Johnny Depp and Vanity Fair: Confused About Scientology, Or Just Trolling?

Johnny Depp and Vanity Fair: Confused About Scientology, Or Just Trolling?

Vanity Fair magazine is teasing its November issue with an excerpt from its interview with Johnny Depp, timed to promote his new movie, Rum Diary.

One utterance from the Pirates of the Caribbean star has been picked up and flung around the Internets with requisite chuckling -- Depp appears to take a jab at Scientology:

Nick Tosches, Depp friend of a decade and writer of this month's cover profile, says the Rum Diary actor is "the same old Johnny" who pumped gas to make ends meet and for a period attended Scientology study groups because they paid $3 per meeting. "I went to a bunch, man. It was so great, it was so fantastic," Depp says.

It is a funny quote. But it's also utter bullshit.

It is true that Scientology courts celebrities and will lovebomb and stalk any actor who shows even the slightest interest in L. Ron Hubbard's weird ideas.

But "study groups" that pay attendees?

No way, say the many defectors the Voice talks to on a regular basis.

"Ha! Scientology paying people?" scoffed Jefferson Hawkins, a longtime former executive who was largely responsible for marketing the church and bringing in new members, including celebrities. "They were usually trying to get every cent they could, even from people just in the door. I never heard anything like this. Scientology, by its own policy, requires people to pay as they go. Hubbard said this was how to select out the 'able' in society -- those who could pay."

Mike Rinder, Scientology's former chief spokesman and someone who worked in the church for about 30 years, was also skeptical. "Tony, never heard of such a thing. I don't know of any [Scientology organization] that has ever paid anyone to attend anything. Sounds to me like he is mixed up or pulling someone's leg."

I started to wonder that myself, especially after talking to someone who actually works with Depp and knows his history quite well.

"That quote has no credibility," the person told me. "First of all, Scientology never paid anyone to attend anything. Johnny was involved with Juliette Lewis at one point, and I was afraid that he might get involved in it. But he didn't."

The person then added an afterthought: "He could be fooling around."

I like Depp, so I'll just assume that's the case.

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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