Alex Gibney directing Scientology doc for HBO

Alex Gibney (pictured) is directing Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, a documentary based on journalist Lawrence Wright's 2013 book about the history and finances of the Church of Scientology.
November 24, 2014

Alex Gibney is directing a documentary about the Church of Scientology for U.S. cable net HBO.

The director pitched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief to HBO Documentary Films’ president Sheila Nevins shortly after his documentary about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, aired on HBO in February 2013.

The doc is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, which grew out of a 2011 New Yorker article about filmmaker and former Scientologist Paul Haggis’s decision to leave the controversial religion.

The doc is expected to delve in to the Church’s history and finances and feature revelations about prominent Scientologists Tom Cruise and John Travolta. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nevins said the network is hoping the film will be finished in time for the Sundance Film Festival in January.

HBO is also preparing for a backlash from the notoriously litigious Church and its supporters. Last year, British publisher Transworld opted not to release the book after reportedly receiving legal advice. Wright has also said he has received threatening letters from lawyers representing the church and celebrities that belong to it.

“We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film],” Nevins told the Reporter.

Gibney’s recent documentaries include Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown, Finding Fela!, The Armstrong Lie and We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. His film Taxi to the Dark Side won the 2007 Academy Award for best documentary.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is being produced by the director’s indie Jigsaw Productions. HBO has not yet set an air date.

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Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.