A Joint Paul Haggis-Lawrence Wright Production “The Apostate” “Crashes” Upon Arrival When The New Yorker’s Endlessly Long Script Sinks Into a Comedy of Errors
It was a joint production with principal players from opposite coasts—one in New York, the other in Hollywood. Titled “The Apostate,” it opened in early February on the pages of The New Yorker magazine. It had an unlimited running time, as evidenced by the many who still have yet to finish the 24,000-plus-word tragedy.
This drama was supposed to “profile” Paul Haggis. At least that’s what author Lawrence Wright claimed when originally presenting his pitch to officials from the Church of Scientology. Yet what is now abundantly clear is the fact this production was never intended as anything less than an ambush-style, anti-religious diatribe.
But from opening credits to the agonizing twenty-four thousandth six hundred fifth word, it was a comedy of errors. In fact, lots of them. That’s because The New Yorker, via Lawrence Wright, cast a handful of embittered apostates in all the leading roles. Their constantly changing scripts, playing out ad nauseam on the Internet fringe, have become a joke—a sick one at that. But nonetheless, Wright welcomed a self-proclaimed “Posse” to “The Apostate,” thereby transforming the piece into a twisted farce told through the eyes of a Felliniesque cast of liars and misfits.
In particular, the Haggis-Wright production cast Marty “Kingpin” Rathbun in a key role. Rathbun is otherwise known as the star of his own string of violent real-life dramas—including one scene in which he nearly killed a man with his bare hands. His most recent outing costarred New Orleans mounted police who arrested him for a drunken brawl while celebrating his wedding. The happy ending of this one included Rathbun spending his honeymoon drying out in the city slammer.
Wright welcomed a self-proclaimed “Posse” to “The Apostate,” thereby transforming the piece into a twisted farce told through the eyes of a Felliniesque cast of liars and misfits.
Then there’s Rathbun’s sidekick, Mike Rinder. Rinder was the one who nearly died at Rathbun’s hands. The two now star as “best buddies” in their own road picture, spinning their tales to a few starved media outlets looking for a quick ratings boost.
Then again, there are the rest of the supporting players: the shrill voice of the morally challenged Amy Scobee, who can’t stomach the fact she can’t make a buck with her self-published, hallucinogenic tirades against the Church. There’s Tom DeVocht, who stars in his own Horatio Alger story in reverse, falling from Church construction manager to used furniture salesman. There’s Jason Beghe, the frustrated thespian whose violent off-screen behavior may not appear on his acting résumé, but is among the credits on his rap sheet. And finally, there’s Marc and Claire Headley, whose “his and her” civil lawsuits against the Church were tossed out by a federal judge—the climactic courtroom scene fading to black after the Headleys were ordered to pay the Church’s $40,000 court costs.
“The Apostate” also marked the debut of “Anonymous One” and “Anonymous Two,” character actors known only to Lawrence Wright. They are the “Deep Throats” Wright claims disclosed to him a secret “investigation” that, as it turns out, other than uncorroborated claims, never existed. But that didn’t stop Wright from using the allegations to get a little blip of media attention for his dreadfully dull piece.
Finally, there is Paul Haggis himself. His most recent box-office bomb features a scene in which Russell Crowe shills for an electric toothbrush dubbed the “thirty second smile.” Given one of his apostate buddies hawks same-said appliance on late-night TV for real, is a Haggis jump from movies to infomercials in the stars?
In the following pages, Freedom Magazine presents the story behind this abysmal production. Esquire’s Mark Warren called Wright’s article “boring,” which is charitable. He wasn’t alone in his view, but he may be one of the few who managed to actually finish reading it.
One last note: “The Apostate” wasn’t produced on location at any Church of Scientology. The New Yorker-Wright production team was guaranteed full access to any facility if they were intending to write a story about the Church or an active parishioner. Instead Wright and his editors chose Haggis as their star—someone who left the Church he’d only pretended to be part of for 30 years. And even he wound up on the cutting-room floor, because when the piece finally came into focus it was no Hollywood profile but rather a distorted and untruthful portrait of Scientology.
But enough of the coming attractions—continue to the next page for the feature presentation.