Hollywood, New Yorker, Paul Haggis David Remnick, Lawrence Wright, Paul Haggis
Below is a letter I wrote to David Remnick, Editor of The New Yorker magazine, in response to their recent profile on PAUL HAGGIS. Although Remnick devoted 28 pages to smearing my religion, he did not have the decency to print the one page I wrote to refute it, perhaps because the points I raise below entirely undermine Paul’s allegations about Scientology and prove him to be simply not credible.
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 5:35 PM
To: David Remnick
Subject: Paul Haggis/The Apostate, Feb. 14
Dear Mr. Remnick,
Regarding your profile of PAUL HAGGIS (The Apostate, Feb. 14), as you know, I am Paul’s sister and I maintained close personal and professional relationships with him during the first 18 years of his career. While Mr. Wright’s article is rife with inaccurate and untruthful statements about Scientology, the allegations leveled by Paul Haggis in particular unravel on three main points:
1. When Paul announced his “resignation” in 2009 I found it hard to take seriously since, to my knowledge, he had not had any significant involvement in Scientology for over 20 years and hadn’t made any meaningful progress in the study of the religion since 1977.
From my direct observation (and I usually saw Paul every week if not every day from 1978 until 1995) the church never did anything but good for Paul. He came to Los Angeles with the intention to be a professional writer but with no experience and no connections – just another wannabe. Scientology’s Celebrity Centre provided the contacts that launched his career. Those relationships led to his first freelance assignments and later secured him his first job as a story editor on a prime time sitcom. After that, Paul was in the door and moved easily from show to show. Paul was extremely well treated by the church, before he found success and afterward. Prior to his resignation, he never mentioned any of the issues he raises now.
2. Paul’s daughter (whom he claims was discriminated against, but who makes no such charge herself) was received with open arms by the Church of Scientology. Her sexual orientation was never an issue and I verified with her personally that she was very happy with the services she received and looked forward to doing more. The only reason she stopped was because Paul discouraged her from attending and sent her out of town to go to college. If some misguided young person later made disparaging remarks about my niece being gay, that is a shame but only reflects badly on that individual. Membership in the church is open and reflects the society of which it is a part. Few gay people have not had the experience of being badly received by an ersatz “friend” when they came out. However, all of my nieces are strong, educated, privileged young women who are quite capable of deflecting what appears to be no more than a case of a few rumors.
Paul holds a serious double standard on this issue. He claims he resigned from Scientology because the church did not take a stand on a related political measure in California and instead remained open on the subject. Yet Paul remains closely connected to and supportive of the Roman Catholic Church, in which he was raised and educated for 10 years. The RCC is vocally anti-gay; possibly one of the largest, most publicly anti-gay institutions on earth. So why did Paul not also resign from the Catholic church on this issue? Why instead redouble his efforts to bring press attention to the Catholic charity he supports in Haiti? While the work Father Frechette does is tremendous, and certainly worthy of support, if Paul feels so strongly about discrimination against gays, why is he raising millions of dollars to support a mission established by the RCC? Are there not worthy secular charities involved in helping Haitians?
Curiously, Paul also promotes the recognitions he has received from multiple Catholic associations. Why would he not return the awards they gave him, with a firm, public disavowal for their discriminatory practices?
I suppose Paul can, and will, claim that he did not resign from the RCC simply because he hasn’t been a practicing Catholic for years. But, as demonstrated here, he wasn’t a practicing Scientologist either—so why single us out?
3. Paul goes to great lengths to convince your readers that he did thorough research on what he perceives to be the church’s shortcomings. He even told one of our ministers, “research is something I pride myself on.”
In all the years I worked with Paul, he never did a lick of research. I know this because, you see, I did all the research. And even when I put it under his nose with circles and arrows pointed at it, he didn’t read it. (And when I didn’t do the research for you, Paul, it was your wife, or your father, or your daughter, or your assistant, or the intern, but never, ever you. And you never looked at their research either, if you could avoid it, did you? For the record, Google searches to the websites of extremists who would post any number of lies in an attempt to smear their former religion, does not qualify as legitimate “research”.)
