x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Church of Scientology denies auditioning partners for Tom Cruise

Accusations to be published in next month's issue of Vanity Fair are false, officials say.

A representative for Tom Cruise has denied accusations hurled by a Vanity Fair article that the Church of Scientology allegedly auditioned women to find a girlfriend for the actor in 2004.

"Vanity Fair's story is essentially a rehash of tired old lies previously run in the supermarket tabloids, quoting the same bogus 'sources'," Bert Fields, Cruise's lawyer, told CNN.

According to the article, appearing in the magazine's October issue, the British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi was selected and dated Cruise from November 2004 to January 2005. Boniadi reportedly tried to break away from the relationship early on but was threatened by Scientology officials. She is no longer a member of the church.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Church of Scientology said: "There was no project, secret or otherwise, ever conducted by the church to find a bride for any member of the church. Never."

Meanwhile, a new film that screened at the Venice Film Festival this week features Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a charismatic religious leader loosely based on Scientology's founder L Ron Hubbard.

In The Master, Hoffman's character takes a troubled Second World War veteran, played by a feral Joaquin Phoenix, under his wing in the latest work by the Oscar-winning director Paul Thomas Anderson.

The film starts with Phoenix as Freddie Quell and his rapid descent into mental illness after the end of the war. He is rescued by Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, who vows to treat him as "my guinea pig and protege". Although there are no explicit references to Scientology in the film, there are strong parallels between the group and Dodd's sect, The Cause.

Anderson admits the film is inspired by Hubbard but insists it was not intended as a biography, saying: "I was naive. I should have known that's what people would latch on to."