We sat down with director Alex Gibney today to talk about his new movie, Casino Jack and The United States of Money. Gibney has made some of the most entertaining and provocative non-fiction films of our times. He turned the story of a massive corporate disaster into a riveting drama of greed, arrogance and betrayal in the acclaimed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Next he unraveled the mystery of a young Afghani taxi driver’s disappearance into a gripping, eye-opening thriller in the Academy Award winning Taxi To The Dark Side.
Now Gibney turns his camera on a profoundly American story about high ideals, irresistible temptations, brazen ambition and outlandish behavior as he probes the secret history of the man many have called “the king of corruption” – super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. We’ll have the full transcript online soon, but we got an update from Alex on his upcoming projects, including Untitled Eliot Spitzer Project, Untitled Lance Armstrong Documentary, and Magic Bus, which are all currently in post-production. He also told us about a new project, Catching Hell, which he is doing for ESPN’s “30 for 30” films in celebration of their 30th anniversary. Hit the jump for what he had to say:
Q: You were just in NY at the Tribeca Film Festival with the Untitled Eliot Spitzer Project and it got great reviews. When will the movie be done and who might be getting it? Also, are there any changes since it’s a work in progress?
AG: I don’t know who’s going to pick it up. A lot of distributors are interested so we’ll just see. That will play itself out over the next few days. I think we can complete it pretty quickly. We’re pretty close to being done. One of the reasons I wanted to show it as a work in progress was to get the reactions of an audience – the same thing as I did with Casino Jack at Sundance. After Sundance, we took 8 minutes out of the movie, thinned the narration, and created some pauses. It’s important to see how these things work. If they’re intended for the big screen, then they should work there. I think Spitzer is pretty close. We’ll make it shorter and there are some things we need to make a little bit clearer. Those are the key changes.
What is Magic Bus about?
AG: Ken Kesey. When they took their famous LSD-fueled trip across the country in 1964, they shot about 40 hours of 16mm film. We got the rights to that film and we restored it and now we’re making that as a movie. It’s a total immersion experience.
How’s the Untitled Lance Armstrong Documentary coming along?
AG: Great. I just had a meeting about it today. We’re very close to having that finished. It’s a very exciting project. Sony gave me the resources to really film that sport in an exciting way so that there are parts of it that feel like an action film. It’s great.
Do you have any other upcoming projects?
AG: I don’t think so. I think that’s a pretty good list. Oh, I am doing this one for ESPN. I’m doing one of their 30 for 30 films. ESPN, for their 30th anniversary, they’re getting 30 filmmakers to do 30 films about sports and they can be about anything. So, I’m doing one of those. Barry Levinson did one and Spike Lee did one. My good friend Steve James, the guy who did Hoop Dreams, did one.
What’s your 30 for 30 going to be about?
AG: It’s called Catching Hell. (Laughs) I know, sooner or later I’ve got to get light. I’ve got to do some fun projects with a lot of laughs. It’s about two people, Bill Buckner and a poor kid named Steve Bartman, who found themselves at a particular moment in time where they tried to catch a ball and they didn’t and were vilified for it – where the passion of the fan turns ugly.