WEIRD RELIGION: Tom Cruise’s Fired Publicist Breaks Silence on Scientology Split

Hollywood’s once-most-feared woman opens up for the first time about being fired by Cruise (and the role Scientology played in their split), why she had to fire her longtime business partner Leslee Dart and her “selfish” life following an unprecedented, astonishing career.

This story first appeared in Dec. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On Cruise: “His assistant called and made an appointment for Tom to come into my office. He had never been to my office before. And he came in, had a few minutes of chitchat, and he said, ‘I want you to know I’ve decided to make a change.’ I said: ‘I knew that was going to happen today. I guess I’ll probably take a pretty big hit with the media.’ And he said, ‘Well, we’ve all had those hits, haven’t we?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll be OK.’ And then I said, ‘A lot of people have worked on your behalf that you’re not aware of, and I’d like to have you say hello to them.’ So I took him around, and he saw everybody and even went to see the mailman, just as cordial as could be.”

No client became as closely linked to Kingsley as Cruise, whom she signed during the early ’90s.

“I met with him on the set of [1992’s] A Few Good Men, and he grilled me in his trailer,” she says. “It was fabulous! ‘What do you think about this? How important do you think Japan is? And how important do you think TV is opposed to print?’ I was quite taken with him. And then he called me and said, ‘Let’s start tomorrow.’ ”

Over the next few years, they became so close “we could almost finish each other’s sentence. We never really had a disagreement about direction or any particular interview. The trust became pretty complete on both sides.”

They would talk every day, often at 11 p.m. “We talked constantly. He was an insomniac. I liked the fact that he was so much fun. And he was so thoughtful. He remembered birthdays, my daughter’s birthday. He came to her wedding; she was registered somewhere for the china, and he bought out everything. They’ve got things they haven’t even opened yet, and they’ve been together 15 years!”

Once, she remembers, “He took me up in this little airplane he had in Santa Monica. It was a two-seater, one in front and one in back. You could pick it up with your hands, practically. I went to the airport, and they said, ‘Tom’s flying around, he’ll land soon.’ So he lands the plane, and out comes Barry Diller — ‘I’ve got to get me one of these.’ Then it was my turn. You had to put all these straps on. I said, ‘Which one’s the parachute?’ They said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ We took off and started going to Malibu. I said, ‘Tom, I don’t want to wave at anybody, I just want to fly straight.’ He said, ‘Well, there’s Jeffrey Katzenberg.’ I said, ‘I don’t care!’ It was scary, I’m telling you. He said, ‘Next time, I’ll take you over to Catalina for lunch.’ But I never wanted to get in that plane again.”

The end of their relationship in many ways meant the end of Kingsley’s run at the top. She realized it was coming: The late-night chats had dried up, and she wasn’t traveling with Cruise as much as before. “I’d had so much control over everything,” she observes. “I think he wanted to be more personally involved in all those decisions. He felt, ‘Look, it’s been 14 years. I think it’s time I tried something different.’ And I certainly had no quarrel with that. It was his life, his career. It was not working. I was not having the rapport. I felt a kind of pulling back, and I knew it was going to happen.”

Cruise’s Scientology played a role, but only toward the end. Before that, there had been just one serious conflict with reps for the religious organization, “but it was taken care of very early in the game,” says Kingsley. “I felt that they were involved in a story that I was doing on Tom, and I said: ‘It’s not your story, it’s Tom’s. You have to step aside.’ And they did.”

Later, however, Cruise wanted to be more vocal about his beliefs. “I did have that conversation with Tom, about cooling it,” notes Kingsley, saying she told him: ” ‘Scientology is fine. You want to do a tour for Scientology? Do a tour for Scientology. But Warner Bros. is sponsoring this tour.’ That was for [2003’s] The Last Samurai. He didn’t say yes or no, except he did not discuss Scientology on that European tour.”

It was clear Cruise wanted to do things differently, and now it was just a question of whether he or Kingsley would end their work together. The rupture took place in March 2004; she has not seen him in private since. (Through a rep, Cruise declined comment.)

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