Hollywood to Produce Kim Dotcom Documentary; Book in the Works (Exclusive)
A film co-produced by actor-producer Donovan Leitch titled "Mega Conspiracy" and a book from journalist Neil Strauss on the beleaguered Megaupload founder are in process.
This story first appeared in the May 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Kim Dotcom, the indicted founder of shuttered file-sharing service Megaupload, is to be the subject of a documentary and biography, according to friends and business associates of the colorful ex-hacker.
Actor-producer Donovan Leitch and Alex Mardikian, a friend and business associate of Dotcom, told The Hollywood Reporter that they are producing a documentary about Dotcom with the working title of Mega Conspiracy. Marc Levin (Prayer for a Perfect Season) is in talks with the duo to direct the project, though no deal is in place.
Dotcom has been accused by the U.S. government of facilitating and participating in large-scale copyright infringement through his Megaupload cyber locker service, causing more than $500 million in losses to copyright holders -- including all six major Hollywood studios and the big record labels. The service was shut down in January when authorities in New Zealand raided Dotcom's $24 million compound there. The documentary would not only explore the Megaupload case but also examine issues of content ownership and the battle for control of the Internet. "Kim is part of the story, but we want to tell the whole story," said Leitch, who has met with Dotcom three times since last fall.
Mardikian says that he and Leitch have shot roughly 60 hours of interviews for the documentary. In addition to talking with Dotcom, the filmmakers sat down with employees of Megaupload who also were named in the Jan. 6 indictment. Also producing is New Zealand filmmaker Fergus Milner. The working title of Mega Conspiracy is a nod to a phrase repeated throughout the U.S. government's indictment that is used to characterize Dotcom's Megaupload business operations.
Mardikian says that while the film has not secured distribution, talks are ongoing with a "well-respected group." He said Dotcom would not distribute the film. "That breaks all the rules of it actually being a fair piece," says Mardikian, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based motorcycle and fashion designer who was once COO of Von Dutch Kustom Cycles. "If it is under Kim's direction, it is not a documentary, it is a freaking commercial for Mega. That's what we are avoiding."
WME-repped Levin's credits include executive producing the feature film Cadillac Records and directing the documentaries Protocols of Zion and Mr. Untouchable, among others.
Leitch, the son of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Donovan, said that he suggested to Dotcom that he consider working with Levin, a longtime friend of the actor-producer. "When I brought Marc up, [Dotcom] knew about Mr. Untouchable," said Leitch, describing Dotcom as a film buff who counts Quentin Tarantino as his favorite director. (Mr. Untouchable is the story of Nicky Barnes, a Harlem-based drug addict who became an infamous drug lord in the 1970s.)
Leitch was introduced to Dotcom by Mardikian, a mutual associate, and first met with the Megaupload founder in October. In addition to an acting career -- he has appeared in such films as Glory and I Shot Andy Warhol -- Leitch has produced several films, including the 1993 political documentary The Last Party. It was on that project that Leitch befriended Levin, who served as the writer and director.
Mardikian previously served as the chief executive of Hong Kong-based N1 Ltd., a clothing company he said was shut down by authorities during the raid on Megaupload because it was at least partly funded by a Megaupload-related business and counted Megaupload executive Mathias Ortmann, who was also named in the indictment, as a director. But Mardikian says N1 was "independent and not a related Internet business" of Megaupload. He is listed as the line producer in an 11-minute car racing/music video that Dotcom uploaded to YouTube on April 21. (In the video, Dotcom and professional driver Kimi Raikkonen are shown circling Germany's famed Nurburgring track in rare Mercedes-Benz CLK DTMs. The clip is set to a Euro pop song that features Dotcom rapping the lyrics, "Here we go now, going crazy, going faster, motherf--er.")
Separately, journalist Neil Strauss is working on a biography of Dotcom, Mardikian and Leitch said. Strauss traveled with his friend Leitch to New Zealand in October after the actor-producer suggested to Mardikian that Strauss would be "the perfect person" to write a book about Dotcom given his experience writing biographies.
"[Dotcom and Strauss] hit it off," Mardikian said. "Sure enough, it was beautiful."
Strauss, a former New York Times music writer, has co-written the memoirs of several multifaceted personalities, including porn star Jenna Jameson and rock musicians Marilyn Manson and Dave Navarro. In Dotcom, Strauss would have an equally colorful individual to examine. Dotcom, of course, is known for his past as an eccentric hacker and the YouTube videos that document his lifestyle of $400,000 supercars and supermodel hot-tub parties aboard yachts.
Strauss also wrote the 2005 New York Times best-seller The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. It has yet to be determined whether Strauss would pen the Dotcom biography or serve as editor for another writer, said Leitch, adding that Strauss is expected to return to New Zealand in June. The book could be released on Igniter, Strauss' subimprint with HarperCollins Publishers.
Strauss and HarperCollins did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
Also, according to Mardikian, Dotcom, 38, will release his first album mid-summer, along with two music videos. As part of the terms of Dotcom's electronically monitored bail, he may use the Internet and visit a music studio to work on the record. The businessman is recording the dance album with producer Printz Board, who has worked with the Black Eyed Peas and heads Los Angeles-based music and video production company Beets & Produce Inc.
Mardikian said the album "starts in the electronica category" but veers from there. "Believe it or not, it has romantic ballads. It is definitely not what I'd expect."
In December, Dotcom released "Mega Song," a professionally produced pop tune and music video that features a slew of music and entertainment business players, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. In the song, Dotcom raps about Megaupload: "It's a hit! It's a hit!"
Dotcom could be extradited to the U.S. after an Aug. 20 court hearing in Auckland.