TOM’S AUDITIONS FOR A NEW WIFE
The women who tried out for Tom Cruise tell all
She had to be perfect in every way. She had to be beautiful. She had to have a great smile. She had to be intelligent. She had to have a certain hair color (think dark brunette, like Katie Holmes or Penélope Cruz). That’s what the Church of Scientology was looking for when it held auditions to find Tom Cruise a new girlfriend who would become his wife. And they thought they found her in actress Nazanin Boniadi. “[A high-ranking Scientologist] was assigned to grooming and prepping Nazanin for her ultimate role of dating Tom,” former Scientologist Karen Pressley, who worked directly under church leader David Miscavige and was the commanding officer of LA’S Celebrity Centre until she left the church in 1998, tells In Touch. “They spent approximately $20,000 at places like Burberry and Ralph Lauren to give her a wardrobe that was suitable.”
Despite all that effort, Nazanin and Tom didn’t last. “Nazanin lived with Tom for a couple of months, but he ultimately got her kicked out of the house because of the way she communicated one day with David,” Karen, who went by Karen Schless when she was in the church, exclusively tells In Touch of the 2004 romance. (Karen learned of Nazanin’s story from friends, and it has also been reported by Vanity Fair.) “She was suffering from a headache and kept asking [David] to repeat what he had just said. Tom was infuriated with her communication with David. That threw Tom into a rage.” Scientology expert Tony Ortega tells In Touch that the
church was hunting for the next Mrs. Tom Cruise within the church. “After Tom’s divorce from Nicole [Kidman] and breakup with Penélope,” Ortega says, “the church wanted to make sure his next girlfriend and potential wife was a Scientologist.” Of course, Nazanin, 37, who went on to have a successful acting career, starring on shows such as Homeland, How I Met Your Mother and Scandal, wasn’t the first, or last, woman to audition to be Tom’s love interest. In Touch spoke with two other candidates, as well as other former Scientologists who are now spilling the church’s deepest(and craziest!) secrets, including how the church caters to Tom’s every whim, how some members are subjected to extreme physical duress — and that many suspect Tom knows it goes on — and how David is a tyrant and uses Tom to get what he wants. “The truth is finally coming out,” says a Scientology source. “And it’s not pretty.” Former Scientologist Cathy Schenkelberg also went through the audition process. “We didn’t know we were auditioning to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend but we found out afterward that that’s what it was,” Cathy, who converted her experience in the church into a one-woman show, tells In Touch. “The church hires actors inside the church to do videos to disseminate Scientology to non-scientologists. In 2003, I was called in to audition for ‘a video.’ The guy running the camera asked me, ‘ What do you think of Tom Cruise?’ I was like, ‘I really don’t like him. I think he’s a narcissist,’ and he excused me from the audition. I said, ‘Am I done?’ And he’s like, ‘ Well, yeah.’ I was taken aback. Anyway, I walked out of the room and this singer named Brooke said to me, ‘You know that was an audition to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend.’”
Scientology cast the net wide, even auditioning women in Europe. Anette Johansen, a former Scientologist from Denmark, tells In Touch she was asked to audition in 2005, after Tom had already started
dating Katie Holmes. “They probably wanted to have some backup plan,” she says. (The Church of Scientology denies the auditions, saying, “There was no project, secret or otherwise, ever conducted by the church to find a bride [via audition or otherwise] for any member of the church. Never.”) Others rumored at the time to be wife candidates for Tom, 54, included Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth and Scarlett Johansson. “The wife auditioning could still be going on,” says Ortega, “but you would think after all of the bad publicity it got in the past, he wouldn’t do that again.”
Besides trying to find him a new wife, the church caters to Tom in many other ways. One high-level former Scientologist who asked not to be identified recalls the time Tom was making his first visit to Scientology’s international headquarters. “There were 700 people planting plants and flowers and painting the curbs so everything looked like The Wizard of Oz, like Munchkinland, by the time he arrived,” the former Scientologist, who was involved in the project, tells In Touch. “Every flower, every leaf, every blade of grass had to be perfect, so that when Tom saw it he’d be like, ‘It’s a paradise.’ But in reality, it was all artificial.” ( In Touch reached out to Tom’s reps but didn’t get a response by deadline.)
The special treatment never ended. Tom even had his own elevator at the Scientology-run Sandcastle hotel in Clearwater, Fla. “It’s where all the advanced levels of auditing occur, like OT [Operating Thetan] 7,” Bonnie Kittelson, who was in the church from 1973 to 2013, tells In Touch. “In 2007, I was waiting for an elevator to go up to the third floor, and I waited and waited. Finally, I took the stairs. When I came back I was talking about how the elevator never came, and a friend told me it’s because Tom keeps it aside for himself so that he doesn’t have to wait for it and he can ride it alone. I thought, ‘ What a snob.’”
And when Tom and then-wife Nicole Kidman were visiting the international base in Hemet, Calif., in the early ’90s, a special villa was built for them. “We made the bedding, the floral arrangements, pictures on the wall,” says Karen. “People went for days without sleep to prepare this for Tom and Nicole. I doubt Nicole knew. But Tom saw that the staff was always there. They were working morning, noon and night like slaves. It’s impossible for him not to have known what was going on.” Cathy agrees: “Tom had to know about people being abused in the church. It seemed as though he allowed s--- to happen. That’s not OK. He just kept turning a blind eye.”
David is the real problem, claims former Scientologist Amy Scobee. “I witnessed a lot of physical abuse from David,” Amy, who left Scientology in 2005 and wrote the book Scientology — Abuse at the Top, claims to In Touch. “He’s got a serious short fuse, and he’s highly unpredictable.” (The church has vehemently denied abuse allegations in the past.)
David seems to manipulate Tom, despite their close relationship. When Tom was given the Freedom Medal of Valor [in 2004], David just created that award. “David manipulates Tom through his own vanity,” claims the former Scientologist.
Nazanin knows firsthand what the church is capable of, says Karen. Nazanin — who has not spoken publicly about these allegations, and has not confirmed or denied them — made another mistake in the church’s eyes by telling her friends what it was like to live with Tom. “Her friend reported this to an authority, and Nazanin got in trouble,” says Karen. “She was assigned to a disciplinary program.” One day she was being groomed to be the next Mrs. Tom Cruise, the next she was “on her hands and knees cleaning floors with a toothbrush. It was humiliating.” ◼
The women had to disclose any actions that Scientology considered to be unethical”
— FORMER SCIENTOLOGIST KAREN PRESSLEY
THE CONTENDERS “The person had to be a very dedicated Scientologist so Tom would be able to instantly connect with her,” former Scientologist Karen Pressley tells In Touch. Those women included Nazanin Boniadi (clockwise from top), Cathy Schenkelberg...