Nazanin Boniadi (Persian: نازنین بنیادی‎, IPA: [nɒːzæˈniːn bonjɒːˈdiː]; English: /ˈnɑːzəniːn 'boʊnjɑːˌdiː/ NAH-zə-neen BOHN-yah-DEE;[2] born 22 May 1980) is a British Iranian actress currently living and working in the United States.

Early life

Boniadi was born in Tehran, Iran. Her parents moved to London when she was an infant. She performed violin and ballet as a young girl.[3]

She was educated at a private school and later moved to the US where she earned a Bachelor's Degree, with Honors, in Biological Sciences from the University of California Irvine. At UCI, she won the Chang Pin-Chun Undergraduate Research Award for molecular research involving cancer treatment and heart transplant rejection. She was also Assistant Editor-in-Chief of MedTimes, UCI's undergraduate medical newspaper.[4][5]


Boniadi's first major acting role was as Leyla Mir on the Emmy Award-winning daytime drama General Hospital and its SOAPnet spin-off series General Hospital: Night Shift, making her the first contract actor to play a Middle Eastern character in American daytime television history. She is also the first Iranian-born actress to ever be on contract on an American soap opera.[6]

She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 2008 for her role in General Hospital.[7][8]

Her General Hospital character died from exposure to a biotoxin in February 2009.

Boniadi has also landed supporting roles in several major Hollywood film productions, such as Charlie Wilson's War directed by Mike Nichols, Iron Man directed by Jon Favreau, and The Next Three Days directed by Paul Haggis.

In February 2011, she debuted as Nora, a love interest for Neil Patrick Harris's character Barney Stinson, on the sixth season of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.[9] She reprised this role during the show's seventh season.

In November 2011, Boniadi appeared opposite George Clooney in a European spot for Nespresso, called The Swap, directed by Grant Heslov.[10]


Boniadi is an Official Spokesperson for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), and has worked at a grassroots level and appeared on international TV and radio programs to campaign for the rights of disenfranchised populations across the world. In particular, she has been very involved in safeguarding human rights by participating in events that bring attention to the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.[11]

Boniadi provided a voiceover to AIUSA’s “Power of Words” public service announcement with Morgan Freeman, which won a Webby Award;[12] campaigned with the organization for the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA);[13] has served as a panelist and emcee for events related to Iranian rights, and spearheaded The Neda Project with AIUSA in May/June 2010.[14] She has an official blog on the Amnesty International USA website.[15]

In December 2010, she initiated an Amnesty International petition for Iranian film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, who were convicted of “propaganda against the state”. The petition was co-signed by prominent Hollywood directors and industry leaders such as Paul Haggis, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn, Harvey Weinstein, Ron Howard and others, and generated over 21,000 signatures.[16][17] On June 8, 2011, Boniadi joined a delegation of Hollywood luminaries, lead by Haggis and AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox, to deliver the petition to the Iran Mission to the United Nations in New York.[18][19]

On June 3, 2011, Boniadi joined Sarah Shourd in a rolling hunger strike in solidarity with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal and wrote an article in support of the Free The Hikers campaign.[20][21][22]

On July 11, 2011, Boniadi received the Social Cinema Award at the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival for her human rights work with Amnesty International.[23][24]

On April 9, 2012, she returned to her alma mater University of California, Irvine, with Rainn Wilson in support of the Education Under Fire campaign, calling for an end to discrimination against and persecution of Baha'is in Iran.[25]

On October 4, 2012, Boniadi delivered the keynote closing remarks at The XX Factor, Amnesty International USA's annual town hall meeting on women's rights, in Washington, D.C.[26]

In December, 2012, she helped launch an Amnesty International petition and campaign with Roxana Saberi, to free wrongfully imprisoned filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi, brother of acclaimed filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, in Iran. The petition was signed by prominent Hollywood directors such as Martin Scorsese and Paul Haggis, actors such as Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Adrien Brody, as well as major film industry organizations and festivals.[27][28][29][30]

Personal life

In September 2012, Vanity Fair magazine published a story written by Special Correspondent Maureen Orth alleging that Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, headed a secretive mission to find a suitable Scientologist girlfriend for Tom Cruise. Boniadi was allegedly selected in a screening process conducted by top Scientology official Greg Wilhere.

Orth reports that Boniadi was led to believe she had been selected for a top secret project to help the world and further her religion and that she would be meeting with "world leaders". She also reports that as part of the month long preparation for this secret mission Wilhere demanded that Boniadi darken her hair, remove her orthodontic braces, and that she break up with her long term boyfriend, also a Scientologist, with whom she was very much in love. When she refused, Wilhere allegedly showed Boniadi her boyfriend's transgressions against her in his confidential parishioner files, causing Boniadi to end their relationship.

Boniadi was then allegedly flown to New York where Wilhere introduced her to Cruise, who swept her off her feet. Boniadi was allegedly made to sign a confidentiality agreement. Boniadi and Cruise were romantically involved from November 2004 until January 2005, during which time she lived with Cruise. Orth reports that there was a great deal of control over Boniadi's life by Church officials and Cruise's handlers during their relationship and that she fell out of favor with Cruise after unintentionally insulting Miscavige by saying "Excuse me?" and asking him to repeat himself more than once, apparently an indication in Scientology that one is not a good communicator or listener.

