They’ve laid waste to half of Hollywood in their apocalyptic black comedy This Is the End—including Rihanna and a coke-crazed Michael Cera—and incinerated North Korea’s rotund tyrant Kim Jong-un in their political satire The Interview, and now, the creative team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg has set their sights on the Xenu-lovin’, Matt Lauer-bashin’ face of Scientology: Tom Cruise.
Rogen and Goldberg, who’ve been collaborating with one another since drafting a screenplay for Superbad at the age of 13, unveiled their new AMC series Preacher at SXSW. The terribly funny (and violent) show is an adaptation of Garth Ennis’s graphic novels of the same name, and stars Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, a small-town preacher in fictional Annville, Texas, who finds himself blessed with the unusual power of commanding those who hear his words to do his bidding. He joins forces with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and a gleefully uninhibited Irish vampire, Cassidy (Joe Gilgun), on a mission to find God.
In the impressive pilot episode, which was very well-received at the festival, religious leaders all over the world—from Russia to California—are being possessed by an otherworldly presence and exploding into a million little pieces. As Jesse nurses a drink at a local watering hole, he turns his attention to the TV and sees a headline flash: “Tom Cruise Explodes!” followed by a shot of what appears to be a Scientology center covered in blood and viscera. The scene drew the biggest laugh during the premiere screening in Austin, Texas.
“We just have this idea that this entity, whatever it is, is trying to find a suitable host by going to various religious figures, and I think it was Evan’s idea to have [Cruise],” Rogen told The Daily Beast of the memorable scene, while holding back laughter. “It was around the time of Going Clear.” “It was because he is a religious figure,” added Goldberg. “He’s the face of an organization.”
But Rogen and Goldberg also feel that, in spite of the carnage, the scene is also rather complimentary. “I think it’s validating to him in a lot of ways because we’re saying he’s a legitimate religious figure,” said a chuckling Rogen, before cracking up. “And he was not a suitable host!”
During Preacher’s post-screening Q&A at SXSW, Rogen confessed to having never met The Cruise in person—though perhaps a meeting could be brokered by mutual friend Simon Pegg, who co-stars alongside cruise in the Mission: Impossible films and appeared opposite Rogen in Paul, once even convincing Rogen and Goldberg to change the title of their film from The End of the World to This Is the End (it was too close to Pegg’s The World’s End, which hit theaters that same summer).“I think we were all waiting for someone else to say, ‘No,’ and now it’s too late,” Goldberg said of killing Cruise onscreen during the Q&A session.
“I will run into him one day, though,” Rogen continued. “It will happen, and I’m going to have to explain that. I’m coming up with a way that might make it seem complimentary.”