Director Alex Gibney looks back on a career of profiling liars and shady characters, from Elizabeth Holmes to Lance Armstrong, and crowns the most despicable


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For close to 40 years, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has made movies about some of the most complex and controversial figures of the last century.

He’s examined the maddening drive of Steve Jobs (“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine”), the bald-faced lies of people like Lance Armstrong (“The Armstrong Lie”) and Julian Assange (“We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”), and even the mind games done by the head of Scientology, David Miscavige (“Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief”).

Now you can add to the list disgraced Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, the subject of his latest documentary, “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.”

So what attracts Gibney to do movies on people like these?

“Abuse of power,” Gibney told Business Insider. “The way that power gets abused is sometimes appealing to people’s sense of idealism. Then that allows a kind of latitude we otherwise wouldn’t give them. They blind us.”

Here Gibney looks back on some of the shady people he’s made movies about over the years, and says who is the most despicable:

SEE ALSO: Why Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes wasn’t interviewed for HBO’s “The Inventor” documentary

Elizabeth Holmes — “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” (2019)

Like many of the people on this list, Holmes falls into the group that Gibney described as “prisoners of belief.” These are people who are so sucked into their “cause” that they can convince others to join them and can’t see the wrong being done.

“Her goal was so high minded and she fell so far so fast, to me it seemed like a good opportunity to explore the psychology of fraud,” said Gibney on what fascinated him about doing a movie on Holmes. “Not only how somebody like Elizabeth deceives herself but how she deceives investors and journalists and customers.”

Lance Armstrong — “The Armstrong Lie” (2013)

In this documentary, Gibney first set out to make a comeback film about Armstrong’s return to cycling after retiring in 2005. Then the movie changed after the cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner was hit with a lifetime ban from the sport following a doping investigation. Gibney’s movie became a search for answers from Armstrong. But like Holmes,  Armstrong is too much a prisoner of belief.

“Lance could stand up after a race and say, ‘How dare you say that I, as a cancer survivor, would ever use performance enhancing drugs.’ And I think in the moment he said that he believed it,” Gibney said. “But then he would get off the stage, go into the bus, and do a bag of blood. So it wasn’t like he was unaware of the cheating that he was doing, he just felt that in that moment that was a lie that everybody wanted to believe so badly he could say it as if it were true.”

Julian Assange — “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” (2013)

Gibney looks inside what led to the birth of WikiLeaks and in doing so discovers the dark side of its creator: from sexual assault allegations to the time Assange abandoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for seven years for providing WikiLeaks with what is believed to be the largest release of state secrets in US history.

“Assange is the perfect example of the prisoner of belief, he believed that what he was doing was so good that he was entitled to do anything,” Gibney said. “The truth is that Assange knew damn well who Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning was. But pretended that he had this anonymized leaking machine, which prevented him from knowing the identity of the leaker. That just wasn’t so. He knew the identity of the leaker and then when the leaker needed him most he deserted her.” 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider