U.S. Actor Tom Cruise gives a speech at the inaguration of a Scientology church in Madrid Sepember 18, 2004. According to Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles, the 50-year-old religion now claims more than 8 million members in 159 countries. The church's most famous celebrities include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Nancy Cartwright, who is the voice of Bart Simpson. REUTERS/Paul Hanna PH/WS
(E News) - Lawrence Wright is probably right-on when he says that people are still making a big fuss over Scientology these days because of Tom Cruise.
"There's nobody more important in Scientology since L. Ron Hubbard. He's the front of Scientology," Wright says of Cruise in an interview with E! News at New York's Whiskey Park to discuss his latest book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.
And, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who also penned a conversation-starting New Yorker article about filmmaker (and ex-Scientologist) Paul Haggis' experience with the organization, the Hubbard-founded church is perfectly content with letting Cruise be its most prominent champion.
"From the very beginning of the Church of Scientology," Wright says, "they established it in Los Angeles, they created the Celebrity Center there in Hollywood, and the whole goal was to take over the entertainment industry and use celebrities as kind of a product endorsement for their brand."
But, he tells E! News, the door swings both ways. John Travolta, for instance, Wright says, has credited Scientology for helping him score his best film roles.