Doc Filmmaker Alex Gibney on Roger Stone: Lying Finally Caught Up With Him

Alex Gibney_Sundance - Getty - H 2019
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The Trump political operative's "role was to stir stuff up, plant falsehoods, and steer rumor and invective," the director notes.

When Alex Gibney woke up in Park City on Friday morning to head to a screening of his documentary premiering at Sundance, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, the filmmaker’s inbox was filling up with some peculiar messages: several of Gibney’s friends were sending him PDFs of Roger Stone’s indictment.

Gibney, Hollywood’s preeminent auteur of extravagant liars, became intimately familiar with the Republican political strategist while researching his 2010 documentary Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, which details the smear campaign Stone orchestrated against the then-New York governor.

“Roger may have been caught up in a professional hazard of what he does for a living, which is to lie, in a very entertaining, provocative way,” Gibney says of the charges facing the former Trump campaign advisor detailed in the indictment Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed Friday, which include making false statements and witness tampering. “[Stone’s] role was to stir stuff up, plant falsehoods and steer rumor and invective.”

Stone, who started his career on the 1972 Nixon re-election campaign, practices a form of alarmingly current Nixonian dirty politics, Gibney says, citing, as an example, Stone’s invention of the untrue but indelible image that Spitzer wore black dress socks while trysting with prostitutes.

“In the era of social media where lies travel even faster than they did back in the day, it’s an old-school mechanism that’s got new life,” Gibney says. “Rumors spread even faster now.”

The same blistering news cycle that Stone exploited for Trump has ramifications for Gibney’s business, not all of them bad, he says. “When you make a documentary it’s meant to live for the long haul,” Gibney says. “That’s one of the virtues of the doc form in this weird 24-7 news cycle when things move too quickly. [Docs are] meant to last. They’re meant to get it right.”

Gibney’s film at Sundance this year is about the collapse of the health technology company Theranos and the deception and hubris of the woman who built it, Elizabeth Holmes. As he heads off into the slushy street of Park City, Gibney reflects, “Yeah, it’s about another person who lied. That seems to be my stock in trade.”