It’s not easy to get information about the Church of Scientology. The community is both tight-lipped and litigious, a combination that makes it difficult to find people willing to talk about it. But Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth tracked down several former members who claim the church went on a search to find the ideal love interest for Tom Cruise. Before Katie Holmes, a woman named Nazanin Boniadi was being groomed to be the next Mrs. Tom Cruise. (Church officials denied most—if not all—of the details in the story. In a statement, Cruise’s lawyer called it “a rehash of tired old lies.”)
From the auditioning process to the confidentiality agreements, a few highlights from the full article:
The piece opens with a quote from Cruise, who in 2004 asked Scientology officials, “Can you believe my sister can’t even get me a girlfriend?” Cruise had recently divorced actress Nicole Kidman, and the church’s leader, David Miscavige, was concerned that any new love interest might steer the actor away from Scientology, according to Orth. Miscavige was reportedly unhappy with Kidman’s lack of adherence to the teachings of the church and wanted to find Cruise a mate who would fully embrace Scientology—especially since Cruise was becoming more involved in the church and promising to donate more money to its coffers.
Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, was tapped to lead a top-secret process designed to evaluate potential girlfriends, Orth reports. The plan was simple: actresses already affiliated with the church were asked to audition for a training video, asked about their feelings toward Cruise, and then analyzed by the higher-ups for suitability. Dozens of women were interviewed, but it took a while before they found the right candidate.
The New Girlfriend
Church leaders finally settled on Nazanin Boniadi, who Orth describes as a “gorgeous, petite, Iranian-born woman in her mid-20s who had been raised in London and whose mother was also a Scientologist.” A violinist, Boniadi had graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in biological sciences and was planning to go to medical school. According to Orth, she was sent to Hollywood to meet with high-ranking church officials who “told her she had been selected for a very hush-hush mission that would entail meeting dignitaries around the world.” She then launched into a monthlong training program that included daily auditing—Scientology’s rough equivalent of confession—and being asked about her sex life. Boniadi was told to remove her braces, even though her teeth wouldn’t be fixed for another six months, and to ditch her red highlights. She was also ordered to write a 20-page, single-spaced paper about her ideal husband, family, and work situation.
Once Boniadi got through the first set of hoops, she was made to sign a confidentiality agreement and was told that she would be declared an enemy of the church and shunned by its members, including her mother, if things didn’t go well. After meeting Cruise, she was given a second confidentiality agreement that specifically forbade her from talking about him. Boniadi signed both, Orth reports, but wasn’t allowed to keep a copy of either document. Her mother was also reportedly made to sign a confidentiality agreement even though she never met Cruise.
Boniadi first met Cruise at the Scientology center in New York. She felt the pressure immediately, reportedly being told by her handler, Greg Wilhere, “This is Mr. Cruise. We can’t let him down.” The pair—along with a handful of Scientology watchers—went to the Empire State Building, out for sushi at Nobu (a posh New York restaurant), and then had the rink at Rockefeller Center closed to the public so they could ice skate in privacy. The plan may seem romantic, but Orth found sources who told her that Boniadi had been asked what she’d want to do on a first date. Her answer? Sushi and ice skating. They spent the night together, but did not have sex, Orth writes. Boniadi is treated to a trip the next day to see the War of the Worlds set in Athens, N.Y., where Cruise kissed her in front of the extras.
Things Turn Sour
It didn’t take long for the situation to devolve. Cruise was reportedly upset by the way Boniadi reacted to him receiving Scientology’s Freedom Medal of Valor. (She is said to have told him “Very well done,” which Orth says he took as an insult because it implied he was “her junior.”) Boniadi wasn’t affectionate enough for Cruise, who once remarked, “I get more love from an extra than I get from you.” One source told Orth that Cruise brought in his hairstylist for Boniadi and wanted her incisor teeth filed down.
Offending David Miscavige
Around New Year’s, the Miscaviges visited Cruise and Boniadi at his house in Telluride. Boniadi was unable to keep up David’s rapid cadence, and had to ask for clarification several times, interjecting with “Excuse me?” Cruise was reportedly furious over the conversation. The next day the Miscaviges left, and Cruise lit into Boniadi for offending David, calling her disrespectful. After the incident, Cruise became withdrawn and essentially checked out of the relationship, according to Orth.
“This is Mr. Cruise. We can’t let him down.”
The End of the Relationship
By January, Boniadi was told Cruise no longer wanted to be with her, but he didn’t break up with her himself. The message came from church leaders, who told her Cruise wanted a partner who “has her own power, like Nicole,” Orth reports. As Boniadi left his house in Los Angeles, he was working out in his gym. She was told not to disturb him on her way out.
Even though Cruise didn’t break up with Boniadi himself, he paid for her “counseling” and atonement at Scientology’s center in Clearwater, Fla. Though she couldn’t mention Cruise, a video of him played “near her in a constant loop,” writes Orth. When Boniadi broke down and told a friend about the relationship, a report was written up and she was punished. For two months, Boniadi was allegedly forced to “scrub toilets with a toothbrush on her hands and knees, clean bathroom tiles with acid, and dig ditches in the middle of the night,” Orth adds. “She was also harangued for hours and made to confess what a horrible human being she was. After that, she was sent out to hawk L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics book on street corners.”
What’s a thetan? Who goes to the Sea Org? A cheat sheet for Scientology’s key terms.
Astra Woodcraft grew up in the militaristic religious order of Scientology known as the Sea Organization—until she broke free. Her story, as told to Abigail Pesta.
After five years of marriage, Katie Holmes files for divorce from Tom Cruise. Lizzie Crocker and Ramin Setoodeh on the break up.
Former Page Six editor Paula Froelich joins John Avlon to discuss the planet's biggest divorce story. An intriguing subplot of the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split, according to Froelich: how Scientology's leaders had hopes that Suri Cruise could one day rise in the church's ranks.