Leah Remini & Paul Haggis Dish On Life As Hollywood Scientologists

Photo: Debra L Rothenberg/WireImage.
Last night, a Hollywood actress and an Oscar-winning director sat down together at the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca, NYC, to talk about their 30 years in the Church of Scientology — and what it was like to leave it all behind.

Remini, known best for her role as Carrie on The King of Queens, wrote a book called Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology that hit shelves this week. Following last week's 20/20 special, Remini has been busy hitting the talk-show circuit — so settling in for a chat with her friend Haggis, the writer-director behind Oscar-winners Crash and Million Dollar Baby, must’ve felt like a comfortable break.

Or, rather, as comfortable as one can feel when discussing a highly publicized departure from an organization as rich, powerful, and storied as the Church of Scientology. (Haggis claims the Church has $2 billion in free cash flow.) Not surprisingly, Remini’s lawyers stood nervously on the sidelines; cellphones and video cameras were strictly prohibited. Haggis asked Remini, a second-generation Scientologist who left the organization two years ago, about everything from growing up in the church to the fallout of leaving it. (“You have to wake up and decide one morning to leave your whole family.”)

There’s been no shortage of both personal anecdotes and investigative reporting on the hard-to-believe inner workings of the massive organization — from Remini’s fierce tell-all to HBO’s revelatory documentary, Going Clear. Still, it’s rare to see two high-profile ex-members trading details on their experiences, even given the organization's close association with Hollywood. (Ahem, Tom Cruise.)

Below, a few of the more startling statements from Remini and Haggis on the ties between Hollywood and Scientology.

The church knows how to stroke actors’ egos.
Remini said that the accolades she received as she moved up in the ranks boosted her self-importance. “That’s powerful to feel important, especially as an actor,” she explained. “I felt like I had this one up on people.”

There are lots of famous ex-Scientologists — but they’re afraid to say anything.
“There are some really well-known people who’ve left that you’ve never known were Scientologists,” Haggis said, because they’re told by the industry — agents, friends, fellow ex-members — to keep their mouths shut. Actors are told, "Walk away. Don't say anything. It will hurt your career," according to Haggis. "People are really good at selling silence." Remini said she was advised as much. (It's worth noting, for example, Katie Holmes' tight lips on her experience in the church.)

Celebrities aren’t immune to being disciplined.
Speaking about church prisons, “We know personally there is one,” Haggis said. “It’s called the RPF [Rehabilitation Project Force].” ­Yikes.

Scientology can make you a better actor.

Both Haggis and Remini explained how the church is big on honing members’ communication skills, which comes in handy when you spend half your days in auditions. “[Scientology] teaches you how to walk into a room and own it.” Though, the room-owning happening last night was probably not what the church had in mind.

There is no such thing as loyalty among Hollywood Scientologists.

Haggis said that among the people who cut him off after he left — or “disconnected” from him per church policy — are “people who’ve won Emmys because of me” and “people whose careers I’ve made.” The single exception? Remini. “The reason I am here is because there’s only one person who didn’t disconnect from me when I left.”
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