HBO Hires 160 Lawyers Before Making Film About Scientology and Hollywood

HBO Hires 160 Lawyers Before Making Film About Scientology and Hollywood

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney is almost finished with his new film about Scientology for HBO, but the premium cable channel isn’t taking any chances. 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, HBO has already hired about 160 lawyers to defend the film from the church, which has a reputation for pursuing lawsuits against its critics.

Gibney’s film, Going Clear, based on the controversial memoir of the same name by Lawrence Wright, will reportedly premiere in early 2015. The film will provide new insight into the religion and its most visible adherents, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

HBO Documentary Films President Sheila Nevins told the Hollywood Reporter that the network would be ready for anything the church throws at them.

“We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film], Nevins said. 

Nevins probably learned her lesson after HBO released a documentary in 1998 called Dead Blue: Surviving Depression, which examined the ways three prominent people, including 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, battled depression. The film was picketed by Scientologists outside HBO’s Manhattan headquarters because of it’s message, namely, that antidepressants can help cure depression.

“I didn’t see what [antidepressants] had to do with Scientology until I worked on that film, until I saw these people outside the building,” Nevins told THR. “I thought they must be a union protest. But it was our film they were protesting. They’re so anti-psychiatry, anti-medicine, and anti-Freud. It was really quite interesting.”

HBO has produced plenty of feather-ruffling documentaries in the past, including The Case Against 8, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and Taxi to the Dark Side. Gibney won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, a film that critically examines the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.

So when Gibney brought HBO Wright’s book on Scientology shortly after it was published in January of last year, they immediately signed on. 

“And this time, we’ll be ready,” Nevins told THR.


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