The Hidden Reference to Scientology in Air Force One

Posted on by Pastabagel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Before I show you what I’m about to show you, I want you to understand that this is something I saw nearly 15 years ago. When I saw it, I tried to convince my friends sitting next to me in the theater that I saw it, and they didn’t believe me.

And for the next decade or so, I couldn’t prove it to them. VHS and letterboxed DVD are too low resolution to clearly show what you see below. What’s worse, there is no mention of this anywhere on the internet. Apparently, no one in the movie-going public at large has seen this, or at least posted it to the internet.

And as we all know, if it isn’t on the internet, it doesn’t exist.
So I’m going to change that. Ladies and gentlemen, supporters and detractors, today I give to you and commit to the internet for all eternity what I saw back then.

The hidden and explicit reference to Scientology in the movie Air Force One:

Why is this here?

In the scene, the Secretary of Defense (Dean Stockwell) urges the Vice President (Glenn Close), to sign a declaration that the President, whose family is held hostage on the beseiged airplane, is incapacitated and cannot fulfill his duties. As Close takes the folder from Stockwell, the film cuts to a close-up shot of the table in front of her. The shot tracks the folder as she pulls it closer to her, revealing a note in the lower left corner of the frame:

Look closely at the note in the lower left corner.

The note, handwritten in neat, Palmer method script, reads:

“Michael Jackson
Lisa Marie

A Scientology Connection?

Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, were married in the mid-nineties and divorced in January of 1996. While it has never been confirmed that Michael Jackson was a Scientologist, it is well known that his ex-wife Lisa Marie is (as is her mother Priscilla). But none of these facts explain why these names are listed, along with Scientologym in this note, or the note’s presence among the papers of the seated Vice President.

So what the hell is going on? I wish I knew.

One possible explanation may be that in this movie about a very famous airplane, “Lisa Marie” doesn’t refer to a person, but rather to another plane. Elvis bought a jet in 1975 that he rechristened “Lisa Marie.” He also had the plane’s interior completely renovated by the same design team that did the real Air Force One.

But none of these facts are mentioned in the film. There’s no discussion in the movie about the interior design of Elvis’s plane or of Air Force One. And even if there were, there is certainly no mention of Michael Jackson or Scientology in the movie.

Furthermore, based on my research, none of the starring or supporting cast including Harrison Ford or Glenn Close, the director Wolfgang Petersen, or the producers of Air Force One are Scientologists.

So why is it there?

Follow the Money

One possible explanation may lie in the fact that when Air Force One was filmed, one of the producers, Armyan Bernstein, had invested in and made a lot of money through the investment fund of prominent Scientologist Reed Slatkin. Unfortunately, by 2002, US securities officials were asking Mr. Bernstein and other early investors to return their profits because, as it turns out, Slatkin’s fund was a fraud.

Born in Michigan, Mr. Slatkin earned a living during the 1970s and early 1980s as an ordained minister with the Church of Scientology.
It was not until the mid-1980s, however, that the charismatic clergyman began dabbling in the stock market, making a number of small investments for himself and a handful of fellow Scientologists.

The list of Slatkin’s investors would grow beyond fellow Scientologists to include a number of A-list actors and Hollywood insiders. (Slatkin also founded Earthlink, an early internet service provider, along with programmer and fellow Scientologist Philip Gale. Gale committed suicide in 1998.) But wait, there’s more:

By the time the new millennium arrived, Mr. Slatkin had lured even more high-profile investors into the alleged Ponzi scam.

One of them was movie producer Armyan Bernstein, whose recent projects include Spy Game, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, and Air Force One, featuring Harrison Ford as the U.S. President.

“I wish I’d never met [Mr. Slatkin],” Mr. Berstein said.

(National Post Online, January 9, 2002, “Icon accused of fleecing celebrities: Former minister cheated investors out of millions, authorities say”)

Armyan Bernstein wasn’t alone in that sentiment. According to US securities regulators, by the time the fund collapsed Slatkin had managed to swindle investors out of $593 million. The fund was a classic Ponzi scheme in which early investors–including Fox News commentator and fellow Scientologist Greta Van Susteren as well as Bernsten–would be paid off with the funds collected from later investors. While that amount pales in comparison to Bernie Madoff’s billion-dollar fraud in 2008, at the time, Slatkin’s fund was one of the largest Ponzi schemes ever.

