Ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis said that the church sent an impostor, pretending to be a reporter for Time magazine, to interview him.
The Oscar-winning director of Crash, who's been estranged from the institution since 2009, tells Tony Ortega's blog that he received an email April 7 requesting his participation in a feature piece on films.
According to Ortega, the email read as follows:
"Dear Mr. Haggis,
I am writing a piece for Time Magazine on the 'golden age' of film. - I would very much like to interview you for the piece and include "Crash" as a example of recent film that has that beautiful cinematic 'touch'.
Other directors participating in the film include David Lynch, Jean-Luc Godard, Francis-Ford Coppola, Sam Mendes, Darren Arronofsky and David Fincher.
This can be done over the phone or via email. My deadline for the piece is April 15th, 4pm EST.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Haggis, 62, told his staff to set up the interview, but they did a bit of detective work, learning that "Mark Webber" had no stories attributed to his name, and that Time entertainment editors said that no reporter by that name works there.
Further investigation turned up more information that linked the phony email to the church, according to the filmmaker: The account that the email address was sent from, had just been set up days before the request was sent to Haggis; and that it was sent from a computer at Los Angeles' Anthony Building, which is purportedly owned by the church. A subsequent attempt to reach out to the reporter received no response, Haggis said.
A Church Of Scientology spokesperson told the that the institution "knows nothing about this," and that "the entire story" that originated on Ortega's site "is fabricated."
"There is no one with that name at that address, there is no such IP address at the Anthony Building on Fountain Avenue, it does not exist," the rep said.
The Oscar-winning director told Ortega it's not the have been summoned to an office for a phony reason -- only to be locked into a room and peppered with questions, or in church terms, "sec checked."
Haggis, who also wrote Million Dollar Baby, added that the typical protocol in one of these arrangements is to stop the subject of the interview from leaving the room under any circumstances -- even physically -- and if they should happen to, Scientologist officers shout, "HCO bring order," at which point others will help to restrain the subject.
Haggis said he personally experienced this on an occasion where Greg Wilhere, a church higher-up, told him that he'd "offended Tom Cruise by telling a joke to Steven Spielberg ... and wouldn't let me leave until I wrote a suitably contrite letter to Tom."
Haggis told Ortega he "never again agreed to an interview" unless his interviewer traveled to where he was. He added that when he did in 2009, "nine senior executives showed up to try and persuade me to tear up my letter of resignation and leave quietly, or face the consequences."
The director might have upset church officials with a he recently released on his former faith ahead of the bombshell HBO documentary