The hard truth is – and even Paul will admit this – that he did not actually experience or observe any of the supposed shortcomings that he claims exist in our church. None. So when you weed out the copious amounts of internet trash that he read and regurgitated, what, if any, of Paul’s complaints have legitimacy?
- He claims he was looking for redemption, hoping to be saved from himself, and wasn’t.
- He read the successes of so many others and couldn’t believe anyone could be that happy, or their relationships so improved, and was disappointed when he could not achieve those same gains.
- He complained that he was treated with a respect and courtesy and friendship that he felt he did not deserve.
Paul admits in your article that he came to Scientology a very flawed individual. He halfheartedly confesses to a murky, if not criminal past, calling himself “a bad kid.” At this point in Mr. Wright’s mind-numbingly protracted article I was surprised to see an unexpected kernel of truth appear. Paul’s admission of a long term inability to stop himself from committing harmful acts against others is the most honest comment I have ever heard him make, and while I commend any effort to come clean to any extent, just the fact that he worked so hard to excuse and obscure what more there is to tell suggests a Titanic-size iceberg still remains below the surface.
Paul failed to understand one very simple but powerful principle of Scientology: Clean hands make a happy life. If an individual cannot keep himself in check and adhere to an ethical code long enough to be helped, then there is no chance of redemption. And Paul admitted that, when it got right down to it, he would not do the programs he was given that would help him to make stable gains.
Instead, Paul left to join a group with whom he has more in common: other apostates who could not live up to the church’s ethical standards either. In your article he uses their carefully-honed lies to drag the reputations of church executives through the mud, then adds his own clever touch: he makes a lot of noise about how in a couple of years the church will be back for revenge. I suppose he hopes this attempt at smoke and mirrors will cast doubt on whatever more he has done, should it ever come to light.
Paul has always loved a high-profile crusade, but to build one on specious hearsay, for whatever purpose, is unconscionable.
Hollywood, Paul Haggis Paul Haggis
Paul and Kathy 1959
When I was a child I used to take all my brother’s cowboy hats, pile them on my head, one on top of the other, and wear them all day long. Paul loved his hats. He would complain to our mother and she would say “She’s your sister, you have to be good to her.” He would sigh and nod his head. He had so wanted a sister.
When his friends would appear at the front door and ask him to come out and play baseball, I was determined to go too. Utterly humiliated in front of his buddies, he would turn to our mother and ask, “Does she have to come?”
The answer was always the same and he always obeyed.
I still have pictures of me wearing all those hats. Although I was only three, I remember sitting in a wagon while my brother pulled it down the street. He was patient, kind and decent.
I look at pictures of my brother now and wonder where that boy went.
Our paths parted as teenagers and when they crossed again in Los Angeles our roles reversed. On the business front, I became the caretaker. We collaborated as writers. I was his head of development. I watched his back. I put out “the fires” – meaning, I struggled to resolve the inevitable crises that would arise when his vaulting ambition put companies in financial jeopardy and individuals in harm’s way. I calmed the feuds Paul would instigate between himself and cast members, directors, producers, which only grew more frequent as the years went by.
As he moved up in the industry, he found himself in positions of power and he didn’t handle it well. It seemed on every set there was someone, usually an actor, occasionally a producer, frequently a woman, whom he harassed and bullied, while at the same time carefully cozying up to whichever star or broadcast executive held the ultimate power.
Paul was so cunning in his tactics, so skillful at turning on the charm to obscure the abusive side of his nature that anyone who did not want to acknowledge that side of him did not have to. Those of us who knew it stayed quiet about it. He compensated by rewarding people with jobs and sudden bursts of generosity (like the email I just received from him recommending me for a job he did not want). If you were a person of some influence and he alienated you on one show, he would find some way to buy back your favor on another. The unimportant, he simply destroyed with lies.
