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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Darkly comic Enron saga to air
Kenneth Lay
Enron boss Kenneth Lay became infamous
The first major film of a number of movies and made-for-TV specials about the collapse of energy firm Enron is to air on US network CBS.

Satirical in its approach, the film tells the story of an ordinary Enron employee viewing one of the most elaborate scams in corporate history.

The company's falsification of its profits and the ensuing scandal was told by Brian Cruver in his book, Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider.

Enron building
Enron is a symbol of corporate greed
Likely to be broadcast on 3 November, the film stars MASH TV star Mike Farrell as former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay, and made-for-TV veteran Brian Dennehy as a senior Enron executive.

"This movie is about an ordinary person, who is hired at Enron by accident on April Fool's Day 2001 and witnesses the crash first-hand from the trading floor. It's the human story and it's funny and tragic," said Alys Shanti, co-executive producer of the film.

Directed by Penelope Spheeris, who was at the helm of Wayne's World, it has concentrated on the darkly comic aspects of Enron's much-pilloried corporate culture.

The doomed company is now also known for quirks such as walls plastered with motivational messages and speaking lifts that talked up the company's achievements.

The film does not venture much into the slew of investigations, recriminations and political machinations that followed the collapse.

"How can a corporation behave like this? It's ultimately the story of the collapse of the American dream," said the producer.

"Our movie stops when Enron goes to bankruptcy and our lead character loses his job."

The first company to announce their decision to make a television film about the scandal was Fox Entertainment's FX cable channel.

Thorough exposť

Made by Artisan Television, the film is based on the experience of Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins.

But the channel is not planning to hurry the making of the film, as they intend it to act as a thorough exposť.

"Ours is to be a more serious movie, along the lines of an exposť. If you are going to do something serious, it's not something you're going to rush on the air," said John Solberg, senior vice president of public relations at FX Cable.

"Things still have to flush out regarding these events in order for us to tell a more complete story," he said.

Artisan and FX have taken advice from 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman, played by Al Pacino in The Insider, the story of a "Big Tobacco" whistleblower.

Accountant's tale

Movie rights to the Vanity Fair piece based on the experiences of Enron accountant Jan Avery have also been snapped up.

Producer Scott Rudin's purchase of film rights to an Enron exposť in the April issue of Vanity Fair magazine told from the perspective of Jan Avery, who was an accountant at Enron for eight years.

The Avery article was written by Marie Brenner, who also wrote the piece that inspired The Insider.

And with the interest in the Enron and Worldcom affairs still enormous, television and film producers are realising business scandals can produce a rich vein of material.

NBC has already said it will make a film about lifestyle guru Martha Stewart who was caught up in the ImClone Systems share scandal.


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08 Feb 02 | Entertainment
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