According to a report in Vanity Fair, Church of Scientology officials launched the project in 2004, ‘auditioning’ women to date Cruise.

Haggis, who has worked on Hollywood blockbusters including Million Dollar Baby and Crash, was a follower of Scientology for 35 years.

However, he fell out with the church following a dispute over gay marriage and California, and has made a number of derogatory claims about the organisation since.

The latest came in an email to entertainment industry news website Showbiz 411. In it, Haggis claimed that Iranian-born, London-raised actress and Scientologist Nazanin Boniadi was picked by the church to date Cruise.

Haggis added that he had known Boniadi for about three years and said she had been embarrassed about becoming unwittingly involved in the plot – which is why he had not gone public with it.

Vanity Fair reported that when Boniadi told a friend about her failed relationship with Cruise – said to have taken place between November 2004 and January 2005 – she was punished by Scientology officials, who had forbidden her to speak about it.

Vanity Fair said she had been forced to “scrub toilets with a toothbrush, clean bathroom tiles with acid and dig ditches in the middle of the night. After that she was sent out to sell Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics on street corners”.

In his email to Showbiz 411, Haggis said of the incident: “I was deeply disturbed by how the highest ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members; how they so callously punished her and then so effectively silenced her when it was done.

“It wasn’t just the threats; they actually made her feel ashamed, when all she had been was human and trusting.”

Cruise’s representatives reportedly commented to Radar Online: “Lies in a different font are still lies – designed to sell magazines.”

The Church of Scientology told ABC News in a statement: “The entire story is hogwash. There was no project, secret or otherwise, ever conducted by the Church to find a bride (audition or otherwise) for any member.

“No church members were ‘used,’ nor were they punished, nor silenced.” 

Image: Getty