Nobody is immune to the magnetism of a cult, even the parents of some of today's most talented actors.
Cult leaders often prey upon the most creative and idealistic individuals who are willing to make great sacrifices to help change the world, so maybe this is why such a disproportionate number of today's Hollywood stars were brought up in bizarre religious sects.
While these sinister organizations promised peace, love and harmony – the reality was often very different and below I explore the minefield of sexual abuse, mind control and starvation these young stars had to navigate before they made it into the public eye.
8. Joaquin Phoenix
About the Cult: Joaquin Phoenix and his family were members of the Children of God cult when he was a child. Founded by a former Baptist pastor, David Brandt Berg, Children of God was popular with members of the hippy movement looking for a spiritual new life.
Built upon foundations of salvation and spiritual revolution against the outside world (referred to as "the system"), Children of God saw sex as the greatest gift God has given to us and something that is greatly under-appreciated and actively demonized by more mainstream churches.
The philosophy of free love and attracting converts through "flirty fishing" (using sex to indoctrinate them into the church) caused controversy among the general population, but there was an even darker side to this philosophy for those living in the cult.
At one dark point in the church's history, sexual relationships between adults and children were encouraged with hand drawn propaganda, and many former members were sexually abused by those who were meant to be caring for them.
Although sexual acts between adults and children were explicitly forbidden in 1986, adult members were still encouraged to have sex with other members, regardless of marital status. These sexual acts to help combat loneliness and isolation are referred to as "sharing" or "sacrificial sex" and are widely criticized for cajoling and manipulating people into committing sexual acts that they do not want to take part in.
Children of God is still in operation under the new name of Family International.
Joaquin's Experiences: Joaquin's family – along with the late River Phoenix – joined the church in the mid-'70s, when Joaquin was just a baby, and travelled around South America with the group.
Although Joaquin has never openly spoken about what happened to him during his time in the church, the family changed their name to 'Phoenix' when they broke from the group to symbolize a new beginning for all of them.
Although his parents brought him into the Children of God, Joaquin does not want them to be blamed for their actions. He spoke out to Playboy magazine in 2014 and said:
"When people bring up Children of God, there's always something vaguely accusatory about it. It's guilt by association. I think it was really innocent on my parents' part. They really believed, but I don’t think most people see it that way. I've always thought that was strange and unfair. I think my parents thought they'd found a community that shared their ideals. Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It's usually someone saying, 'We're like-minded people. This is a community,' but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out."
Phoenix said he used his time in the cult to inspire his character Freddie Quell in The Master.
7. Glenn Close
About the Cult: Glenn Close was a part of the ultra-conservative Moral Re-Armament cult from the age of 7 to 22 years old. The MRA was founded in 1938 by the American minister Frank Buchman and it initially started as an anti-war movement.
The MRA believed strongly in what it called "the four absolutes:" honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. Although these attributes might seem positive, they masked the all-controlling life-consuming traits that are the hallmarks of any cult.
Glenn's Experiences: Glenn Close spoke openly to The Hollywood Reporter about her time growing up in the Moral Re-Armament cult. The 68-year-old actor explained how the move to the organization's headquarters in Caux, Switzerland meant that she was torn away from everything she held dear in her young life.
Close also detailed how the controlling regime within the cult affected her life way into adulthood. She told interviewers that:
"You basically weren't allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire. 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 [wrong]."
6. Michelle Pfeiffer
About the Cult: Michelle Pfeiffer joined the bizarre Breatharian cult when she was in her early twenties in L.A. Proponents of this watered down Eastern philosophy which has its roots in ancient Hindu texts, believe that people can survive without any food or water.
Instead, practitioners believe that humans can be solely sustained by prana, the vital life force in Hinduism. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be true because a clutch of Breatharians have starved to death.
Michelle's Experience: Michelle Pfeiffer fell in with the Breatharians after meeting a "very controlling" couple who worked as personal trainers when she was a 20-year-old.
According to Pfeiffer, things seemed normal at first, but it was later revealed they believed food was unnecessary and that people can live off sunlight alone. She explained:
"They worked with weights and put people on diets. 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. They believed that people in their highest state were breatharian.”
Pfeiffer was put on a diet that "nobody can adhere to" before she found salvation in her first husband, the actor Peter Horton.
Horton was working on a film about the Moonies, the name given to followers of Rev Moon Sun-myung’s Unification Church and as Pfeiffer researched the cult, she realized that she herself was in one.
5. Lisa Marie Presley
About the Cult: Lisa Marie Presley was brought up in the Church of Scientology before leaving the organization for good in 2014.
Scientology was created by the sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952 as a religion to help him escape paying U.S. tax. Hubbard was a mentally unstable man however, and it wasn't long before he started believing his own hype and seeing himself as a great leader.
