Scientologist Giovanni Ribisi to Play David Koresh: Why There's a Precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian Connection

Categories: Scientology

KoreshRibisi.jpg
Koresh, left, to be played by Ribisi
So I'm late to this story, but I only found out recently that Giovanni Ribisi is portraying David Koresh in a movie about the 1993 Waco raid that is scheduled to come out later this year. (The movie will also reportedly star Adrien Brody, Kurt Russell, John Leguizamo, and Sharon Stone, according to imdb.com.)

I'm having deja vu on all kinds of levels over this nugget of news, and the reason is I believe I may have been the first, way back in 1995, to prove a connection between Scientology and Koresh's Branch Davidians in a story I wrote for the Phoenix New Times.

And now, Ribisi, a third-generation Scientologist, will be portraying Koresh on the big screen.

The hairs on the back of my neck keep going up.

In 1995, I wrote the first lengthy story about Rick Ross, a controversial "deprogrammer" who helped people leave Bible-based organizations they had soured on.

Even though Ross focused on Bible-based groups, Scientology considered him an enemy and kept him under almost constant surveillance through the use of private investigators. In 1992, Scientology lawyers learned that Ross was counseling a man named David Block, who had recently left Koresh's Branch Davidians group and its compound, Mount Carmel.

I talked to Block about his experiences at Mount Carmel, and he was adamant that Koresh was a sick fucker who was using Bible verses to convince underage girls to sleep with him. "If this is God, I don't want to have anything to do with him," Block remembered thinking about Koresh.

Once he fled the Branch Davidians and started his counseling with Ross, however, Block found himself under the same surveillance by Scientology-hired private investigators who kept an eye on Ross.

One of the private eyes, a woman, told Block that she'd been hired by Scientology's lawyers, and also told him that she was in contact with Koresh, to tell him that Rick Ross was deprogramming one of his former followers.

I was able to confirm this story with the woman's boss, Jon Gaw, who told me that yes, he was talking to the Branch Davidians about what Rick Ross was doing.

Ross told me he wasn't surprised that Scientology was trading information with Koresh, perhaps trying to rile up the violent cult leader against a man Scientology considered a mortal enemy.

Ross was later one of many experts on Branch Davidians who was consulted by the BATF about Koresh. He said he told the ATF to "work through the Bible and don't upset Koresh." He was shocked, he said, to see how badly the agency handled things with its raid on the compound.

Anyway, I really don't know what to think that a prominent Scientologist celebrity has been hired to play Koresh in the upcoming movie. Does that point to a particularly positive portrayal?

I haven't found a release date for the movie, but it sounds like we won't have very long to wait to see how Koresh comes off.


tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization:

The Larry Wollersheim Saga -- Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story -- How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection -- A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Robert Cipriano Case -- A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum -- The 'Crash' Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape -- 'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle'
The Aaron Saxton Accusation -- Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation -- Scientology's former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross -- Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked -- Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back -- Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack -- The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated -- The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation -- Investigating a reporter's divorce to shut him up

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22 comments
JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

When I was a scientologist at the time of your 1993 article, I remember asking about it to the local church and I was told by it's Office of Special Affairs that Ross aided the ATF, who the church considered a corrupt organization, and that both were suppressive to religious freedom.This kind of logic was part of an overall PR campaign, backed by Hubbard policies on dealing with enemies ( including such government organizations), to demonize both Ross and ATF .As happened with me, Scientologists were encouraged NOT to read or listen to the news and when by chance it occurred and was mentioned to the organization, the persons were sent Scientology written articles or press releases which supported it's position in attempt to stop all attention to the issue.  It's my opinion that the initial anti-ATF attitude was stoked by the church and it's propaganda machine. I know that I was made to believe the ATF was a bad organization and at fault and that Rick Ross was in cahoots with them on the attack against Korseh and his group. From my experience as a member, I have seen how the church aligns with any cause that will help it's position. This happened when Scientologist attorney James J Jackson assisted the plaintiff in the Federal Appeals case 99-5109 MUSIC SQUARE CHURCH vs UNITED STATES, MSC is a church founded by Tony and Susan Alamo. It lost it's tax exempt status and the appeal.http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/f...http://www.mhrn.org/publicatio... Nothing surprises me about this cult.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

When I was a scientologist at the time of your 1993 article, I remember asking about it to the local church and I was told by it's Office of Special Affairs that Ross aided the ATF, who the church considered a corrupt organization, and that both were suppressive to religious freedom.This kind of logic was part of an overall PR campaign, backed by Hubbard policies on dealing with enemies ( including such government organizations), to demonize both Ross and ATF .As happened with me, Scientologists were encouraged NOT to read or listen to the news and when by chance it occurred and was mentioned to the organization, the persons were sent Scientology written articles or press releases which supported it's position in attempt to stop all attention to the issue.

It's my opinion that the initial anti-ATF attitude was stoked by the church and it's propaganda machine. I know that I was made to believe the ATF was a bad organization and at fault and that Rick Ross was in cahoots with them on the attack against Korseh and his group. From my experience as a member,

I have seen how the church aligns with any cause that will help it's position. This happened when Scientologist attorney James J Jackson assisted the plaintiff in the Federal Appeals case 99-5109 MUSIC SQUARE CHURCH vs UNITED STATES, MSC is a church founded by Tony and Susan Alamo. It lost it's tax exempt status and the appeal.http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/f...http://www.mhrn.org/publicatio...

