Anne Hathaway has told Sky News she was inspired by the infamous Fyre Festival flop for her new drama series about the rise and fall of business empire WeWork.
WeCrashed tells the story of how flexible workspace provider WeWork grew from a single co-working area into a global “unicorn” – a private start-up business valued at more than $1 billion (about £764m). In fact, in under a decade, it was valued at $47bn (about £36bn) – but then, in less than a year, saw its value plummet.
The drama stars Jared Leto and Hathaway as the business’s co-founder and former chief executive Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah, who was the company’s chief brand and impact officer, and focuses on their relationship and rather unusual working practices.
Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello, who created the series, spent two years reading and listening to “every scrap of interview footage, every conference Adam and Rebekah attended”, and also hired their own researcher to speak to former employees and childhood friends of the couple, to “really delve as deeply as we could”.
Hathaway said it was seeing the Fyre documentary – about the “luxury” Bahamas music festival in 2017 that was branded a scam – that made her want to get involved.
“They are unconventional and there is intensity to them, for sure,” she said, of the characters of Adam and Rebekah Neumann. “The thing that really made me want to do the series was I saw the Fyre [festival] documentary and I just thought, what is it about this thing, this fake it till you make it thing? And people who don’t know when to say the evidence doesn’t support the dream anymore.
“It’s something we’re seeing again and again in many different ways, certainly in the story of WeWork. So I was very interested in that and exploring that – not judging the people that do it, but actually saying, what is it that makes someone… I don’t know, not be able to see things as clearly as others from the outside of it might be able to see.”
The story of WeWork
After publishing documents ahead of WeWork’s planned listing in 2019, analysts and investors started asking some difficult questions.
They were in part worried about the outsized role, and behaviour, of Adam Neumann, and raised questions about the company’s ability to make a profit.
In the space of a month, the firm ended up slashing its valuation to $10bn from $47bn, and put off its public float at that time.
Japan’s SoftBank, a major early investor, stepped in to keep the company afloat, and the company still operates, albeit on a less grandiose scale.
The story of the firm’s downfall has already been the subject of books and documentaries and the WeCrashed podcast series, on which Hathaway’s new Apple TV+ drama is based.
She and Leto now take on the roles of the couple at the centre of it all. Hathaway said she felt a “great responsibility” playing a real person.
“Just as a human being to another human being, to want to be fair, to want to be non-judgemental and to really be compassionate because, you know, I’m a big believer in judge, not lest you be judged,” she said. “I believe in it as an approach to life, but I also think it’s really crucial to have that approach to acting. You can’t judge your characters.
“So it just meant that I was able to look at a human being… with curiosity and attempt to understand them, where they were coming from, and afford them and grace them good intentions.
“The outcome’s the same. You know, what happened happened and their actions are their actions. But to assume the best of someone, even when they fall short, it was a really interesting practise.”
Backing up the Hollywood dream
Hathaway has been in the business for 20 years, having starred in films including The Devil Wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain and The Witches, and winning an Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in Les Miserables.
In that time, has she come across Hollywood’s version of those who aren’t able to back up the dream?
“I’m very lucky because I’ve been doing it for a while now, so you kind of learn to get a sense of who the dreamers are and the people who practically know how to make things a reality,” she said.
“But you know, it’s a tough business and sometimes things that you feel like are going to be real, don’t pan out or they become real and they’re different than you think they’re going to be.
“I just feel very lucky that I’m able to do it as long as I have, and I’ve had experience with all kinds of outcomes.”
WeCrashed is out on Apple TV+ from 18 March