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Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto discuss their stranger-than-fiction miniseries, about two eccentric lovebirds who went from success to scandal
On the surface of it, the meteoric rise and stunning crash of office-space innovators WeWork is nothing but another tale of greed—in the vein of Inventing Anna, Netflix’s hit about the fake heiress who scammed New York’s elite out of thousands to further her dream of becoming one of them, and The Dropout, about billionaire Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who duped investors into pouring funds into a blood-testing technology she knew to be faulty. And just like these other explorations of entrepreneurship gone awry, the story behind a startup once valued at $47 billion is worth delving into for sheer entertainment value.
The eight-episode limited series (unrolling weekly on Apple) stars Oscar-winners Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as Israeli entrepreneur Adam Neumann and his New York wife Rebekah, the couple behind the real-estate firm that sought to elevate the world’s consciousness before Adam was dramatically removed as CEO from the business they created. Adam set out to build something that he was proud of, something that he believed in, says Leto, who along with Hathaway serves as an executive producer on the project. He set his sights on an impossible goal and achieved something pretty remarkable. I love that this story is the story of an immigrant who comes to this country and really wrestles his dreams into reality. I think that’s a pretty fascinating thing, as well.
Rather than passing judgment on her character, Hathaway also went into this show wanting to believe in the authenticity of the couple at the centre of the storm. I think that at the beginning, these are people who had very sincere intentions, she says. I really think they wanted to make the world a better place. How they executed that is a lot more complicated.
After digging into the Wondery podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork, then reading every article written about the controversial couple and interviewing former employees and investors, series creators Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello realized there was no other way into the story than through the love affair of the Neumanns. It felt like the truth of WeWork, says Crevello. There was a relationship, a love story, at its heart. That’s what made it so unique to us, exploring that love and how that love contributed to that rise and fall. Adds Eisenberg: In talking to people and reading so much about it, the lines between the family and work were so blurred. Rebekah worked there. Rebekah started [the school program] WeGrow. It didn’t feel like we added a love story to a business story. We were as fascinated by their relationship as we were by the growth of this company, and we felt like the two were intrinsically linked.
In prepping to play Adam Neumann, who was often described as something of a cult leader or mad messiah, Leto watched footage of the the man speak, and it became clear how this CEO managed to mesmerize so many. Adam was and is a really verbose person. One of his superpowers is his ability to use words, to wrestle his dreams into reality, Leto explains. I related to that quite a bit, as any artist probably would. To create something meaningful and share it with the world is a really beautiful thing.
To better understand Rebekah’s wide range of philosophies, Hathaway likewise delved into all material available to her. During the rise of WeWork, Rebekah gave a series of interviews, and she’s always been very generous in terms of sharing the wisdom that she’s learned. She’s very interested in spirituality and sharing the books that she’s read, so I really immersed myself in those, Hathaway explains. But all of that prep didn’t ignite for me until [Leto] walked on set and began speaking in that wonderful voice. All of a sudden, I opened my mouth, and Rebekah’s voice came out and in that moment we found each other.
While the Neumanns’ actions are unlikely to elicit much sympathy from viewers, the creators are confident that what will come out of the series is a lot of discussion about whether Adam Neumann never believed in his own endeavour or simply flew too close to the sun. It would have been very easy for us to reduce these people to caricatures or to render judgement on what they did, says Crevello. People want black-and-white answers, but there’s a lot of grey here, and we tried to live in that grey. We feel very confident that we’ve laid out our story and provided enough for you to draw your own conclusions. It’s gonna be provocative. There will be debate.
WeCrashed debuts Friday, March 18th on Apple TV+