Paul and Kathy 1996
In 1994 Paul began a campaign of emotional abuse and character assassination against a co-starring actor which was more severe than any I had observed to date. This actor was and is a fighter. He was an enormous asset to the show but Paul wanted him off the series and the actor, who had a contract and a family to support, would not quit. Paul made that poor man’s life hell. After many months of almost daily abuse the actor was in extreme distress. He turned to me for help and asked me to intervene. I was no stranger to Paul’s physical and emotional abuse myself, and therefore not terribly anxious to throw myself into the breach. But then, I was supposed to be a co-executive producer – and here was an actor, a person in my care, begging me to show some integrity, instead of just write about it.
I did intervene and became, like my actor friend, another favorite target of Paul’s covert character assassination. It hasn’t made life easy but now I am free to live what I write.
Yet it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. I only visited the set of Crash once, to pick up my father. As we were walking out, I noticed a young woman sitting in the shadows amongst the equipment, weeping. My father stopped to speak with her. When he got into the car I asked him what that was about. He said “She’s one of the actresses. I guess Paul has been picking on her. She kept crying and asking me, ‘Why does he hate me so much?” My father didn’t have an answer for that. He’s not alone.
I remain hopeful that somewhere along the line Paul will come to his senses, although of late it appears that his hunger for notoriety has only made him worse. One can see from his photographs that the life he is leading is eating him alive.
We still email. We look after our dad. Every now and then I reach out to him in the hope that he will grab the lifeline and hang on. But as Paul admitted in a recent interview, he is “a broken person” unable to stop himself from doing harm. He even criticizes others for not forcing him to stop. Like Icarus, he continues to fly hell-bent for the sun.
I can hear the screams inside you, Paul. If you need someone to stop you from harming others, I will.
This blog is an intervention. That decent boy is still in there somewhere. I want him back.
Hollywood, New Yorker, Paul Haggis, Uncategorized David Remnick, Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, Paul Haggis, Scientology
Picture yourself on a jury. The man in the witness box makes accusation after accusation in the most scurrilous of terms, railing about the guilt of the accused with self-righteous indignation. It’s quite a display. For a time he has his audience riveted. But when the defense rises and asks how the witness came to have this information – where did he observe it? on what day? what exactly did he see? – the witness has left the stand. He knows he does not have to stick around to answer, for this is not a court of law – it is the court of public opinion.
The truth is, the “witness” never actually observed any of the offences he alleged. Not one. He took someone else’s word for it – the “word” of a small group of disgruntled ex-employees, a vicious gossip or two, a couple of wanna-be extortionists, at least one convicted criminal and a couple of very violent psychotics – the type of bad apples that cling to the bottom of every barrel spreading rot until someone finally has the time to winnow them out. But none of those details matter to the witness. He’s happy, he has achieved his goal. He snatched a few minutes in the spotlight, albeit cruelly and at the expense of others, and is quite certain he will never be called to account.
Happily, he’s not the only writer with a keyboard. http://www.freedommag.org/
New Yorker, Paul Haggis Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, Paul Haggis
As with too much of what we read in the press these days, this New Yorker “profile” of Paul Haggis is not at all what it claims to be. Whenever articles are grounded in the careful mix of total fabrications and half-lies that characterize black propaganda (see my post The Apostate) there is always a story behind the story. In this case, it is about a journalist who routinely profits from exploiting “controversial” religions, now fixing his sites on a new target in order to snag himself a book deal. It’s about a pair of penniless apostates intent on hijacking L. Ron Hubbard’s technologies—arguably the largest body of organized and codified religious knowledge in the world. And it is about a minor celebrity who finds, to his great surprise, that his rocky career is once again on a downward trend and about to slip through his fingers…if he doesn’t generate some serious publicity fast.
But, of course, to achieve these reprehensible goals they needed conflict, the more degraded and sensational the better. And therein lay their problem, because the fact is that the true story of Dianetics and Scientology just doesn’t make good copy in today’s press. It is just too simple, too positive – too full of good news.
Every day of my life for almost 35 years I have applied Scientology technology and been helped by it. I have used it to help others and have seen their lives change for the better because of it – family, friends, associates. Like many other Scientologists, I have even stopped at the scene of accidents and used it to aid perfect strangers. To then have to stand in supermarket lines and be assaulted by magazine covers that smear my religion and its Founder, as well as wonderful Scientologists in the public eye is infuriating to me. And I am just one of millions who feel this way.
