it presented anti-depressant drugs in a positive light.