Touchy, touchy, touchy. All Roger Christian wanted to do was talk about his new movie. All the reporters wanted to do was ask him about the film's rumored ties to Scientology, the religion of choice for star and co-producer John Travolta.
Not surprisingly, the long-haired English director seemed slightly annoyed, if not flustered, on Wednesday when journalists at a media junket in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the Four Seasons Hotel pressed him for answers about alleged subliminal messages in "Battlefield Earth," which opens Friday.
Christian, in fact, ended at least one round-table session accusing the media types of wasting his interview time with Scientology stuff -- even though, once he got started on the subject, he rarely talked about anything else himself.
"When I came on this project, John Travolta personally told me, 'This has nothing to do with Scientology or my religion,'" Christian said. He ripped the "negative propaganda" that has been waged against the film.
"The only problem has been with the press," Christian said. "They're the only ones making all this up to create something for their newspapers. I made a pulp science-fiction movie. That's all I set out to do."
The director noted that he is a practicing Buddhist, and said that if there are any subliminal messages in the movie, they come from his philosophy, not Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard's.
The film version has been dogged by speculation over the church's involvement ever since The Washington Post published a story raising such a specter in November, while the film was still shooting. Additionally, an anti-cult group called F.A.C.T. Net Inc. has accused the filmmakers of encoding pro-Scientology propaganda in the film (although so far, they've yet to provide examples) and has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the film pulled from theaters.
And while Travolta continues to entertain reporters' questions about Scientology with patience and poise, his director would rather talk about how he stretched the (relatively) paltry $50 million budget, or how he found some neato locations to shoot in Montreal.
"Why do I have to have discussions ... about religion? It doesn't make sense to me," Christian said. "Hubbard was the biggest pulp-fiction writer of his day. It has nothing to do with religion. I don't know why it keeps coming up."