I love that Scientology has made me a far brighter and more capable individual than I once thought possible. I love that it has been there for me with the tools to resolve not just every crisis of my own life, but also to help my friends, colleagues and family. Before Scientology, I wanted so often to help and just didn’t know how. Now I have learned and proven for myself that there is always something that can be done about a problem, no matter how desperate or severe.
I remember the time my father came to me and my husband seeking help for my mother. She was ill from the effects of morphine administered as surgical anesthetics during several operations. My father worried that she was losing her faculties. Fortunately, Scientologists are well-versed about the after effects of drugs like morphine that can remain in the system for decades, even life, and the program Ron developed to remove them. We suggested the Purification Rundown, my father looked into it, and my mother enrolled in the program. That service, according to my mother, freed her from the ill-effects of the debilitating narcotics that had left her with severe night sweats and hallucinations and robbed her of her physical balance. She left L.A. (rather reluctantly!) looking, healthy, years younger and beaming with happiness. She told me, “Scientology gave me back my life” and, indeed, that one service probably extended her life by a decade.
The many wild lies that Paul told about his former church are egregious enough but the fact that he left our mother’s story out of his profile, overlooking the fact that Scientology saved her life, I find very hard to stomach. The utter lack of conscience is breathtaking. But then, as Paul confessed himself, the truth would not have gotten him the New Yorker “profile” he coveted.
Paul harbors some odd theories about life. His favorite is known as “The Big Lie Theory” which boils down to this: The bigger the lie the more likely people are to believe it.
Paul would wax enthusiastic about this concept when discussing potential true stories we could adapt into screenplays. I recall a phony gold rush story – a huge fraud originating in Canada – that he has been wanting to tell for years.
Con artistry is something Paul admires and he’s always been awfully good at it. He would use “the big lie” to play tricks on people. For example, there was a fellow we’ll call Dave, a writer who was instrumental in helping Paul to get his start in Hollywood. Dave comes from an old Hollywood family. He is kind, genial and trusting and I have been proud to call him my friend for over 30 years. He is one of those rare loyal friends whom Paul later exchanged for more influential contacts.
Around 1980, Paul and Dave shared a small office in Studio City. One day, rather than work (writers will do anything to avoid writing) Paul tested his favorite theory on Dave. Dave had an older BMW that he was fond of, and he knew a bit about mechanics having worked on cars in the past, but Paul managed to so thoroughly convince Dave that “all cars have a hidden fifth wheel which only descends once the car is in motion” that, when I arrived to visit them that day, Paul actually had Dave lying on the pavement peering under his BMW searching for this phantom fifth wheel. They worked together for years and this became a game for Paul. He got a kick out of fooling people, and Dave was a favorite target. It made Dave feel stupid. Paul kept at Dave with one of these so-called “practical jokes” for days, even though the subject matter clearly upset Dave. Paul liked to manipulate Dave into going along with business decisions and eroding his confidence in himself may have been helpful in that.
To this day, Dave and I both smile at the memory of the “the fifth wheel” in spite of what we know. And therein lies the insidious ingredient that separates the truly great liar from the garden variety. Paul’s immense talent for humor, his winning, boyish charm, allowed him to get away with bigger and bigger lies – unchallenged – all of his life. And when times were tough and he needed a break, or when he could not get what he wanted any other way, he honed this skill into a weapon. Business associates, family members, wives – anyone who proved inconvenient was discredited with lies so wild that no listener would believe that anyone would distort the truth so infamously. Certainly not someone so eloquent, so apparently humble, with such famous awards on his mantel. Certainly not someone who helped little orphans in Haiti.
I don’t think Paul finds it easy to lie like that and live with himself. What was once a devilishly funny pastime is now a compulsion which, sadly, has robbed him of all charm and humor. Looking at his dark, unhappy face, I see how much what he has become weighs on him and I wish I could lift the weight.
