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Paul Haggis -- the London, Ont.-born producer, writer, and director -- has a lot to be proud of. He has won countless awards for films like "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," he's happily married to former "Dallas" actress Deborah Renard, and you can practically go swimming in his ocean-blue eyes.
But the 59-year-old entertainment pro has been outspoken about one aspect of his life he regrets: his time devoted to Scientology. On Thursday night, the NBC news show "Rock Center With Brian Williams" called Haggis "the most famous Scientologist to leave the church and speak out about it," as the Oscar winner revealed more details about the 35 years he spent as an active member of the controversial religion that he considers a cult.
"I was ashamed of my own stupidity, of how I could have been so purposely blind for so many years," Haggis said after being asked why he chose to leave Scientology in 2009. The director revealed that he performed his own research, discovering reports of abuse, involuntary confinement, and child labour within the higher levels of Scientology. See also: Why was Katie Holmes in court?
At first he admits Scientology helped him, like "a good self-help book," but says his decision to leave was viewed as "a treasonous act." "If you have an enemy and they've declared themselves an enemy, that's a bad thing. But if you have a friend who then stabs you in the back, that's worse. And that's what they claim I did, and that's actually what I did," he said. "You've got these folks inside this fortress who won't look out and won't look at any criticism and can't bear the investigation, and they think everybody is against them. How would you describe that? It's a cult."
This was Haggis's first TV interview about his time with Scientology, but it's definitely not the first time the world has heard Haggis's personal thoughts on the religion. Most recently, he spoke out about reports of Tom Cruise's "wife-auditioning" and Cruise's short-lived relationship with actress Nazanin Boniadi before choosing to marry Katie Holmes.
"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," Haggis told Showbiz 411 in September.
Cruise, 50, holds the opposite opinion when it comes to Scientology. His involvement in the religion apparently led to his and Holmes's highly publicized divorce last year, in which Holmes was awarded custody of their 6-year-old daughter, Suri. Cruise's former wife Nicole Kidman, refuses to comment on Scientology out of respect for her children with Cruise. Nevertheless, their marriage is discussed in Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright's upcoming book, "Going Clear," which seeks to examine Scientology's relationship with celebrities.
"Parenthood" actress Erika Christensen, meanwhile, spoke out recently in support of the beliefs of Scientology, which she shares with stars like Cruise, Kirstie Alley, Beck, and John Travolta.
"[People assume] we're some kind of closed group and we're just the Hollywood religion and we worship rabbits," Christensen said, having been raised by Scientologist parents. "If I had to sum it up, the goal of Scientology is giving the person back to themselves. Like, your own power of choice."
Whether or not there are rabbits involved, it seems like Hollywood cannot stop talking about this mysterious religion.