Is KeriRussell the latest ingenue to fall under Scientology’s spell? Ever since Russell scored her plumsupporting role in Mission Impossible III, we hear, the Felicityalumna has “suddenly become very interested” in co-star Tom Cruise’smuch-mocked religion–and is excited to learn more from the master. She’seven been spotted buying books on Scientology and visiting the sect’s L.A.Celebrity Center, sources say. Russell’s publicist said she is “onhiatus” while her client is filming and could not comment, but it sounds as if the actress may be oneof Cruise’s few fans in the production. Though Paramount decided toproceed with the spy sequel—an assistant in co-producer PaulaWagner’s office said filming starts in Italy on July18—Cruise’s War of the Worlds publicity meltdown made the studio wary of giving their proselytizing star too much leeway.
“Paramount is terrified that it will be deluged with lawsuits fromextras, caterers, and actors who will say that they were coerced intoScientology on the set,” an insider tells us. “Tom is not passiveabout having those tents set up. On the War of the Worlds set, hedirected people to them and often asked them to talk out their issues in theScientology tent.”
But it’s not only the studio—Cruise isfeeling the friction, too. “Tom is pissed that Paramount is goinghead to head with him over these issues,” says another studio insider.“He really feels he is helping people and that Paramount is trying toprevent him from doing that. But they just want their movie made—theydon’t want to be involved in all this other crap.”
Paramount spokeswoman Janise Madatian called reports of arift between Cruise and the studio “incorrect,” saying,“There’s no problem between Paramount and Tom. We have a greatrelationship.” Cruise’s publi-sis, Lee Anne DeVette, agreed. “Tom’s been working with the studio foryears and they have a great relationship. There’s no friction.That’s a crock of shit.” As for her brother’s onset demands,De Vette said that during the shooting of WOTW, Cruisedidn’t ask for the “assist” tents to be setup–“they were already there” when he arrived. Furthermore, shesaid that although Cruise invited Scientology volunteers onto the set to man thetents, no one felt pressured to use them:
“Tom received a lot of letters from people who had assists thankinghim, and there are a lot of people who didn’t have them, too. If youdon’t want them, don’t have them! It’s like the coffee hebrings onset. If you don’t want coffee, don’t have thecoffee!” De Vette added that, in addition to coffee and Scientologyvolunteers, another perk of working with Cruise is complementary foodstuffs fromColdstone Creamery and In N’ Out Burger. Asked whether these types ofamenities will be on the set of MI III, De Vette said“absolutely.” Mmmm…delicious!