The Church of Scientology and reps for Tom Cruise have denied nearly all of Vanity Fair's claims that, in 2004, the church held auditions of sorts to find Cruise a new girlfriend.
The article claims that Nazanin Boniadi, then a devout Scientologist, was handpicked to become the actor's girlfriend from November 2004 to January 2005. When Boniadi didn't make the cut, she was sent to the Flag building in Clearwater, Fla. And when she finally broke down in tears to a "friend" about her ordeal with Cruise, she was allegedly punished by Scientology officials, who made her scrub toilets with a toothbrush, clean bathroom tiles with acid and dig ditches in the middle of the night. She was later sent out to hawk Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s "Dianetics" on street corners.
Boniadi herself isn't quoted in Vanity Fair's article, and has yet to comment on the story at all, but director and former Scientologist Paul Haggis, who cast the actress in his 2010 film "The Next Three Days," made comments to Showbiz411.com that appeared to insinuate Vanity Fair's story was accurate.
"Naz was embarrassed by her unwitting involvement in this incident and never wanted it to come out, so I kept silent. However I was deeply disturbed by how the highest ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members; how they so callously punished her and then so effectively silenced her when it was done. It wasn’t just the threats; they actually made her feel ashamed, when all she had been was human and trusting," he told the website.
Following his comment, Scientology struck back on Tuesday, with an official statement to Us Weekly, accusing Haggis of being in a relationship at some point with Boniadi.
Now Haggis has spoken out again against the church. In a letter to the Village Voice, he wrote that his previous statement should not be construed as corroborating Vanity Fair's story, as he hasn't read it, and he wasn't present for any of the incidents they described in the teaser they posted online on Saturday.
Haggis explains that he's "simply coming to the defense of a woman who has been publicly called a liar." The director, who was the subject of a lengthy New Yorker article about his defection from the church, writes that he was told Boniadi's story three years ago and he thought it was "very credible."
As to the church striking back with accusations that Haggis and Boniadi were once romantically involved, he writes:
But it is my understanding that Naz is the subject of this article, not the source of it. Scientology has a long and well-documented history of attempting to bully its critics into silence. Here they are bullying a woman who has yet to even speak. I guess I just don't like bullies.
For Paul Haggis' full letter, click over to The Village Voice.