This week I had the pleasure of reviewing Lawrence Wright’s jaw-dropping new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, for Newsday. His nuanced portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, who churned out an impossible number of pulp and science fiction tales before establishing the Church of Scientology in 1954 and eventually becoming the world’s most prolific author, shows that Hubbard’s interest in Hollywood went far beyond plumbing it for disciples and potential celebrity representatives. In the following passages from the book, Wright describes Hubbard’s misadventures in filmmaking.
Hubbard never lost his interest in being a movie director. He wrote innumerable scripts for Scientology training films, but he still thought he could take over Hollywood. He had particularly high hopes for one script, “Revolt in the Stars,” that was based on one of his novels. Inspired by the thunderous success of Star Wars, Hubbard worked on the script in 1979 with the legendary acting teacher Milton Katselas with the aim of having it made into a feature film. …
When Katselas and Hubbard finished the script … Hubbard dispatched one of his top Messengers, Elizabeth Gablehouse, to Hollywood to make a deal. … She shopped the script around and found a buyer willing to offer $10 million—which, at the time, would have been the highest price ever paid for a script, she was told. The Guardian’s Office became suspicious and investigated the buyers, who they learned were Mormons. Hubbard figured that the only reason Mormons would buy it was to put it on the shelf. … The script never did get made into a film.
Meantime, a full-fledged movie studio, the Cine Org, was set up in a barn at Hubbard’s La Quinta hideaway. With his usual brio, Hubbard assumed that he was fully capable of writing, producing, and directing his own matieral, but his novice staff often frustrated him. He would do scenes over and over again, exhausting everyone, but he was rarely satisfied with the outcome. He walked around the set bellowing orders through a bullhorn, sometimes right in the face of a humiliated staff member.