HBO, no stranger to courting controversy with its ever-broadening documentary slate, commissioned Gibney’s adaptation of Lawrence Wright’s “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” just after the nonfiction book was published in January 2013.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gibney is now “putting the finishing touches on a film that tackles the Church of Scientology and its Tinseltown tentacles.” The book analyzes the history of L. Ron Hubbard, and of Tom Cruise and John Travolta’s various, and wildly public, relationships, among others. Wright gained notoriety in 2011 when he profiled screenwriter/director Paul Haggis—who broke from the Church in 2009 in the wake of its startling pronouncements about Prop 8—in The New Yorker.
In anticipation of the Church’s legal retaliation, HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told THR that roughly 160 lawyers are looking at the film, which could land at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Intrepid director Gibney previously blew the lid off international scandals in such films as “Mea Maxima Culpa,” “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” and “The Armstrong Lie,” and this year, his documentary on Nigerian Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti, “Finding Fela,” was submitted for the Best Documentary Oscar. Gibney’s James Brown doc “Mr. Dynamite” recently bowed on HBO.