Scientology is a popular target for criticism, whether it’s the New Yorker’s scathing expose about Paul Haggis‘s experience in the religious organization, or “South Park‘s” infamous “Trapped in the Closet” episode. The Razzie Awards have taken aim at Hollywood’s most famous Scientologists: John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Will Will Smith and “After Earth” be next?
Smith has denied that he is a Scientologist, but he is at the very least sympathetic to the group, donating $122,500 to the church in 2007 and opening the New Village Leadership Academy in 2009, which used Scientology’s Study Technology as one of its educational methodologies. The school closed in 2013.
Similarly, “After Earth” is not explicitly based on the teachings of Scientology, but several parallels have been pointed out, which could possibly increase Razzie voters’ sense of schadenfreude over its critical and financial failure – a disappointing $60 million domestically, though it made a quarter-billion worldwide. Add to that a director (M. Night Shyamalan) whose precipitous fall from grace has already resulted in one Razzie for Worst Picture (2010’s “The Last Airbender”), and you’ve got a potentially ideal target for Razzie derision.
Indeed, “After Earth” currently leads our racetrack odds for Worst Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Smith has a narrow lead for Worst Supporting Actor, while he and his son Jaden Smith are heavy favorites for Worst Screen Combo.
The Razzies took a shot at Scientology back in 2000 when John Travolta starred in “Battlefield Earth,” one of the most hated films in the awards’ history. Based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, “Battlefield” won all eight of its categories, including Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Travolta), as well as Worst ‘Drama’ of Our First 25 Years in 2004, and then Worse Picture of the Decade in 2009.
Then came Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most public figure, who experienced an extreme backlash in 2005 after jumping on Oprah Winfrey‘s couch to sing the praises of soon-to-be wife Katie Holmes and then criticizing Brooke Shields for her use of medication to treat postpartum depression. The souring of public opinion was so dramatic that the Razzies awarded him and Holmes in 2005 as the Most Tiresome Tabloid Targets, a category that had never been awarded before and was never awarded again.
That year they also nominated Cruise for Worst Actor in Steven Spielberg‘s “War of the Worlds,” which can only be attributed to his off-screen antics, because he was actually pretty damn good in that movie, which had predominantly positive reviews (73 on MetaCritic, 74% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and no other Razzie nominations.
Will “After Earth” be the latest Scientology target? Make your predictions for Worst Picture below: