Tom Cruise, pictured with Katie Holmes in 2005, is the center of a bombshell… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )
This post has been updated. See below for details.
The Church of Scientology and Tom Cruise are certainly laboring this holiday weekend.
An explosive new report contends the organization auditioned potential brides for Cruise following his 2001 split from Nicole Kidman -- one that's been backed up by a famous detractor of the religion.
On Saturday, Vanity Fair magazine released a cover story titled "What Katie Didn't Know," an expose claiming an effort on the part of the church to find and vet partners for Cruise, a title that eventually went to his now ex-wife Katie Holmes.
Reportedly executed by Scientology leader David Miscavige's wife, Shelly, the search for a new bride began in 2004 (presumably after Cruise's split from his "Vanilla Sky" costar Penelope Cruz), with an objective to find an eligible actress in the congregation.
Those who met the criteria were told the church was filming a new training video for members, and were reportedly called in to audition for the nonexistent roles. They were asked, among other questions, "What do you think of Tom Cruise?"
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A former head of Scientology's in-house media studio, Marc Headly, told the magazine that he had seen several audition tapes and implied that the line of questioning served to benefit Cruise and his religion.
"It’s not like you only have to please your husband -- you have to toe the line for Scientology," Headly said.
But Headly is nowhere near the star of this account. The article identifies an actress and former Scientologist named Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born beauty who was allegedly chosen by Shelly Miscavige for Cruise, whom he dated for two months.
From November 2004 to January 2005, the story claims, Boniadi was placed in seclusion, given a credit card for expenses and policed heavily by church officials via Cruise. She had little contact with Tom, though the article said she'd moved in with the actor and occupied a bedroom in his house.
As things deteriorated in January, due in part to Boniadi's reported refusal to indulge Cruise in public displays of affection, she was moved into L.A.'s swanky Scientology Centre, then to an affiliated center in Florida -- where she was made to clean toilets with a tooth brush and dig ditches, the article said.
We'd call that a bad breakup. A Cruise rep is calling the whole report a lie.
"Lies in a different font are still lies - designed to sell magazines," Tom's rep said in a statement, meaning the magazine is slumming it with such fare.
The bombshell report marinated through Monday morning, when Vanity Fair got a supporter in Paul Haggis -- the Hollywood director who memorably blasted Scientology, of which he is a former member, to the New Yorker.
Haggis said he's known about Boniadi for three years, and is horrified by the church's treatment of the "General Hospital" player.
"Naz was embarrassed by her unwitting involvement in this incident and never wanted it to come out, so I kept silent," Haggis wrote in an email to Showbiz 411.
"However I was deeply disturbed by how the highest ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members."
The "Crash" director also makes the dizzying accusation that Boniadi is only one example of such treatment.
"This story will draw attention because of our fascination with celebrity. Most of the others are just ordinary people whose stories, if told, would not appear in a magazine," he said, "they live in fear of retribution, legal, financial or personal, even some famous ones."
And still, one more player in the fold: Katie Holmes. The teen soap star would go on to date Cruise three months after the story says Boniadi was sent packing. The one who would marry Cruise in 2006 and divorce him only weeks ago.
She's the face smiling from Vanity Fair's cover, the same who's been bounding around New York Cityas a single mom (she and Cruise share 6-year-old Suri). Single indeed, but we'd hardly call this free.
[Update, Sept. 5 at 12:53 p.m.: The Church of Scientology issued a response to the allegations in the Vanity Fair piece, saying "the entire story appearing in Vanity Fair is hogwash. 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." Read the complete response here.]
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