But when the film was released in 1997, none of that had happened yet. Slatkin was still earning money for Bernstein. So could this note be a little “easter egg” placed there at the producer’s request, an in-joke for Slatkin and other Scientologists?

Possibly, but none of that has anything to do with Lisa Marie Presley or Michael Jackson. It’s also possible that the note was place there by or at the request of Glenn Close, perhaps because her activism on behalf of mental health causes puts her at odds with the notoriously anti-psychiatry Church of Scientology.

But this is all just speculation…

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11 Responses to The Hidden Reference to Scientology in Air Force One

  1. max says:

    More than that, Glenn Close grew up in a cult:

    Close, who lives in the West Village with her husband, investor David Shaw, comes from a profoundly Waspy Connecticut family. But any safety and connection she might’ve felt from all that history was undermined by her family’s decision to join a right-wing change-the-world movement called Moral Re-Armament when she was 7. Close stayed involved in it, even touring the world as part of its musical cavalcade, Up With People, until she went to college at 22. “It was a cult, where everyone was told to think alike, and that’s devastating,” she says. Her family was “sort of pulled apart.” Afterward, “I decided that I would not trust even my instincts. Because I didn’t know what they were. Every­thing had been dictated. It also gives you a huge sense of looking from the outside in, and I think that in many ways that has been very good as an actor, because you are somebody who is asked to go into a ­character … I always felt that I was held together with Scotch tape and paper clips, and as an actor that’s good.” She laughs lightly about this, conscious of its possible absurdity.

  2. Or says:

    Anti-psychiatry was the first thing I thought of. Perhaps seeing that note in her peripheral vision gave her a subliminal cue that she had no right to declare the president insane?

  3. Or says:

    Also, I think putting something like that on YouTube will give people the wrong impression of what kind of site this is.

    • Guy Fox says:

      There’s no way to post anything about Scientology on the internet without attracting all kinds of peculiar characters (not that a few of them aren’t here already).

      Besides, if the cops come to shut down the party, I think Pastabagel’s the one who would have to answer the door and promise to turn the music down anyway. S/he’s responsible for most of what this site is; s/he can deal with the consequences.
      (Besides besides, not many internet meanies will stick around past the 3rd or 4th Lacan reference. They’re not usually interested unless you get props for being MAD AS HELL!!!).

  4. sdenheyer says:

    Could be a complete accident – an on-set assistant is brainstorming script ideas at the desk, and the slip of paper just happens to end up under the folder. It’s missed while looking at the dailies (on a small screen usually, and the note isn’t the focus of the shot), and by the time anyone sees it in editing, it’s not worth the re-shoot – if it’s seen at all.

    Good eye for detail, Pastabagel.

  5. KTT says:

    This is very cool, but I recommend getting rid of that ridiculous piano music. You might as well end it with this:

  6. DGS says:

    I am glad you waited 15 years to make that scary youtube clip. :D

  7. BHE says:

    It’s highly unlikely Glenn Close has anything to do with it. I wasn’t there but generally on big-budget movies they don’t waste their highly-paid actors’ time shooting cutaways. There’s a whole 2nd team for that, with a body-or-hand double to boot.

    In my humble opinion you’re looking at a little something slipped in by the 2nd team director, hand-double or set designer/props person. Those of us who work in the business of show like to slip our own Easter eggs in where we can to laugh about it with our friends later. There’s a picture of me and my buddies in the reflection of a production company logo, for instance. I’m too ashamed to admit which one here.

  8. Medusa says:

    This is kind of a ridiculous tin-foil hat analysis.

    The cast/crew were probably just playing a game of Connections and it ended up in the prop papers.

    You know, like when you play the game of Connections with songs, one person sings a song and then the next person takes a word from the song the person is singing and sings another song that has that word in it and etc etc.

    Michael Jackson, was married to:
    Lisa Marie, who is into:


    I wonder what’s above Michael Jackson. Maybe ‘Macaulay Culkin’, or ‘Plastic Surgery’