'What Drives Me': Tom Cruise's True Mission

Tom Cruise's attorney on the video leaked online and the unauthorized biography.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 12:16 AM

Jan. 18, 2007— -- It's the jaw-dropping performance most of us were never supposed to see -- Tom Cruise speaking openly and honestly about his faith.

"Scientologists look at the world and really see what it is ... and can be effective to do something about it," Cruise says on the tape. "Why ask permission? We are the authorities."

"What drives me ... is that I know we have an opportunity to really to help for the first time," Cruise continues. "[To] effectively change people's lives and I am dedicated to that. I am absolutely, uncompromisingly dedicated to that."

The tape was part of Scientology's 40th anniversary celebration. There was also a big-budget, Hollywood-style award show where Cruise was awarded Scientology's highest honor, the Freedom Medal of Valor.

"I am there for you, and I do care so very, very, very, very, much," he said.

Tom Cruise's involvement in Scientology is well known, but the interview clearly demonstrates the depth of his passion for an often beleaguered faith that critics of Scientology label a cult, a claim Scientology has always denied.

"I don't care if someone thinks it's hard or easy," Cruise says on the tape. "You're either helping and contributing everything you can, or you're not. Because I'm carrying my load, all right. ... As much as I'm carrying, I still feel like I gotta do more."

The interview wasn't intended for general release, and the Church of Scientology sent cease and desist orders to Web sites that posted it. Mark Graham's site, Defamer.com, refused to take down the video.

"I think that it was, people were clearly afraid of being sued by the Church of Scientology," he said. "And we figured, this week makes perfect timing."

It's been a tough few days for Cruise and the church. In addition to the videos, a new, unauthorized biography of Cruise was published this week. British author Andrew Morton -- best known for his book about the late Princess Diana -- said he spent two years investigating Cruise.

"I think Scientology to Tom Cruise is integral to understanding who he is as a man and where he is going," Morton said. "And when his obituary is written, it will be his film career as well as his faith. And it seems to me that to understand Tom Cruise you've got to understand Scientology."

Neither Cruise nor any of his close friends spoke to Andrew Morton, but that hasn't stopped him making some surprising claims -- first, that Cruise is not just a member of the Church of Scientology but is now effectively the second in command.

"They will deny this; they say he's just an ordinary parishioner," Morton said.

Morton believes that to suggest that Cruise doesn't hold a special place in the church is "disingenuous."

"If they could, they'd have him working there full-time," Morton said. "It's nonsense to say that he's just a parishioner like everybody else. And when he's within the faith, when he's within Scientology, he's treated differently."

Tom Cruise's attorney Bert Fields told "20/20" that the book is a "pack of lies" and that Cruise has "good grounds for libel."

Fields said the book includes "a few bizarre new lies that are just outrageous." He called the claim about Cruise's position as the second in command "hogwash." The Church of Scientology also says that Cruise holds no official or unofficial position in its hierarchy. (CLICK HERE to read the Church of Scientology's response to the leaked video, and HERE for their response to Morton's book.

"[Tom] considers [the book] a bigoted, hate-filled attack on his religion and I consider it the same," Fields said.

As for the interview, Fields said, "Tom is passionate about his religion, he believes that it's changed his life for the better, that it is a marvelous thing for him. … By Golly, what's wrong with a guy being enthusiastic about his faith?"

Scientology was the creation of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard during the mid-1950s. Hubbard claimed to have discovered the secret to realizing human potential: creating a series of steps through which an individual had to proceed in order to become enlightened and successful. From the very beginning, Hubbard actively recruited celebrities to Scientology as a way to legitimize and popularize the faith.

Stephen Kent, a professor in the department of sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada, has made an academic study of Scientology.

"It is true that Scientology does appeal to a number of performers," Kent said, "and what Scientology will tell these aspiring actors is that Scientology has the skills to get rid of their problems, their personal inhibitions that hold them back from achieving their full potential. It's in a way, what happened to Tom Cruise -- he claims that he had learning disabilities when he was growing up and that Scientology courses helped cure those learning disabilities."

Hubbard died in 1986 and leadership of the church was taken over by Miscavige. Although notoriously secretive, he did give one interview, to Ted Koppel for ABC News' "Nightline" in 1992 (click here to watch the interview), where he spelled out what he believed was the world's biggest problem.

"Let me tell you what our real problem is," he said. "No. 1, understand this. Psychiatry, psychology."

It's a drum Scientology and its most famous member continue to bang.

"I'm going hard on those guys and their reign -- these psychiatrists," Cruise said in the interview. "I've had it. It's disgusting to me. ... When you study the history of psychiatry, it's crimes against humanity."

In the interview, Cruise was preaching to the choir -- the Scientology faithful. But his attacks on the mental health industry became even more heated when Cruise took the fight public, while out promoting the film "War of the Worlds," in response to a question about actress Brooke Shields and her battle with postpartum depression.

"The motivations for attacking psychiatry are multifold, and one of them is to eliminate a potential challenge and critic," said Kent. "Scientology is at war with psychiatry and the mental health system. Its goal is to eliminate psychiatry and related mental health systems and replace them with Scientology techniques."'

Techniques Cruise believes are the only ones capable of dealing with any of life's challenges, from addiction to accidents.

"Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it's not like anyone else," Cruise said. "As you drive past, you know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one that can really help. ... We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we are the authorities on the mind, we are the authorities on improving conditions. ... We can rehabilitate criminals."

"I mean, they believe that they are almost superior beings, that they have access to the tools that will save mankind," Morton said.

While Cruise's offer to help others may be commendable, it's his own behavior that is raising serious concerns. When he introduced then-girlfriend, now-wife, Katie Holmes to Oprah, some thought his reaction was slightly "over the top."

"As a result of Cruise's behavior on the Oprah Winfrey show, there's a new phrase in the English language, 'jumping the couch,'" said Kent. "If you stay within furniture analogies, 'jumping the couch' now means what used to be called 'falling off one's rocker.'"

Viacom Chairman Summer Redstone mentioned Cruise's erratic behavior as one reason why he refused to renew Cruise's movie development deal at Paramount Studios. But none of it seems to have changed Cruise's mission on behalf of his church, or his status in Hollywood.

"He is someone who is a zealot, someone who is a movie messiah, who believes in the rightness of his core, but he only believes in it because everyone in his circle does," said Morton. "And in many respects, Tom Cruise is a man of our times. We live in an age of the worship of celebrity, the unquestioning worship of celebrity; we live in an age of religious fervor; we live in an age of globalization -- it comes together in Tom Cruise that he is a man that can walk the walk, talk the talk. ... He believes he has all the answers. In Tom's world, there's no room for doubt."

"A reporter said, 'I really want to understand who you are,' and I said 'I'm a Scientologist,'" Cruise said on the tape. "And she said, 'No, I really want to understand who you are,' and I said, 'I'm Scientologist!'"

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