Rising to the top of the organization requires a huge amount of financial commitment as reaching each level has a price. Those who are not rich enough to access the 'religion' this way can work in the Sea Org and pay through slave labor (as little as fifty cents an hour) instead.
The secretive religion requires its subjects to undertake auditing sessions to investigate the causes of their negative emotions, and the detailed, revealing notes from these sessions are kept on file. This practice has generated huge amounts of controversy as it gives the church material to blackmail those who threaten to leave Scientology.
Scientology has been accused of imprisoning people who want to leave within the church, forcing people to cut ties with their families and stalking, intimidating and even threatening the lives of those who make it out of the church.
I would recommend the documentary Going Clear for a more solid picture of how the church operates.
Lisa's Experiences: When Lisa Marie Presley chose to leave Scientology, she explained she chose to leave the organization behind because:
"I was surrounded by people who were not well-intended. Basically, it was a big sinister situation, where there was like, kind of intel and covert ops going on, and a whole effort to control me that I didn’t know about. I uncovered it and it was mind-blowing."
The 47-year-old actress and singer also told USA Today about how the more she learned about Scientology, the more it destroyed her from the inside out. She told interviewers:
"I was slowly starting to self-destruct, and I didn’t know where that was coming from. I started to uncover the main person who was really close to me for years, and then it was a domino effect. I was devastated. I got bad advice. I was insulated with no grip on reality. They were taking my soul, my money, my everything."
4. Winona Ryder
About the Cult: By far the most innocent cult on this list, Winona Ryder spent a portion of her childhood in the Rainbow Commune.
This loosely affiliated group of individuals are committed to principles of non-violence and egalitarianism and gather at events a few times a year to pray, meditate and observe group silences for world peace.
Winona's Experiences: Winona and her family moved to a Rainbow commune in California when she was 7 years old, and lived on a 300-acre plot of land with seven other families. The families tried to live off the land and be self-sufficient. With no electricity, the young Winona spent most of her time reading and playing imaginative games.
Winona has said in interviews that she developed a passion for acting after viewing movies that were screened in her family barn and she rushed headlong into the profession as soon as her parents left the commune.
3. David Arquette
About the Cult: David Arquette was born into the Skymont Subud commune in Virginia. The Subud movement was started in Indonesia in the 1920s by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo and it revolves around spiritual directions from "the Great Life Force."
Subud does not define itself as a teaching or a religion in itself, instead practitioners are encouraged to affiliate themselves with an existing religion such as Christianity and learn to communicate with God in a different way.
David's Experiences: The commune that David Arquette was brought up in was meant to be a social experiment and a utopia of sorts. Its isolated position meant there was no electricity, bathrooms or running water, but these problems were the least of Arquette's worries.
David and his sisters, Patricia and Rosanna really suffered at the hands of their own parents, not the Sudbud cult, but their isolated lifestyle meant they did not realize how bad their upbringing was.
All of the siblings suffered violent physical abuse at the hands of their parents and David was self-medicating with stolen alcohol and drugs from the age of four.
2. Christopher Owens
About the Cult: Please see the top of this article for the entry relating to Joaquin Phoenix, as Owens was also a member of the Children of God cult.
Christopher's experiences: Of all of the people on this list, Christopher Owens, frontman of the influential band 'Girls,' had the most harrowing experiences in the Children of God cult.
Owens described growing up in the church as akin to being raised by other extremist groups in an interview with The Guardian. He told interviewers:
"Imagine being raised in the Taliban. Being told everybody else in the world is bad, rejecting technology, rejecting medical research, being devoted to God and believing America was evil and the end of the world was coming: all the same principles."
If this wasn't a bad enough environment to grow up in, Owens also lost a brother to pneumonia due to the church's reluctance to seek medical treatment.
The 35-year-old musician lived an itinerant lifestyle traveling all over Asia with the church throughout his youth, and at points his family were in such severe poverty that his mother was encouraged to prostitute herself to make ends meet.
1. Rose McGowan
About the Cult: Please see the entry for Joaquin Phoenix, McGowan was also part of the Children of God cult.
Rose's Experiences: McGowan was born into the Children of God in Italy and her father was the head of the chapter that she belonged to.
From a young age, Rose McGowan was disgusted with the way that women were treated as virtual sex slaves by the organization. She explained to interviewers that:
"At a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women. They were basically there to serve the men sexually – you were allowed to have more than one wife."
Although her family was okay with this sort of sexual activity happening around their daughter, McGowan's father realized he had to leave when he was asked to draw cartoon literature that advocated child-adult sexual relationships.
McGowan claims that she avoided the group's calls for members to become sexually active as children, but it was a narrow escape. She told Howard Stern that:
"As strong as I like to think I've always been, I'm sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth."
You can read more about McGowan's life in The Children of God cult HERE.