Update: Could Haggis' Scientology book become a film?
Paul Haggis is known as a great writer and director, and his latest film The Next Three Days (Filmstalker review) is another example of how good he is. However there's a lot more to the man than his film career, for example did you know that for thirty-five years he was a Scientologist? Did you also know that in 2009 he walked out of the group?
While he initially talked about his reasons for leaving the group as his anger over their stance against gay rights, he's been quiet since about the complete story. Now he's finally going to be talking about it in an upcoming article in The New Yorker which is allegedly going to pave the way for a book about his experiences called The Heretic of Hollywood: Paul Haggis vs. The Church of Scientology.
If there's going to be a book by a writer and director of such stature as Paul Haggis, then why wouldn't we see this turned into a film? It could even beat Paul Thomas Anderson's Scientology based film to the fore, a film that seems to have been dropped by Anderson after problems arose that he couldn't overcome.
Well having watched the Panorama programmes, and who wouldn't be shouting and screaming at those guys after that treatment and hounding, and reading various other stories about the group, it's not hard to believe that the reason that Anderson stopped his film was pressure from the Scientology group. If he was researching a film then why wouldn't there be people following, filming and harassing him as there have been the people who have tried to expose and escape the group?
The soon to be released profile of Paul Haggis by writer Lawrence Wright is said to allow him to tell his story of his experiences with Scientology and how he came to leave, and more importantly the book will talk about the reasons he joined, what attracted him there, what kept him there, why he left, and reveal some of the horrifying secrets of Scientology.
The story comes from Gawker through /Film, and so far it's looking like Haggis will tell some in this profile and all in this book that he and Wright are collaborating on that has been hinted at a 2011 release after an agent's catalogue was released inadvertently. They have the blurb on the story, here are a few salient paragraphs:
The Academy Award winning writer and director, Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), spent three decades in the Church of Scientology. Haggis was one of the church’s Hollywood trophies, along with Tom Cruise and John Travolta, whose paths cross with Haggis’s. His resignation from the church in August of 2009 was a crushing disappointment to the organization. This is the first time Haggis has spoken about his experience.
The roots of Scientology are explored in this book, particularly the life of its eccentric founder, L. Ron Hubbard, whose flashes of brilliance and insanity are woven into the fabric of this elaborate belief system. Through Haggis’s eyes, we discover the appeal of Scientology, especially to talented and ambitious members of the entertainment industry. Haggis conducted a personal investigation of the church, in which he was told about the wanton physical abuse on the part of its current leader, David Miscavige, of senior members of the organization. He was told that young volunteers in the Scientology clergy, called the Sea Org, are subjected to conditions approaching slavery or imprisonment, and that many female members have been forced to have abortions.
The book is promising to be "the most profound reckoning to date" for Scientology, and it would be huge if it did reveal all, not about Haggis' story, but about the group behind Scientology. Of course it would probably pave the way for a lot more people to leave the organisation that want to leave, especially that huge more than surprising list of celebrities that belong to the group.
Gawker highlight the story of Paulette Cooper, author of The Scandal of Scientology, who apparently was befriended by someone who spent some time trying to drive her to suicide, a person that turned out to be a member of the group. They also have the story on Paul Haggis leaving Scientology.
There's certainly going to be a lot of pressure on Haggis and Wright to not complete this book and there will be a lot of information coming out about it thereafter, but the real question here is will it make it to a film?
Certainly Anderson's attempt at a film about Scientology didn't work out, so could Haggis pull it off and would he want to? I suspect not. After all this will be his own personal story as well as a factual expose of the organisation, what could be successfully made into a film?
For a film version we'd need to concentrate on a main character, pulling a story that carries all the elements of a dramatic film, and that to me either means it's Haggis himself or the leader of the organisation. Personally I don't think Paul Haggis would want to be the centre of the film and there's going to be so much pressure from the organisation that we won't see a film made of the leader until he's long gong from the role.
The closest I've come to seeing something has been The Mentalist episode which fictionalised everything in it but kept it scarily close to the truth.
For now we'll have to sit with the book from Lawrence Wright and Paul Haggis, if it ever does get released. However above all, I hope that Haggis continues to have the drive and time to deliver films and stories of the quality that he has. If you haven't seen The Next Three Days (Filmstalker review), then you should.
Update: The Hollywood Reporter has an update that carries statements from both Wright and Haggis to make it very clear that although Haggis has given Wright information to write the article and will expand on that information for the book, he will not be collaborating with him on it. That means he won't be involved in the writing of the book or financial deal involving it what so ever.
If he has no collaborative interest in the book then the chances are that he probably won't be that interested in making a film in it either, although that's not been ruled out, however it is a huge leap to make. Still, it's always good to see a secretive cult exposed.