As director Alex Gibney prepares for the release of his latest movie, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” it’s hard to pass up a chance to talk to the Oscar winner about his other recent film, the HBO Scientology documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
At a recent screening of his Steve Jobs doc, Business Insider spoke with Gibney and asked him if he’s dealt with the same harassment by members of the Church of Scientology that former members of the church shown in the film say they have received.
“They’ve come after the people in the film much harder than I,” Gibney told Business Insider. “But they’ve come after me pretty hard and it’s a strange thing to be vilified 24/7. There is a set of danger around that and I have to be concerned.”
Since Gibney premiered “Going Clear” at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Scientology has done everything from running a full-page ad in The New York Times in an attempt to discredit him to even using social media to run anti-Gibney videos.
Here’s one example:
Like “Going Clear,” “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” is not a flattering piece.
Along with chronicling the successes that made Jobs an icon before his untimely death in 2011, the film also delves into his denial that he was the father of his daughter Lisa (which was later proven by a paternity test) and his unflattering treatment of his employees, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak before they created the company.
But Gibney sees neither as attack films.
“They are about human psychology,” he tells us. “They are really about power and abuses of power.”
However, exposing the darker side of things comes with a price.
Gibney told Business Insider that he’s not just received pushback from Scientology but from Apple as well. Neither the company nor Jobs’ widow, Laurene, would cooperate with the making of the movie.
However, with Scientology he says he has to be “cautious.”
“The Scientology people are tough, what they try to do is they try to play with your head and destabilize you.”
When asked if there have been instances where he’s had to deal with Scientology members outside of the world of internet trolls, Gibney would only say, “You know that the cyber sometimes become physical.”
In an email to Business Insider, a spokesperson for Scientology calls Gibney's accusations, "another publicity stunt by Gibney’s PR machine to manufacture interest in his grossly inaccurate and fictional film."
"The Church of Scientology has been very public and very transparent in its response to Gibney’s 'documentary,'” the email went on to say. "Our Freedom Magazine website has published videos and white papers exposing the fraud Alex Gibney is perpetrating on his audiences, as well as all the material he ran from because it totally undercut his film. Please watchto see how he avoided the Church for two years."
The email also stated: "Because Mr. Gibney remained anything but objective, the Church has compiled the unvarnished truth in the form of video footage, court documents, publicly available records and testimonials by pertinent individuals who represent Scientology, and were intentionally ignored by Mr. Gibney and HBO." It concluded: "Under the guidance of the leader of the religion, Scientology has expanded faster in the last 10 years than in its previous 50 and is the fastest-growing religion of the 21st century."
Apple has not responded to Business Insider's request for comment.