Nothing surprises me about this cult.

Mark Yallow
Mark Yallow

It would be a typical and cynical move by Scientology to trade information with a cult like the Branch Davidians.  Scientology is notorious for it's stable of dirty tricks and has never hesitated to crawl into bed with ANYONE so long as it furthers their interests. 

Good call! 

Jane
Jane

Let's play seven degrees of separation from my cult and the cult of scientology. O.K. one degree, I'm done.

Anybody here remember the 70's and 80's after Jim Jones killed 900 or so people? All cults became "brethren" for the purpose of protecting themselves and other cults from "religious persecution". Read: any outside interference with their activities. What would be extremely fascinating would be to see if this Giovanni dude suffers any incidental self-awareness by taking on this role. It is also a bit gruesome that such an apparently devoted cult member would play a part like this. Gruesome for the victims of David Koresh. I would be semi-hysterical if a scientologist was going to play one of the cult leaders of the group I came out of.

I was still under the influence of my cult when Koresh killed all those people, which is what I believe happened. I mentally mocked them as fools for believing in such stupidity.

My cult altered mental state came up with a very crude analysis for why this happened and why my group was not a cult...because they had guns and because they all lived communally. The objective of this analysis was really, I now realize, to maintain my internal certainty that my group was not a cult.

I regret mocking those people, more than I can say. I am also very curious how a former scientologist processed Jim Jones, David Koresh and the Heaven's gate tragedies. How did you convince yourself you were different than them?

bewreslippyslope
bewreslippyslope

The government set fire to the complex.  That is what killed the children.  Rick Ross is a pervert that kidnapped people.   You have some twisted ideas of truth.  Rick Ross was convicted.  The Davidian massacre was a disaster and a stain on our republic.

hur-dur
hur-dur

you really gotta stop reading the silly Scientology brown shirt propaganda

Mark Yallow
Mark Yallow

It's really very simple. One of the attributes of a cult is their inherent paranoia of any other organisation, even other cults. Scientology having no recognizable standard of ethics will on occasion consort with another cult to further their longterm goals. They did it with Koresh's group, they are doing it now with the Nation of Islam. 

The end result will be the same. A cult alliance is shaky at best, each group must worship their own charismatic leader an so any interaction will have a layer of suspicion. 

NibseeB
NibseeB

Can you spell "Spyintology Propaganda aimed at brainwashing people that the only reason thousands are crying "FOUL!" is because they are "religious bigots"?

Mark Yallow
Mark Yallow

Or perhaps there is something to this? The only people who scream religious bigot are the cult members themselves, particularly members of Scientology. 

bewreslippyslope
bewreslippyslope

Really "only people"?  Have you met all the people.   Are Jews also cult members or just anything you feel is politically or culturally ok to attack.  Do you bully small children also. 

Floridian
Floridian

I would love to see the media ask Ribisi about the parallels between the Branch Davidians and Scientology. ROTFLMAO!!!!

Bolivia
Bolivia

Giovanni Ribisi looks a lot creepier than David Koresh, good casting!

PamEllis
PamEllis

Here's hoping the press when talking to the stars actually ask probing questions.  To ignore the irony of one cult member portraying the leader of another cult is just sitting there...waiting to be asked about.

NibseeB
NibseeB

It will no doubt be another Spyintology boomerang.   Betcha: They will either Villify or glorify Koresh.   They aim to show how evil it is to mess with people, or else show the difference between Koresh and their glossified turds.   If it's Spyintology you can count on two things:  Lies & Manipulation.    Cheaters.

MarkStark
MarkStark

Just from a standpoint of casting, Ribisi is an unusual choice, since he looks like a chipmunk and he's little, and Koresh was good looking. I guess they are trying to make Koresh look wormier or more feral than he looked.

Dan Courtney
Dan Courtney

Interesting, I was not aware of this connection. This might get uncomfortable for Ribisi when it comes to promoting this film. He'll be asked about why people allow themselves to be brainwashed by a mentally unstable psychopath. He might get some questions about Koresh too.

Mark miglio
Mark miglio

Dan, please try to be nice to all the people on this planet that live here with you, even if you think you have good reason to knock them. We are all brothers and sisters, and we cannot significantly survive or be happy without us communicating -massively- to each other in such a way so that we can have mutual affinity and have cooperation with each other. All beings are basically good. Help them handle their baggage.

Guest
Guest

 Hi Terryeo!

Crooked Artists
Crooked Artists

Giovanni Ribisi used to be cute and vibrant. Now he has the smarmy look.  What is it?  Also noticing that Kirstie Alley and Katie Holmes both have that *smirk* up the right side of their face.   (Maybe it comes from talking out of the side of your mouth?  Being cagey?  Being the Master Race?")     Those guys have no business in art or movies.

Rachel99ontopix
Rachel99ontopix

Pre-Cruise Katie had a big, very pretty smile.  After Cruise she only does the smirk thing.  Very odd, but with Katie I figured it was at Cruise's orders.  It's no secret he has to control his wives, each younger than the last.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

Not really. You can talk cults all day long with Scientologists, as long as you don't mention theirs.

They honestly do not see that they're in a cult. Other people are in cults. Scientology is a religion, or so they assert. I had a pretty entertaining discussion about the Hare Krishnas with a Scientologist. I deliberately described tactics also used by Scientology, but they couldn't see it.

It was pretty funny in a sad way, like when a clown dies.

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