NEW YORK - Andrew Morton, author of "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography," published by St. Martin's Press, claims that the 45-year-old actor ranks second in command in the Church of Scientology.
The book, which came out this week, also says that some Scientologists believe that Cruise's daughter Suri was conceived using frozen sperm from Scientology founder and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Cruise's lawyer, Bertram Fields, said Wednesday that Morton's book is "absolutely loaded with false statements" and "Mr. Morton should be ashamed of himself for telling such vicious lies about a child to hype sales of his book."
The church has responded with a 15-page statement, calling the book "a bigoted, defamatory assault replete with lies" and saying Cruise "is a Scientology parishioner and holds no official or unofficial position in the Church hierarchy."
The 54-year-old Morton, who has written books about Princess Diana, David and Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, Madonna and Monica Lewinsky talked about his book in an interview with the AP.
AP: Why Cruise?
Morton: When I saw him jumping on Oprah's couch in 2005, I realized the mask had slipped. Here is this man who for years has been in control and controlling. He's been hiding behind the mask. I thought here is a window to get an insight into this man who has come from nowhere to become one of the dominating characters in the film world and elsewhere.
AP: Did you ask Cruise to be interviewed for the book?
Morton: I asked Tom for an interview and he declined. The Church of Scientology has got a very controversial reputation and that is what he is linked with. An unauthorized biography would essentially be a compromise. ... I want to investigate it without any kind of fetters.
AP: Rogers & Cowan, the publicity firm that represents Cruise, issued a statement criticizing Morton for not interviewing "one person who has known or worked with Tom" in the past 25 years? Is that true?
Morton: Well, I've been working on this for the last two years. I interviewed everyone from scriptwriters to producers to actors to actresses to teachers to girlfriends to pupils to Scientologists to people who have audited him.
AP: There have been reports that you were threatened by Scientologists while making this book.
Morton: In fairness to them (Scientologist), they haven't harassed me. They have sent threatening, legal messages as they are entitled to do.
AP: Cruise's lawyer, Bertram Fields, says this book is "packed with lies." What is your response?
Morton: I've got a reputation as a very careful biographer. ... I have spent over two years carefully researching this book. ... I think I presented a very fair and balanced portrait of an intriguing and fascinating character.
AP: How do you view Cruise?
Morton: I see him as a man who is linked to his faith of Scientology, someone who has transcended his role as a film star to become a Hollywood powerhouse and also someone who walks the corridors of power, meets presidents and prime ministers.
AP: You say in your book is that Cruise is second in command at the Church of Scientology. What evidence do you have?
Morton: Scientology would be a shadow of what it is today if it had not been for the involvement of Tom Cruise. He has been the poster boy. More than that, he has been recruiting fellow celebrities -- people like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith. ... More than that, he's been the frontman for the organization. Not just bringing people in, but seeing all the politicians, the movers and shakers in society to proselytize for his faith. In a way, he has also compromised himself as an actor by some of his behavior and some of his attacks, for example, on Brooke Shields for taking drugs for postpartum depression. That alienated a lot of his fans, especially women.
What happens when they try to recruit. It is not like, here's a leaflet, sign up. It is a slow and gradual process that could take a number of years. ... In order to give his faith some respectability, they always feel that if you get celebrities in, it brings people in. I've lost count of the number of people I've spoken to, former Scientologists who have said to me, 'I joined because I thought if it is good enough for Tom Cruise, if it is good enough for John Travolta, then it is good enough for me.'
AP: Some of your critics say that you only interviewed disgruntled, former Scientologists and not any practicing Scientologists for the book.
Morton: I interviewed Scientologists who have left. They are not necessarily disgruntled. They are people who have spent half their lives in the organization, reaching very high levels both of personal achievement and within the executive branch. It's not that they all have an ax to grind. They've all got an insight into what goes on there and Tom's involvement in the cause.
AP: You also say in your book that Scientology is to blame for Cruise and Nicole Kidman's break up.
Morton: What happened is that Nicole started to pull away from Scientology. She said in an interview ... that there was a little bit of Scientology in her, a little bit of Buddhism but also Catholicism. That sent alarm bells ringing inside Scientology ... and Tom was sent in and took this course which is called a PTSSP course which is to basically anchor yourself to the faith and to treat the outside world with more suspicion because it is a self-contained cocooned world. You become more distant from the people who no longer believe in you, who no longer believe in the faith and one of those was Nicole Kidman. Having said all that, when Nicole was sitting after the break up and sobbing into her handkerchief and saying to her friend, "Why did he leave?" She had no real answer. ... She was always seen as somewhat of a problem because her father is a psychiatrist and Scientologists loathe psychiatry.
AP: Does Katie Holmes have a contract with Cruise?
Morton: I think ... in a way there is a parallel between her story and that of Princess Diana. Diana was enamored with Prince Charles when she was a schoolgirl, she had his picture on the wall and was telling her school friends that one day she would marry him. Similarly, with Katie, she used to tell her sisters that one day she would marry Tom Cruise. When she was on the set of "Dawson's Creek," she was teased mercilessly because she had this crush on Tom Cruise. When she met him ... he had her at hello. Very soon afterward, she found herself alienated from her friends. She found herself surrounded by Scientologists. She got rid of her manager. She got rid of her management.
Observers who interviewed her at the time used to call her deadeye Katie. The reason why that was significant is because she got her job as Joey on "Dawson's Creek" in the first place because of her incredible eyes, because of the life and sparkle in her eyes. It seemed to people who were interviewing her at the time that she changed and changed significantly.