I have watched Paul work so hard over the years to convince himself that his lies are true that he now seems to have descended into a perpetual state of delusion. But that’s another post for another day.
New Yorker, Paul Haggis David Remnick, Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, Paul Haggis
As I explain in The Boy I Knew, for the first eighteen years of his career, I maintained close personal and professional relationships with Paul. We collaborated as screenwriters, our families socialized, our children grew up together. I have been a dedicated Scientologist since 1978. Paul and I attended the same church up until the mid-1980s. Paul did not have any meaningful involvement with Scientology after that time, beyond the occasional social activity or the odd request for help which proved ultimately insincere. It made no difference to me whether Paul remained a Scientologist or not, although his conduct was unbecoming of one and I would rather he not be a hypocrite. I stopped associating with him long before he finally left, because of his behavior in the workplace and the damaging way he treats others, particularly those closest to him.
When I first heard about Paul’s public “resignation,” I assumed he had just read some internet trash from the usual suspects and, out of ignorance, having been gone for so long, swallowed their lies. When I learned that Paul was talking to the New Yorker and propagating those lies, I realized he had gone well beyond that. For some reason known only to God and Google, he appeared to have become actively anti-Scientology and I feared he may be in league with extremists.
Enter Lawrence Wright.
When Lawrence Wright initially contacted me with requests for an interview, he presented his article as “a profile on Paul Haggis.” Initially I ignored his emails, since it has been my custom not to speak to the press about family. So I did not know that his real interest was Scientology until weeks later when I received a request from the New Yorker photo editor asking if I would please send them some old photographs of me from my days as a Church staff member, almost thirty years ago, so they could publish them in an upcoming article “about Scientology”. Apparently Paul had been freely telling personal, well-embroidered tales about me and the rest of his family without our knowledge. And now the New Yorker was no longer even making a pretense that the article was about Paul – although its publication was initially neatly timed to coincide with the release of Paul’s latest film. (I did end up corresponding with Wright in an attempt to correct Paul’s many half-lies and complete falsehoods but I will save the content of that discussion for another post.)
My husband was so distressed over Paul’s actions that, at my niece’s wedding, he took Paul aside and asked him why he would engage in discussing Scientology and private family matters in the press. Paul was apparently quite nervous to be called to account for his actions (a next-to-never occurrence) and tried to explain away his actions by claiming that, when he sat down for their first interview in Los Angeles, he had no idea that Wright (who had flown out from New York to interview him) was there to talk about Scientology. He said he thought the New Yorker reporter was there to promote the impending release of Paul’s latest movie. Scientology didn’t come up, he claimed, until, when at the end of a brief ten minute interview about his career Wright stood to leave and said, “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Paul claimed to be surprised by this and asked why. He quoted Wright as answering, “Scientology. Why else would the New Yorker want to interview you?”
As my husband related it, Paul offered this as an excuse for his actions, as if he were duped and preyed upon by the press. Of course, if he truly felt duped, he could have simply canceled the next day’s interview. But did he? No. He went on to confess that he sat down with Lawrence Wright the next day and gave him a three hour interview.
It was only through reading the published interview months later that we learned that all of this was simply another of Paul’s whopping big lies. According to Wright, Paul had given him numerous interviews about Scientology starting back in New York. They even flew out to L.A. on the plane together. They weren’t reporter and interviewee – they were a team, and continue to be.
Paul also swore up and down to my husband that he had nothing to do with certain apostates who were spewing bald lies over the internet. Of course, that and subsequent articles reveal he has been in league with them for years, thick as thieves, and that Wright’s cheesy exposé in the New Yorker is simply a preview for a book that he has been planning for many months.
Nothing Paul says or does surprises us anymore, but the public does not have the benefit of our years of experience with him, so I include this information in the hope that readers will not be taken in.
If only all lost boys came with a nose that grew with every lie.
Hollywood, Paul Haggis Paul Haggis
How does an individual go so far off the beam as to think he can defame any number of people and entire institutions with impunity? One thing I know from having been at the receiving end of such a campaign, is that not only must the perpetrator spin stories so carefully woven with half-truths that they can turn your own parents against you, but, sooner or later, he must also convince himself that even his wildest fabrications are true. In other words, the confidence man must learn to con himself.
