The Oscar-winning director interviewed Leah Remini for a Q&A at Barnes & Noble in New York City
On Wednesday, Haggis – who left the church himself in 2009 after 35 years – interviewed Remini for a Q&A at Barnes & Noble in New York City in support of her tell-all book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.
During the event, Haggis, 62, revealed how Remini, 45, had refused to “disconnect” from him once he’d left the religion. Scientology maintains the practice of disconnection, cutting off contact with people deemed “suppressive” or hostile to the church, is optional.
“The reason I am here is because there was only one person who didn’t disconnect when everybody left and it was Leah,” he said, adding they were never “close” friends but knew each other socially.
“She called me when she got the letter [Haggis wrote a letter of his resignation to Scientology’s chief spokesperson in 2009] and said, ‘Paul, no no no. You can’t leave. You’re one of the good ones.’ And, I said, ‘Leah, I’ve left. I’ve resigned’ … She said, I’ll never disconnect from you. And I’ve heard that before, but she didn’t.”
“So the next time I ran into her was at a school fair. I saw her over there and so I stayed away because I didn’t want to make things uncomfortable for her. I didn’t want to walk up and say, ‘Hey, Leah,’ and have her be forced to not talk to me or to make a decision that she’s gonna have to go report herself for having talked to me, which she probably had to do. She said, ‘Paul, why are you acting so weird? I’m your friend.’ To this day, that was very special to me. You were the only one.”
For more from Remini – including what she has to say about Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and more – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
In statements, the Church of Scientology has denied Remini’s claims and called them an effort to drum up attention for herself.
“It comes as no surprise that someone as self-absorbed as Leah Remini with an insatiable craving for attention would exploit her former faith as a publicity stunt by rewriting her history with it,” the church said, “including omitting that she was participating in a program to remain a Scientologist by her own choice, as she was on the verge of being expelled for her ethical lapses.”