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In the final minutes of Apple TV + We collapsed, WeWork’s ousted co-founders Adam and Rebekah Neumann (played by Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway), appear to have made it to the top even after leading their company to a failed IPO. They are shown flying to the Dead Sea, Israel, for a family vacation, with millions in their pockets. But in an ironic twist, the show actually ends with the couple rubbing saltwater from their eyes after learning they won’t get a penny of the compensation they thought they were leaving the company.
We collapsed, the eight-episode miniseries based on the podcast of the same name Wondery, plays with the concepts of winners, losers, cunning and scams as it describes the rise and fall of the coworking space business. The show is anchored in the relationship between Adam and Rebekah, two people with extravagant ideas about their own greatness.
The Hollywood reporter recently sat down with Leto and showrunners Lee Eisenberg and Drew Crevello to discuss Leto’s private meeting with Adam, the meaning of “crook” and to answer the question of who really wins in a fight between a crazy person and a person. intelligent.
There has been a lot of content about WeWork’s fall. Why did you feel like “OK, we need something else here”?
LEE EISENBERG What we were thrilled to do was pull back the curtain a little bit. We talked to investors, former employees and former roommates [of the Neumanns] to create a 360-degree view of what the company was like and what it was like. It was something we didn’t think we saw [in the marketplace].
A really present storyline on the show is about the relationship between Adam and Rebekah. Why did you want to approach this series with that angle of romance, rather than as a purely commercial story?
DREW CREVELLO People think we decided to do it as a love story, as a kind of narrative angle or some kind of gimmick or gimmick. But actually, as we listened to that amazing podcast and started doing some of our research, that was the story as we perceived it. In Adam’s own words, when he recounts the kind of WeWork founding origin myth, Rebekah is at the heart of it.
The other relationship on this show that really impressed me was that between Adam and Softbank CEO Masa Son [played by Kim Eui-sung]. It looks like the expansion plans were really driven by Masa who told Adam he was crazier. Why do you think Adam felt the need to impress him so much?
JARED LETO I really enjoyed my scenes with Masa. It was this father figure [to Adam] and it really had a lot to do with the trajectory of the company: that injection of that kind of capital and the encouragement of a person in a position of great power, looking at Adam and saying, “Hey, you know what? you’re crazy enough. Take this and just go. I think at the time they were actually trying to raise just a modest sum of, like, $ 500 million, and Masa says, “That’s $ 4 billion.” I don’t know about you, but I’m sure we’d all be perfect $ 4 billion stewards if someone gave us the check. (He laughs.) But Adam told me that when they got that check, it was the beginning of the end.
EISENBERG The way we structured the season, the end of episode four (of eight episodes in total) is Adam showing Rebekah the iPad with $ 4.4 billion. [written on it]. The episode is called “4.4”. This, for us, was exactly what Jared said: that was the beginning of the end, that was the worst thing that could have happened to Adam Neumann.
Why do you think it was?
EISENBERG Because the company has not been able to grow organically. At the beginning of episode five, they are opening locations around the world, but they are climbing at such a speed that there was no front door in one location or there was no operating bathroom. And so what started out as a company that was growing in this really nice and gradual way, and you knew the people you worked with and you were able to have quality control, all of a sudden, you can’t expand that way. evaluate and maintain the quality of the company.
CREVELLO In episode five, when we do this montage where Adam faces these different problems in opening these international offices and runs through these different solutions, each of them is based on a real problem and solution that Adam encountered. So the one of him saying, “Don’t we have a working bathroom? Tell him to go and use the coffee shop. That was actually [what happened].
EISENBERG The example we didn’t use [because] we just ran out of time, I think, in Buenos Aires. [That location] they weren’t licensed for alcohol, so on their first day, the SWAT team broke into WeWork and confiscated everything because they didn’t have [the right to dispense alcohol]. They, like, shut down WeWork.
Jared, you’ve talked in the past about how you were a little reluctant to take this role because you didn’t want to slander a real person. Now that you’ve gotten a little out of the way, do you think he’s a scammer? Is he a scammer?
LETO I wouldn’t describe it that way. When that happened, he was investigated by the SEC but was never charged with a crime. He made many mistakes and failed to stay at the helm of the company. [In the show] we look at his biggest hits and his biggest failures, but I never cared [just] a two-dimensional caricature. This is not my thing. I thought it would be a richer experience for me as an artist and for the audience if I did my best to explore the nuances, humanity. We all agreed with that. It was something that worried me from the start, not just because there’s a fairly young person here with a family and kids, but it’s such a recent story. So this weighed on me a little. When I met Adam, I said, “Look, this will never be you. It won’t be your story. It’s fiction.” I also told him not to look at him and I think he said, “Why?” And it’s like, well, you’ve already experienced it once. But I am happy to have met him. I am happy to have participated in that meeting. I wanted to look him in the eye. I had a list of questions for him and I have to say I liked him a lot. I found it very fascinating. It’s hard not to admire their relationship. They have a very deep and real connection. It was a really interesting journey to take. I had never played a person still alive.
What did you ask him in that meeting?
LETO Much. And it was great to have things confirmed because I had really done most of the work, the character work. It wasn’t as if a meeting with him would change everything, because my job was to serve this beautiful script, the story these two geniuses created.
Adam Neumann is looking to make a comeback. He has a new company that has raised about $ 70 million in funding. Given his WeWork guide, I’m curious as to why you all think investors might still want to work with him.
EISENBERG From the people we spoke to, it is incredibly impressive. I think he’s kind of a peerless seller.
CREVELLO And by the way, a salesman with a great idea. WeWork is an excellent idea.
EISENBERG Seventy million dollars is also very different from 4.4 billion dollars. I think you just need a few people to step in and say, “Maybe he can do it again.” And hopefully Adam has learned from his mistakes, as we all have learned from the things that have happened in our past. I am not an investor. But it doesn’t seem absurd to me that other people have entered.
A question from the show: who would win in a fight, the smart person or the crazy person?
EISENBERG Oh boy. This is difficult. Who wins in a fight? I think the madman wins in a fight. And I think a little bit about the show, and the people who end up creating these giant companies, I think you must have a little bit of a madness in you. These people that no one believes in and have ideas that are a little bit out of the norm, I think those people are the ones who stand up. When I think of smart versus crazy in this topic, it feels a bit like smart is safe and smart colors between the lines. And I think “unicorns” color outside the lines.
CREVELLO I would say the crazy. Crazy people make the world go round. It is the engine of innovation. You need people who break things, interrupt and revolutionize.
What we have tried to show is [Adam] he’s a guy who gave someone a 12-minute tour and convinced someone to make a $ 4 billion investment. But what about the person who invested $ 4 billion right after a 12-minute tour? A little madness is good, it’s just that you have to learn lessons. And there is collateral damage, and the employees have been collateral damage here. So hopefully, insanity within bounds.
LETO The answer should be that no one wins in a fight. But sadly I should also say the crazy person, because the smart person probably thinks a little too much about the consequences before throwing the first punch.
Interview modified for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to register now.