Following in the mainstream success of documentary feature films like "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), director Alex Gibney's scathing look at corporate greed gone wild, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" (2005), scored a political bulls-eye during a year filled with more than its usual government tumult. Although not a feel-good money-maker like its fellow Academy Award nominated documentary "March of the Penguins" (2005), "Enron" did something else. It repositioned a big microscope over the somewhat forgotten Enron scandal, provoking a renewed outcry against corporate fat-cat greed and a demand that someone be held responsible for the largest public bankruptcy in American history. Its success led to a long string of muckraking documentaries for the politically-minded director and journalist, who went on to win an Academy Award for "Taxi to the Dark Side" (2007) and an Emmy for "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" (2015).
The multi-talented and prolific Gibney, who graduated from Yale with a Japanese literature major before attending UCLA's Graduate School of Film and Television, made his initial impact in TV documentaries he either wrote, produced, directed or a combination of all three. He served as writer-producer on "The Pacific Century" (PBS, 1992) which won an Emmy Award for Best Historical Program. He later wrote, directed and produced the highly rated documentary series, "The Fifties," (1997) for the History Channel, based on the best-selling book by David Halberstam. Like the book, the eight-part miniseries dispelled myths about the popular decade. After doing "AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies: Love Crazy" (1998), Gibney wrote, produced and directed "The Sexual Century," a six-part documentary for ITV and the Canadian Broadcast Company. In 2000, Gibney was a senior producer on "Soldiers in the Army of God," an HBO documentary about radicals in the anti-abortion movement, and was a producer on "Speak Truth to Power" for PBS, a dramatic special focusing on human rights activists, featuring Sigourney Weaver and Alec Baldwin.
Gibney wrote and produced the controversial "The Trials of Henry Kissinger," (2002), his best known pre-"Enron" film, which made the case that the former U.S. diplomat under President Nixon was responsible for war crimes during the Vietnam war. Gibney then produced the popular 2003 PBS mini-series, "The Blues," with installments directed by Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Wim Wenders, among others.
Gibney decided to take on the Enron scandal as his next important project, after reading Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's 2003 book of the same name. Released in spring, 2005, the Academy Award-nominated documentary used a clever juxtaposition of news footage, music and interviews to expose the truth behind just how top Enron executives Kenneth Lay, Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow, among others, bankrupted a company but walked away with millions of dollars, while investors and employees were left with nothing. Gibney's film struck a nerve with an American public growing tired of corporate excess, making $4 million in a long and limited box office run. The DVD release was timed to coincide with Lay and Skilling's January, 2006 fraud trial. Though the documentary lost to "March of the Penguins" at the 78th Academy Awards, the film effectively did what Gibney had wanted it to do all along - open a lot of eyes.
While continuing to write, direct and/or produce popular culture documentaries, Gibney went on to direct a series of more sociopolitical works including the brutal Afghan War story "Taxi to the Dark Side" (2007), Jack Abramoff biography "Casino Jack and the United States of Money" (2010), "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" (2013), "The Armstrong Lie" (2013) about disgraced biker Lance Armstrong, and "Going Clear" (2015), a takedown of Scientology adapted from the best-seller by Lawrence Wright.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Editing (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Feature Film)
Directed first documentary, "The Ruling Classroom"
Directed breakthrough film "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
Directed Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side"
Directed "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"
Directed "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer"
Directed "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks"
Directed "The Armstrong Lie," about disgraced marathon bicyclist Lance Armstrong
Directed "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," based on the book by Lawrence Wright