One would think it a near impossible feat for the sharpest amongst us to delude themselves that successfully. But Hollywood has a way of bringing even the most astute to their knees: enough fame and riches and it becomes awfully difficult not to begin believing one’s own publicity. And once addicted it’s hard to go without.
When a career takes a turn for the worse, it’s not usually apparent to the public until after the funeral. But the old cliché “you’re only as good as your last film” is all too true and it truly can take only one misstep to make the phone stop ringing. If you’re an honest person, you work harder. But if you’re not used to responding to tough times with integrity, and maybe you’re not sure you deserve all the credit you took, you might look for a shortcut.
At this point it’s common enough to cast about in desperation for new ways to generate publicity. Easy to do if you are an actor but, unless you are already a legend, not so easy for a director. And if you are primarily a screenwriter– the Hollywood equivalent of the office nerd – forget about it! Writers only make intriguing copy from behind the keyboard.
…Unless of course that writer can dream up some kind of high-profile “confession” to make. That’s been known to work. If he can blame someone else for his “failure to see the light,” even better. And if at the same time he can launch some “crusade for justice” that earns labels like “maverick” and “defender of the disenfranchised” (while distracting from some rather unattractive personal conduct of his own), well, that’s gold.
I was interested to read this quote from police veteran Dennis Marlock, who authored the book How to Become a Professional Con Artist (Paladin Press, 2001):
“…smart people are easier to fool precisely because they think they’re too smart to get scammed….The easiest people to deceive are those who think that they are immune to deception.”
Paul was as much a fan of Citizen Kane as any ambitious writer who ever dreamt of a Hollywood career. In Welles’ story, a young man corrupted by what he considers to be undeserved wealth and power attempts to legitimize himself with a “crusade for justice” only to end his life a victim of his own delusions of grandeur. I’m sure Paul is not the only aspirant who failed to note that it is as much a cautionary tale as it is a lesson in film craft.
Hollywood, Paul Haggis
I use names judiciously on this blog. When I relate an anecdote contributed by someone else, I change their name. People in this industry are, quite understandably, afraid of the repercussions. One works long and hard against remarkable odds to succeed in any branch of the entertainment industry, and a few disparaging comments from a television producer or the film director du jour to a casting director or studio or network executive can haunt you for the rest of your career – even end it.
I particularly feel for the actors. While the top strata of acting talent in Hollywood can exercise more power when crossed than most studio heads, destroying the careers of actors below that level is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, if one is of a mind to. I have known actors who put themselves in physical danger rather than be branded a whiner or a troublemaker.
I remember the actress who jumped backwards from a moving train because Paul Haggis, the director and executive producer, asked her to. The police and station manager had warned him in clear terms that no one was to step on or off that train while it was moving or they would close down the set. The cost of such a shut-down to a production company can be astronomical. But it was a key scene and rather than rewrite it, he quietly took the actress aside and asked her to cooperate. It took no small amount of guts and she did it brilliantly. And the second she hit the platform, Haggis dashed toward her, screaming at the top of his lungs, “How could you do that without my permission?? You just shut down my set!!” The actress was shaken and humiliated but apologized and otherwise kept silent. Paul apologized profusely to the authorities on behalf of this seemingly silly actress who couldn’t follow directions. The set was not shut down. He got his shot.
I remember an actor who allowed himself to be handcuffed to a moving car rather than report Paul to the union steward. He told me that even though he felt his life was endangered he was not willing to cause a fuss.
Having been blacklisted myself (thanks in no small part to Paul’s behind-the-scenes machinations), I have had to develop my own tough shell. I know too well the price you pay personally if you look the other way. As a very wise man once said, “When you lose your integrity, you lose everything.”
To the folks who voted Paul a ”Maverick of Our Time,” if you want to know what it takes to be a true maverick, try blowing the whistle on an Oscar-winning director…who happens to be your brother.