While spiralling budgets and delays have sparked major woes for studio chiefs of the latest Mission Impossible film, it is the major lifestyle changes of its star Tom Cruise which have raised the most eyebrows.
The prolific filmmaker – who boasts more than $18 billion in box office takings – has become uncharacteristically reclusive. And most surprisingly of all, he has appeared to drift away from the Church of Scientology.
Cruise has been a member of the controversial religion, founded by American sci-fi author L Ron Hubbard, for decades.
On previous trips to the UK, the Top Gun actor has been a regular at the church’s British headquarters at Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead.
The star was heavily involved in an expensive renovation of the site in 2015, and is understood to have stayed there while filming and working in England, flying back and forth to London and elsewhere by private helicopter.
But now, while filming the latest in the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise, 59, has not been seen in the area at all.
He has been staying at a smart apartment in Knightsbridge where he was able to enter discreetly through an underground car park, and more recently at a secluded home in the Kent countryside close to Biggin Hill airport, within easy reach of his private jet.
He is not thought to have visited Saint Hill Manor once – and film sources suspect his change in outlook could be linked to a falling out of love with Scientology amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In public, the church says it has no official position on vaccinations, but it is understood that many of the group are reluctant to take jabs and avoid conventional medical treatment.
In a section titled, “How To Prevent The Spread Of Illness With Isolation”, the church’s official website tells followers, “An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure,” but does not specifically refer to vaccines.
And a senior set source said: “Tom appears extremely withdrawn at the moment – he’s really keeping himself to himself, but something seems to have changed. He’s obviously under a great deal of pressure with this film and the studio are now getting on the case because things are so delayed and apparently over-budget.
“It isn’t really anyone’s fault and Tom has a long history of making incredible films that more than justify the big costs, but there’s no doubt things are weighing on his shoulders just now.”
But the insider added: “What’s really surprising this time around is what he’s up to away from the set.
“He’s usually at the Scientology mansion a lot, which seems to be how he likes to relax, and then also out and about in London.”
“He has the helicopter so he can go anywhere very quickly, but he hasn’t been to East Grinstead at all. A number of us wonder if the Covid situation and his religious beliefs are pulling him in different directions with so much pressure involved in getting this film finished.”
The star has been an active member of the church since 1990, after being introduced by his first wife Mimi Rogers. He has since been one of the religion’s biggest names. The church’s most senior figure David Miscavige was best man at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes, 42, though the marriage later collapsed with the actress saying she wanted to protect their daughter, Suri, now 15, from Scientology.
Leaked recording of star berating staff
The Sun previously revealed the extent of Cruise’s anxiety when a leaked on-set recording of the producer and actor berating staffers emerged. It earned him praise from many for his insistence on sticking to Covid protocols to avoid further delays.
In December, having spotted two of the crew standing within 2m of each other (and thus breaking social distancing rules) at the set in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, Cruise was heard saying: “I am beyond your apologies. We are not shutting this f***ing movie down. Is it understood? If I see it again, you’re f***ing gone. And so are you. So you’re gonna cost him his job.
“Do you understand the responsibility that you have? Because I will deal with your reason, and if you can’t be reasonable, and I can’t deal with your logic, you’re fired. That’s it.”
Cruise, who plays spy Ethan Hunt in the hit franchise, later stood by his outburst, telling film magazine Empire: “I said what I said.
“There was a lot at stake at that point. All those emotions were going through my mind.
“I was thinking about the people I work with, and my industry. And for the whole crew to know that we’d started rolling on a movie was just a huge relief.”
But despite production coming to an end – under increasing time and financial constraints – major wrangles behind the scenes continue to spark disputes.
Delays rock action movie filming
A key planned scene involving a train crashing over a quarry ledge, which had cost huge sums to construct, is now understood to be facing the axe, angering the star, who saw the pivotal moment as a major set piece.
There is also growing anger among locals near Darlton Quarry in Derbyshire over repeated road closures and disruptions around the set site.
And only weeks ago the entire production was halted for several weeks – prompting speculation among crew members whether Cruise himself may have tested positive for Covid.
As one put it: “If it was anyone else, we’d have ploughed on. We can’t afford another hold up.” Despite the troubles, it’s understood Tom has enjoyed an increasingly close relationship with British co-star Hayley Atwell, 39, after hitting it off on set.
Tom, who also has two adopted children with second wife Nicole Kidman, has been single since his 2012 break-up from Holmes, despite briefly being linked to actresses Elisabeth Moss and Laura Prepon.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Hint Tom Cruise drifting from Scientology