The rumors that Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology “audition” women for the role of the actor’s wife have been floating around for a while now; they certainly came back in full force when Tom and Katie Holmes split. What we know is this: On June 29, 2012, the couple announced that they were divorcing; by July 9, the divorce had been finalized; and that fall, Vanity Fair published an expose in their October issue that told the tale of Nazanin Boniadi, who had allegedly auditioned to be Tom’s next wife and dated him from November 2004 to January 2005. I’ve never been totally sure if I’ve believed the rumors—I generally take conspiracy theories with rather a large grain of salt, and this one tends to fall under the heading of “Potentially Too Weird to Be True”—but the more stories that come out about it, I can’t help but wonder if there actually is some truth in them.
The latest story comes from The Underground Bunker, a site run by former Village Voice editor Tony Ortega, in conjunction with Australian magazine Woman’s Day. In it, a Norwegian woman claims that before Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes became an item, she underwent a strange ordeal that she now believes may have been one of Tom’s mysterious “wife auditions.” Does this latest story corroborate Nanzani’s, or is it just another conspiracy theory? You be the judge:
Anette Iren Johansen grew up in a town called Fredikstad, about an hour south of Norway’s capital, Oslo. When she was 19, she moved to Copenhagen, Denmark for college in 1996, planning to become a verterinarian; in 2002, however, she found a flier in the mail that got her interested in Scientology. Two years later, she had dropped out of school and was spending most of her time with the church.
Then it got weird: In January of 2005—a mere four months before Tom began dating Katie and right after his short-lived (and alleged) relationship with Nazanin ended—she was asked to participate in a special audition at the Church of Scientology’s Copenhagen base. Anette had previously appeared in Scientology magazines and training films, so she thought it was going to be something like that—except that it wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t.
For one, there was a makeup team present who got her all gussied up before shooting—which, she said, had never happened during those training film shoots. Then, instead of giving her a script, the just sat her down in front of a camera and asked her a boatload of personal questions. “They asked me so many questions about my life, my family background, everything I’d ever done in Scientology,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about Tom Cruise at that time—he had just been in Norway [hosting the Nobel Peace Prize concert.” Before she left, they made her sign a waiver promising that she not speak of the “audition” to anyone.
Two weeks after the audition, a man in California called her on behalf of something he called “Golden Era Productions, international management.” He asked her if she had any “sexual perversions”—seriously!—to which she answered no. The man thanked her and said that he might be getting back in touch with her later—but that was the last she heard of the matter.
The Underground Bunker also got in touch with a guy called Marc Headley, a former church member who says that he worked on a number of these types of “auditions.” About Anette’s story, he said, “That was for Tom Cruise, absolutely.” He continued, “Those are the exact same questions that they were asking the other girls”; he also noted that the reason that weirdo question about “sexual perversions” came up because “They had some girls with histories that weren’t so great. So they were being careful. This girl has to be perfect in all ways” (apparently the future Mrs. Cruise is only allowed to have sex in missionary). The “auditions” didn’t stop until they found Katie.
Anette eventually left Scientology for a variety of reasons: First, she was put off by the church’s 2007 “The Basics” initiative, which required members to spend $3,000 on a repackaging of old Scientology books and lectures; she stopped taking classes around 2010; and in 2012, she both started dating a friend who had left the church and read the Vanity Fair story about Nazanin Boniadi. Looking back, she says, “I think what happened to Katie is terrible. Even now it must be very difficult for her because she still has a child with him. Tom is totally cult minded. I’m very happy that I wasn’t matched up with him.”
So there you have it, Bettys. I’m still not totally sure I’m convinced, but I suppose it’s possible that rather than being “Too Weird to Be True,” the whole thing is actually “So Weird You Can’t Make It Up.” What do you think? Are these “auditions” a real thing? Or is it just one big, huge, wacky, and totally untrue story told for the purposes of sensationalism?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.