Upon ending the relationship with Boniadi, Cruise allegedly sent her away to the Scientology facilities in Clearwater, Florida, where Boniadi was later demeaningly punished for telling a friend about her ordeal. Orth reports that Boniadi was made to clean toilets with a toothbrush, scrub bathroom tiles with acid and dig ditches in the middle of the night as part of her punishment. The Church of Scientology and Cruise's representative denied all allegations.[31] Writer/director and former Scientologist Paul Haggis issued a statement confirming that Boniadi had indeed been used in this way by the Church of Scientology. He also stated that Boniadi "quietly and privately" resigned from the Church of Scientology around 2010 after "several years of trying to handle this injustice internally, to no avail".[32]


Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Game Josie 2 Episodes
General Hospital: Night Shift Leyla Mir 13 Episodes
2007–2009 General Hospital Leyla Mir 119 Episodes
2010 The Deep End Heather Mosson Episode: "To Have and to Hold"
24 Blonde Woman 2 Episodes
Hawthorne Aneesa Amara Episode: "Final Curtain"
2011 Suits Lauren Pearl Episode: "Errors and Omissions"
How I Met Your Mother Nora 9 Episodes
2012 CSI Nurse Lauren Episode: "Seeing Red"
Best Friends Forever Naya 2 Episodes
Year Film Role Notes
2006 Kal: Yesterday & Tomorrow Simmi Short Film
2007 Gameface Taylor
2008 Charlie Wilson's War Afghan Refugee Woman Uncredited
Iron Man Amira Ahmed
2009 Diplomacy Persian Interpreter Short Film
2010 The Next Three Days Elaine
2012 Shirin in Love Shirin


  1. Gelt, Jessica (5 September 2012). "Nazanin Boniadi: The woman who would not be Tom Cruise's wife". Los Angeles Times.,0, Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  2. Nazanin Boniadi and Mikel Jollett (2012) (in English). Benefit Show - May 25th at the Echo. The Airborne Toxic Event official YouTube channel. Event occurs at 0:03. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  3. "نازنين بنيادی، چهره ای جديد در صنعت سينمای هاليوود". 19 May 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  4. UCI grads make good. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  5. Hosseini, Mariella (2006). Gifted Young Iranian Actress Creates a Buzz in Hollywood. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  6. Morse, Jane (23 October 2008). Human Rights Education a Priority for Iranian Actress. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  7. Ball, Sarah (1 September 2012). "Scientology, Katie Holmes, and Tom Cruise: Who Is Nazanin Boniadi?". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  8. De Leon, Kris (15 January 2008). 'General Hospital' Star Nominated for NAACP Image Award. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  9. Gelman, Vlad (25 January 2011). "'How I Met Your Mother': Nazanin Boniadi to guest as a love interest". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  10. Macatee, Rebecca (5 September 2012). "Nazanin Boniadi: Five Things to Know About Actress Allegedly Wooed by Tom Cruise Pre-Katie Holmes". 
  11. Tag Archives: nazanin boniadi. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  12. Morgan Freeman: The Power of Words. (23 December 2009). Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  13. I-VAWA Supporters. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  14. I Am Neda. (8 June 2010). Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  15. Nazanin Boniadi. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  16. Paul Haggis, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein Join Amnesty International to Condemn Harsh Sentence for Acclaimed Iranian Director Jafar Panahi. (28 December 2010). Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  17. Iran must reverse harsh sentence imposed on distinguished film director Amnesty International USA | Human Rights Action[dead link]
  18. Iran Mission to the United Nations Accepts 21,000-Plus Petition Signatures from Amnesty International Delegation of Hollywood Luminaries. (8 June 2011). Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  19. Nazanin Boniadi (9 June 2011). Hollywood Unites for Iranian Filmmakers. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  21. Zavis, Alexandra (4 June 2011). "Freed hiker fasts for two men still in Iran". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  22. They want nothing more than the freedom to continue making this world a better place ~ Nazanin Boniadi, Spokesperson, Amnesty International USA. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  23. Giving Back. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  24. ISCHIA GLOBAL FEST 2011 - MUSIC & FILM Sabato 16 Luglio 2011. (17 July 2011). Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  25. Rainn Wilson - Education Under Fire. Retrieved on 5 September 2012.
  31. "Tom Cruise’s Scientology Marriages: The Secret Wife-Auditioning Process Before Katie Holmes, Revealed". 1 September 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  32. Roger Friedman (2 September 2012). Exclusive: Oscar Winner Paul Haggis on Tom Cruise Scientology Girlfriend: "I’m appalled that any church would treat its parishioners this way". Retrieved on 5 September 2012.

External links

es:Nazanin Boniadi

fa:نازنین بنیادی fr:Nazanin Boniadi it:Nazanin Boniadi hu:Nazanin Boniadi ja:ナザニン・ボニアディ pl:Nazanin Boniadi ru:Бониади, Назанин uk:Назанін Бон'яді

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