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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Joaquin Phoenix, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rose McGowan among Hollywood stars linked to cults

When someone thinks of a celebrity’s lifestyle, lavish luxuries, unlimited wealth and spotless dream homes come to mind.

The lives of stars can take a turn like anyone else’s. Sometimes, even the biggest stars can find themselves wrapped up in the wrong crowd – or worse, a cult.

Here are some celebrities who have experiences in cults, either growing up in them or choosing to join them as adults.


“I was in a cult for 10 years,” Lenz said. “That would be a really valuable experience to write about. And the recovery — 10 years of recovery after that. So, there’s a lot to tell.”

She was hesitant to share too much of what she’d been through because of the legal issues.

“And also I don’t know how much I can say,” Lenz added. “Because there are still people and legal things in place that make it more complicated for the timing of that.”

Without knowing all the details, licensed therapist and relationship coach and expert Julie Mangus explained to Fox News Digital that, general speaking, a person might want to join a group like this because “they might want to increase their self betterment, might be looking for a place to belong and for a sense of a greater understanding of who they are and what purpose they might be here on earth for.

A photo of the cast of "One Tree Hill."

The cast of “One Tree Hill” poses for a photo in 2004. (Theo Wargo/WireImage)

“Cults can give people a sense of community and being a part of something larger than themselves. This can be very intoxicating and fundamentally soothes a very important basic human need to belong,” she continued. “Additionally, cults usually provide a faith-based element or a way of bettering yourself towards a greater good or purpose or to carry out a religious agenda with a leader in charge.”

Allison Mack – NXIVM

“Smallville” actress Allison Mack was part of a group that is now very well known — NXIVM.

After an investigation, Raniere was arrested along with a few others, including Mack. The charges were serious: sex trafficking, identity theft, money laundering and extortion, among others.

Allison mack

Allison Mack was originally facing up to 20 years in prison per count. (Reuters    )

In 2019, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges, a move that freed her from the sex trafficking charges. In court, she reportedly cried while detailing how she recruited women under false pretenses before making them “slaves” that were forced to sleep with Raniere.

She faced 20 years for each count but was sentenced to three years in prison. The actress was released earlier this month after serving two years.


Three big name celebrities were brought into the cult as children by their parents: Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix and Rose McGowan.

Joaquin, River, their parents and siblings Rain and Liberty were all part of the group in its early days. The youngest child, Summer, was born shortly after they fled. They traveled around the U.S., as well as Central and South America, doing work for the cult.

Joaquin Phoenix at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on the red carpet in a black tuxedo looking off in the distance

After his unconventional upbringing, Joaquin Phoenix went on to have a remarkable acting career. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

River, like Joaquin, achieved fame through acting, though his career was cut short when he died of an overdose at 23. 

Two years before that, he claimed in an interview with Details magazine that he’d first had sex when he was 4.

“But I’ve blocked it out,” he said. “I was completely celibate from ten to fourteen.”

Rose McGowan at a podium

Rose McGowan went on to have an acting career and become a leading voice in the #MeToo movement. (Ena Laverty/AFP via Getty Images)

The Phoenix family left when “flirty fishing” came into play, McGowan’s father realized the situation had turned bad when Berg began advocating for sexual relationships between children and adults. They left in secret, and members of the cult attempted to track them down. But they were finally able to settle in the U.S.

“As strong as I like to think I’ve always been, I’m sure I could have been broken,” McGowan admitted. “I know I got out by the skin of my teeth.”

Glenn Close – Moral Re-Armament

Moral Re-Armament, also known as MRA, was a religious movement that began in the 1920s when a man named Frank Buchman began evangelizing and became successful with it. Some of the beliefs he touted were the importance of surrendering oneself to a higher power and the practice of solitary silence. Over the years, he attracted thousands of followers from a number of countries

“You basically weren’t allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire,” she explained. “If you talk to anybody who was in a group that basically dictates how you’re supposed to live and what you’re supposed to say and how you’re supposed to feel, from the time you’re 7 till the time you’re 22, it has a profound impact on you. It’s something you have to [consciously overcome] because all of your trigger points are.”

Glenn Close at Met Gala

Glenn Close was able to push past many of the things she experienced in Moral Re-Armament and became beloved movie star with a career spanning decades.  (Cindy Ord/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

In a 2021 interview with Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey, she elaborated, saying, “It was really awful. We were so broken up. It’s astounding that something you went through at such an early stage in your life still has such a potential to be destructive. I think that’s childhood trauma.

“Everybody spouted the same things, and there was a lot of rules — a lot of control. Because of how we were raised, anything that you thought you would do for yourself was considered selfish,” she explained.

A photo of Glenn Close at the Oscars

Glenn Close admitted to having nightmares after breaking away from the group. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)

Mangus suggested to Fox News Digital that psychiatry or therapy would be very important for someone, especially a young person, to work through these kinds of experiences.

As children in these situations, Mangus explained, “they feel hyper dependent on someone else calling the shots telling them what to do, so much so that they are lost without it. They would need help from a trained professional to process this trauma in a healthy way, and redirect their body and mind to connect with the truth based on a sense of reality, as opposed to the reality and norms just of the cult and all the expectations they grew up in. There would most likely be tremendous trauma, and depending on the age, developmental and chronic.”

Michelle Pfeiffer – Breatharianism

Breatharianism, plainly put, is the belief that one can survive without consuming food. Sometimes this extends to water. And sometimes practitioners believe that they can survive off fresh air and/or sunlight alone.

“They worked with weights and put people on diets,” she said of these trainers. “Their thing was vegetarianism. They were very controlling. I wasn’t living with them, but I was there a lot, and they were always telling me I needed to come more. I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining.”

A photo of Michelle Pfeiffer at an event

Michelle Pfeiffer eventually came to realize she was in a cult. (Joe Maher/Getty Images for Paramount+)

“They believed that people in their highest state were breatharian,” she added.

The people Pfeiffer was spending time with believed they could use sunlight to live.

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