6 real-life scandals Hollywood is making into movies and TV shows - from Epstein to Theranos to Nxivm

fyre festival 3 NetflixNetflix

  • Netflix and Hulu released dueling documentaries earlier this year about the Fyre Festival, the legendary failed music festival that ended in its founder being sent to prison for fraud.
  • But that's just one recent scandal that Hollywood has quickly gotten its hands on for the big and small-screen treatment.
  • Others include Jeffrey Epstein and the college admissions scandal involving Hollywood actors like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
  • We looked at six headline-grabbing scandals and the TV and movies shows that are being made based on them.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Netflix and Hulu dueled over a major scandal earlier this year.

The infamous Fyre Festival, founded by convicted fraudster Billy McFarland, presented an obvious story to dig into that viewers would eat up: what was touted as a luxury music festival scammed prospective festival-goers out of thousands of dollars and left them stranded on a secluded island in the Bahamas. The streaming companies both released their own documentaries on the subject in January.

But the Fyre Fest is just one recent example of a major scandal that Hollywood quickly got its hands on. There are many others.

Three projects are already in development about the financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking last month and died by suicide earlier this month in a Manhattan correctional facility.

Other recent scandals that Hollywood has eyes on are the Nxivm cult and the college admissions bribery scandal, in which over a dozen high-profile individuals were indicted earlier this year.

We rounded up six scandals and the TV and movie projects currently in the works about them:

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Jeffrey Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein

Three projects are in the works about financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested in July on suspicion of sex trafficking minors before dying by suicide in a Manhattan correctional facility earlier this month.

Lifetime, which aired "Surviving R. Kelly," is planning a "Surviving Jeffrey Epstein" docuseries.

Producer and actress Patricia Heaton is developing a project based on the Miami Herald's "Perversion of Justice" series of articles which depicted Epstein as a serial child abuser.

Netflix is also developing its own four-part docuseries based on the 2016 book "Filthy Rich: The Billionaire's Sex Scandal — The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein" by John Connolly, Tim Malloy, and James Patterson, who is set to executive produce the series.

Here's how the publisher describes the book:

"Jeffrey Epstein rose from humble origins into the New York City and Palm Beach elite. A college dropout with an instinct for numbers — and for people — Epstein amassed his wealth through a combination of access and skill. But even after he had it all, Epstein wanted more. That unceasing desire — and especially a taste for underage girls —resulted in sexual-abuse charges, to which he pleaded guilty and received a shockingly lenient sentence."

The college admissions scandal

The college admissions scandal

Annapurna Television is developing a limited series based on the upcoming book "Accepted" from Wall Street Journal reporters Melissa Korn and Jen Levitz, about the college admissions bribery scandal in which over a dozen high-profile individuals were indicted on suspicion of involvement in a web of bribes and fraud aimed at influencing their children's entrance into esteemed universities.

Two of those people were actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. The indictment alleged Huffman paid $15,000 for someone to take her eldest daughter's college entrance exam.

Loughlin was accused of paying $500,000 to have her daughters falsely labeled as recruits of the University of Southern California crew team even though they had never participated in the sport. She declined a plea deal and will be back in court next week.

Lifetime is developing a TV movie aptly titled "College Admissions Scandal," which will "follow two wealthy mothers who share an obsession with getting their teenagers into the best possible college."

Anna Delvey, the "SoHo Grifter"

Anna Delvey, the "SoHo Grifter"

Netflix and Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland acquired the rights last year to adapt New York Magazine's story on Anna Delvey, also known as the "SoHo Grifter."

Anna Sorokin was a con artist who scammed banks and businesses throughout the New York social scene for years by claiming to be a wealthy German heiress under the fake name Anna Delvey. She was convicted in May of stealing more than $200,000 and sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.

Under the Netflix deal, Sorokin received $30,000 (which covered attorney fees), but New York state's "Son of Sam" law, which prevents people from profiting off crimes, could prevent her from getting more money.

Another SoHo Grifter project is in development at HBO with Lena Dunham producing. It's based on Rachel DeLoache Williams' personal account of her experience with Sorokin, which she wrote for Vanity Fair.

The Nxivm cult

The Nxivm cult

Multiple projects are in the works based on the Nxivm upstate New York cult.

Lifetime announced the TV movie "NXIVM Cult: A Mother's Nightmare" will premiere this fall on the network, about actress Catherine Oxenberg's daughter who she said became a sex slave.

"When Catherine learns about a leadership seminar from a new organization called Nxivm she decides to take her 20-year-old daughter India to the professional development meeting," Lifetime said of the movie's plot in a release last month. "Led by the extremely enigmatic Keith Raniere, Catherine can't help but shake the feeling there's more than meets the eye with the self-help organization."

Raniere was found guilty in June on all counts of sex trafficking and other charges related to forcing women into unwanted sex. His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said that Raniere "maintains his innocence" and plans to appeal.

Annapurna Television is developing a TV series based on The New York Times investigation "Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded."

"E! True Hollywood Story" is also returning in October, starting with "NXIVM: Self Help or Sex Cult?" E! said the installment "focuses on the recruitment of women into the organization and its sub-groups, and the severe impact it had on their lives. This installment also uncovers the secrets and shocking behavior that led to the conviction of deceitful NXIVM founder Keith Raniere and the guilty plea and imminent sentencing of former actor and NXIVM member Allison Mack."

The downfall of Roger Ailes at Fox News

The downfall of Roger Ailes at Fox News

The upcoming movie "Bombshell," from the studio Lionsgate and "Trumbo" director Jay Roach, recounts former Fox News personalities Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson's stand against the network's former CEO Roger Ailes, who resigned after they and others accused him of sexual harassment. Ailes died in 2017.

Charlize Theron plays Kelly, Nicole Kidman plays Carlson, and John Lithgow plays Ailes. The movie comes to theaters in December. You can watch the new trailer here.

Showtime recently aired its miniseries "The Loudest Voice," based on Gabriel Sherman's book about Roger Ailes, "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News - and Divided a Country." Russell Crowe portrayed Ailes.

The documentary "Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes," about the controversial figure's rise and fall, was released last year.

Elizabeth Holmes and the collapse of blood-testing startup Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes and the collapse of blood-testing startup Theranos

Theranos was a tech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes, who claimed to have discovered a way to revolutionize blood testing. But after a 2015 Wall Street Journal article by John Carreyrou (and subsequent reporting, including the book "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup") challenged the company's credibility, it ceased operations. Holmes is awaiting trial for fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison.

HBO released the Alex Gibney documentary about Theranos, "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley," in March.

Hulu is developing a TV series called "The Dropout," starring "SNL" star Kate McKinnon as Holmes and based on the ABC Radio podcast of the same name.

"Vice" director Adam McKay is also set to direct a Theranos movie titled "Bad Blood" starring Jennifer Lawrence as Holmes.

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