Jimmy Kimmel made a Scientology joke about Tom Cruise because the actor decided not to attend the ceremony, Oscars producers have admitted.
Kimmel was the host of the 95th iteration of the Oscars on Sunday (March 12). The comic opened his the show with a monologue in which he poked fun at Avatar director James Cameron, last year’s Will Smith slapping incident and a dig at the poor box office performance of Babylon.
The late-night TV host also couldn’t help but alert the audience to the fact that Cruise, whose Top Gun: Maverick received six nominations, was not in attendance. According to Entertainment Tonight, this was because the actor is shooting Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part II on location in the UK.
Kimmel addressed Maverick‘s box office success in 2022, calling it “the movie that saved the movies”. He followed this by making what appeared to be a Scientology quip directed at Cruise, stating: “Everyone loved Top Gun – everybody. I mean, Tom Cruise with his shirt off in that beach football scene. L. Ron hubba-hubba – you know what I’m saying?”
Cruise is probably the most famous member of the Church of Scientology, which was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1953. The church has been at the centre of a number of headlines after former members have shared stories of their time in the church.
When executive producer Molly McNearney, who is Kimmel’s wife, was asked if that joke would have been made if Cruise had been there, she told Variety: “No.”
She elaborated, saying: “We had about a three minute chunk of the monologue dedicated to Tom Cruise, honouring him and his role in reviving the movie industry.
“We were so disappointed when we learn a few days before the Oscars that he wouldn’t be there. Jimmy loves him and really wanted to celebrate him.”
McNeary explained that “we had two versions of the monologue.” She elaborated on how many of Kimmel’s jokes were dependent on so many things, saying: “One [joke depended on] if Rihanna was in her seat, one if she was not in her seat.”