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Haggis says he's felt personal blow from speaking out against Scientology
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:18AM EST
TORONTO - Paul Haggis is making headlines around the world for denouncing the Church of Scientology, but the Oscar-winning director doesn't think the rebuke will affect his career.
Rather, the Canadian filmmaker says he has felt a personal blow since speaking out against the controversial religion, which boasts several influential Hollywood devotees, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
A lengthy New Yorker article hits stands Monday detailing Haggis's complaints with the church, which the 57-year-old filmmaker left in 2009 after nearly 35 years and now denounces as a cult.
During a visit to Toronto on Wednesday, the director said he's lost one friend since the story broke online, in addition to several others who have turned their backs on him since he left the church.
"It's had a bit of an impact -- a lot of people aren't speaking to me anymore, but it's a personal impact," Haggis said of fallout from his condemnation of the group, founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952.
In the article, Haggis tells author Lawrence Wright that the religion helped him make key Hollywood connections early in his career.
On Wednesday, he doubted the nearly 25,000-word piece -- which traces Haggis' discovery of Scientology as a young man in London, Ont., to his rise as one of its most celebrated members -- would derail his filmmaking.
"I sort of eke my way through my career as it is, anyway," Haggis said, smiling.
The article notes that Haggis left the church over its opposition to gay marriage and the way it allegedly treats detractors.
He tells Wright that he had ascended "all the way to the top" but became disillusioned when his daughter Katy was allegedly ostracized after coming out as a lesbian.
The "Crash" director wondered Wednesday whether his recent comments will prompt other followers to question the church. "It's hard to say what influences people. I don't know. It's when you're inside something like that that it's hard to know what will get through to you. Nothing got through to me for a long time." The New Yorker article includes excerpts from a scathing resignation letter in which Haggis tells the church's chief spokesman he was "horrified" by reports alleging that senior executives had beaten members.
On Wednesday, the soft-spoken Haggis suggested that the impact of his actions will be felt in the coming weeks.
"When I wrote the letter I didn't think anyone would pay any attention ... so we'll find out. It's a fascinating time," said Haggis, who also wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film "Million Dollar Baby."
"I think we'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks."
Haggis, whose last film was the Russell Crowe action vehicle "The Next Three Days," made the comments Wednesday ahead of a public talk at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, where he was expected to discuss his career.
Wright, who notes that Scientology officials have denied the allegations, is working on a book about the controversial church and Haggis's lengthy involvement.
In the article, Haggis predicts that his attack will not be without consequence.
"My bet is that, within two years, you're going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church."