Louis Theroux’s first feature film My Scientology Movie combines all the elements we associate with his work, from celebrity and commercialism to fundamentalism.
It’s the perfect blend of his old and new documentary styles evoking both Weird Weekends and The Most Hated Family In America.
Theroux’s passion project has had a problematic journey: its secretive leader David Miscavige hasn’t given an interview since 1992. It’s My Scientology Movie’s biggest limitation, making it unavoidably one-sided, and yet this ‘access problem’ becomes its own jaw-dropping storyline. In an absurd, hostile twist, Scientology’s high ranking Sea Org begin following the crew, retaliating with their own documentary about Theroux. With all of his trademark charm, Theroux delights in these ridiculous attempts to distance him from the church and director John Dower retains many of the whackier moments that happen ‘behind the scenes’. The moment Boardwalk Empire actress Paz de la Huerta wanders onto set is priceless.
Theroux’s perseverance will come as no surprise to his fans: in 2003 he made the probing television documentary Louis, Martin & Michael without gaining access to Michael Jackson himself.
Now, Theroux and Dower overcome the access issue by casting actors in the roles of allegedly violent and aggressive David Miscavige and Scientology’s poster boy Tom Cruise. Controversial ex-Scientologists Marty Rathbun and Tom De Vocht direct key scenes, not only giving us unique insight into the church but tapping into their own feelings about the events, including detention in the organisation’s punishment room, ‘the hole’. The result is classic Louis Theroux, offering a fascinating examination of a secretive culture and its leading figures.
My Scientology Movie is showing at Broadway Nottingham until Sunday 16 October