2022 was a good year for Tom Cruise, professionally. One of his best years in a long time. Top Gun: Maverick was the biggest movie of the year, and by now we all know the story behind it – that Tom insisted on holding the picture through the pandemic because he was convinced that people would show up to see it. And they did, in huge numbers around the world. Maverick was such a big deal in the industry that Tom will be presented with the David O Selznick Achievement Award at the Producers Guild Awards in February, always a strong predictor of Oscars, which is why most experts agree, at this point in the Oscar race anyway, that Top Gun: Maverick will be included in the list of Best Picture nominees when the Oscar nominations are announced later this month. 


So far the Maverick Oscar campaign has been pretty smooth. Tom hasn’t been present for most of it but he’s doing what he does best – throwing himself out of airplanes and off of bikes and freefalling into valleys and canyons to create social media moments. Could there be a snafu though? Will Scientology be a liability? Because this is the latest: 


David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, has been missing for years. David isn’t missing but he’s definitely been elusive. Leah Remini and many other former members of the Church of Scientology have been exposing David and the organisation’s f-cksh-t for years. And one of the reasons Tom has been so removed from the standard Hollywood circuit is because of the damage his Scientological associations did to his career. Tom used to talk about Scientology quite openly; it’s been a long time since we’ve heard him discuss his involvement with the Church. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard him discuss anything other than how much he loves making movies. For a decade now he’s only had one talking point: I love movies, I love watching movies, I love filming movies, there’s nothing I love more than watching movies and filming them. Tom Cruise may not have distanced himself in private from Scientology but he has definitely distanced himself from the Church publicly. 

But now his biggest movie has a chance at the biggest award. And the man who’s been called his best friend, who also happens to be the sinister leader of a cult, is being accused of human trafficking. The story isn’t front page news yet, the trades aren’t covering it… yet. But will the industry continue to ignore it? Will mainstream Hollywood continue to ignore? And for how long? If Top Gun: Maverick’s chances at an Oscar nomination continue to improve, will campaign competition kick in and bring the Scientology issue to the forefront of the race? 


For the uninitiated out there, Oscar campaigns are not unlike political campaigns. Oscar strategists are hired every year to position candidates for a win. A lot of money is spent on securing nominations and, eventually, wins. And they are not above playing dirty, finding the weak spots of opposing films in contention – these smear campaigns are well-documented and while it’s been a few years since we’ve seen anything super ugly, it also hasn’t been that long since these kind of campaign tactics were deployed and Hollywood isn’t exactly known for its value system, after all. 

So will Scientology come up as we get closer and closer to Oscar time? Tom is not expected to show for the Golden Globes next week. But next week is a really key week for award season. The Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, and the Producers Guild are all announcing their nominations leading up to the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, January 15 where Maverick is contending in six categories, including Best Picture and Best Actor. David Miscavige isn’t around to open any envelopes. Will Tom Cruise be around to open any envelopes?