Louise Theroux said he thinks the Church of Scientology is “more scary” than reviled hate group the Westboro Baptist Church.
Theroux investigates Scientology for his new doc ‘My Scientology Movie’, which he calls the ‘the Holy Grail of Stories’.
In the film he tries and fails to enter the Church’s LA-based HQ, recreates scenes of alleged abuse by church leaders, and ends up pursued by Scientology members who are also making a documentary about him.
It’s not the first time Theroux has delved into controversial American religious groups. He won plaudits for his 2007 documentary ‘The Most Hated Family in America’, about the Westboro Baptist Church (famous for picketing soldiers’ funerals and their ‘god hates f**s’ placards) and we asked him to compare the two.
“I think Scientology is more scary [than the Westboro Baptist Church],” said Theroux.
“A lot of it is to do with how powerful they are. Compared to Westboro, which is around 75 people living in a few houses in Topeka, Kansas, Scientology is a multi-million dollar concern with offices all over world.”
“Westboro are basically Christians of a very odd sort, but other than their pickets they don’t harass journalists at home or make their lives uncomfortable or write… well actually they did write a horrible thing about me actually, they issued a press release, but Scientology seem to specialise in that, so I’d say Scientology are more scary.”
In the film Theroux hires an actor to play Tom Cruise so he can recreate a famously intense video the ‘Top Gun’ star made for the church. We asked Theroux why Cruise sticks with the religion despite its controversial reputation.
“It isn’t weird. I do think that Tom Cruise doesn’t make it his job to find out what’s going on inside Scientology,” said Theroux. “Celebrities who are in Scientology in general are only exposed to the most benign and positive aspects of it. They’re given platinum card treatment, right? Its like being in the ‘Admiral’s Lounge’ onboard a cruise ship. Every thing seems nice. ‘What’s the problem, this is great’. They don’t realise that down below deck there’s people slaving away, working all hours for low wages in order to make them be able to have that experience.”
Before releasing ‘My Scientology Movie’, Theroux said getting lawyers to sign off the project was an “arduous process” because of Scientology’s reputation for litigiousness.
“There’s certainly been a lot of legal letters going back and forth… threatening legal stuff,” he said. “It was an arduous process and it’s not a process I’m used to going through with the programs that I make. I’ve made programmes about religious cults, scary dangerous white supremacy groups. All sorts. But in this one there was a sense of nervous anxiety on the part of the BBC in general that we really had to get it right legally otherwise the BBC would be massively exposed.”
‘My Scientology Movie’ is in select cinemas for a short theatrical run. Find out where you can see the film HERE.