WeCrashed Team on Jared Leto’s Adam Neumann Meeting, Scammer Culture – The Hollywood Reporter
This feature was produced and curated by THR editors and is presented by Apple TV+.
In the final minutes of Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, the ousted co-founders of WeWork, Adam and Rebekah Neumann (played by Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway), appear to have landed on top even after leading their company to a failed IPO. They’re shown jetting off to the Dead Sea, in Israel, for a family vacation — with millions in their pocket. But in an ironic twist, the show actually ends with the couple rubbing salt water out of their eyes after learning that they won’t receive a penny of the payout they thought they were getting to leave the company.
WeCrashed, the eight-episode miniseries based on the Wondery podcast of the same name, toys with the concepts of winners, losers, smarts and scams as it depicts the rise and fall of the coworking space business. The show is anchored by the relationship between Adam and Rebekah, two people with outlandish ideas of 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 “scammer” and to answer the question of who really wins in a fight between a crazy person and a smart person.
There’s been a lot of content about the downfall of WeWork. Why did you feel like, “OK, we need something else here”?
LEE EISENBERG What we were excited 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 they were like. That was something we didn’t think we had quite seen [in the marketplace].
A storyline that’s really present in the show concerns the relationship between Adam and Rebekah. Why did you want to approach this series with that romance angle, rather than as a purely business story?
DREW CREVELLO People think that we decided to do this as a love story, as a sort of storytelling angle or some kind of gimmick or contrivance. But really, as we listened to that fantastic podcast, and as we started doing some of our own research, that was the story as we perceived it to be. In Adam’s own words, when he relates the kind of founding origin myth of WeWork, Rebekah is at the center of it.
The other relationship in this show that really stood out to me was the one between Adam and Softbank CEO Masa Son [played by Kim Eui-sung]. It feels like the expansion plans were really driven by Masa telling Adam to be crazier. Why do you think Adam felt the need to impress him so much?
JARED LETO I really enjoyed my scenes with Masa. He was this father figure [to Adam] and really had a lot to do with the trajectory of the company — that injection of that kind of capital and the encouragement from a person in a position of great power, looking at Adam and saying, “Hey, you know what? You’re not crazy enough. Take this and just go.” I think at that time, they were actually trying to raise just a humble sum of, like, $500 million, and Masa goes, “Here’s $4 billion.” I don’t know about you, but I’m sure we would all be perfect stewards of $4 billion if someone gave us the check. (Laughs.) But Adam did tell me that when they took that check, it was the beginning of the end.
EISENBERG The way that we structured the season, the end of episode four (of eight total episodes) is Adam showing Rebekah the iPad with the $4.4 billion [written on it]. The episode is called “4.4.” That, to us, was exactly what Jared said — that was the beginning of the end, that was the worst thing that could have ever happened to Adam Neumann.
Why do you think that was?
EISENBERG Because the company wasn’t able to grow organically. At the beginning of episode five, they’re opening locations all over the world, but they’re scaling at such a speed that there wasn’t a front door at one location or there wasn’t an operational bathroom. And so what started off as a company that was growing in this really nice, gradual way, and you knew the people that you worked with, and you were able to have quality control, all of a sudden, you can’t expand at that rate and maintain the quality of the company.
CREVELLO In episode five, when we do this montage where Adam kind of bangs through these different problems in opening these international offices and he runs through these different solutions, every one of them is based on an actual problem and solution Adam encountered. So the one of him saying, “We don’t have a working bathroom? Tell them to go use the coffee shop.” That was actually [what happened].
EISENBERG The example that we didn’t use [because] we just ran out of time was, I think, in Buenos Aires. [That location] didn’t have their liquor license, and so their first day, the SWAT team just burst into the WeWork and just seized everything because they didn’t have [the right to dispense alcohol]. They, like, shut down WeWork.
Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto as WeWork founders Adam and Rebekah Neumann in WeCrashed.
Courtesy of APPLE TV+
Jared, in the past you’ve spoken about how you were a bit hesitant to take this role because you didn’t want to vilify a real-life person. Now that you’re a little bit removed from it, do you think he’s a con person? Is he a scammer?
LETO I wouldn’t describe him that way. When this happened, he was investigated by the SEC but never accused of a crime. He made a lot of mistakes, and he wasn’t successful in staying at the helm of the company. [In the show] we look at his greatest successes and his greatest failures, but I was never interested in [just] a two-dimensional caricature. That’s just not my thing. I thought it would be a richer experience for me as a performer, and for audiences, if I did my best to explore the nuances, the humanity. We were all on the same page with that. It was something I was concerned with at the very beginning — not just because here’s a fairly young person with a family and kids, but it’s such a recent story. So that weighed on me a bit. When I met Adam, I told him, “Look, this is never going to be you. It’s not going to be your story. It’s fiction.” I also told him not to watch it, and I think he said, “Why?” And it’s like, well, you’ve already lived through it once. But I’m glad that I did meet him. I’m glad that I took that meeting. I wanted to look into his eyes. I had a list of questions for him, and I have to say, I liked him a lot. I found him to be very charming. It’s hard not to admire their relationship. They have a very deep, real connection. It was a really interesting journey to take. I’d never played a person who’s still alive.
What did you ask him in that meeting?
LETO A lot. And it was great to get confirmation of things because I’d really done most of the work, the character work. It wasn’t like a meeting with him was going to change everything, because my job was to serve this beautiful script, the story that these two geniuses created.
Adam Neumann is trying to make a comeback. He’s got a new company that’s raised some $70 million in funding. Given his leadership of WeWork, I’m curious why you all think investors might still want to work with him.
EISENBERG From people that we spoke to, he’s incredibly impressive. I think he’s kind of an unparalleled salesman.
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. I think you just need a few people to kind of step in and say, “Maybe he can do it again.” And hopefully, Adam has learned from his mistakes, as we all have from things that have happened in our past. I am not an investor. But it doesn’t seem absurd to me that other people have come in.
A question from the show: Who would win in a fight, the smart person or the crazy person?
EISENBERG Oh, boy. That’s hard. Who wins in a fight? I think the crazy person wins in a fight. And I think a little bit about the show, and the people that end up creating these giant companies, I think you need to have a little bit of crazy in you. These people that no one believes in and have ideas that are kind of outside the norm, I think those people are the ones that rise. When I think of smart in comparison to crazy in this argument, it feels a little bit like smart is safe and smart colors within the lines. And I think the “unicorns” color outside of the lines.
CREVELLO I would say the crazy one. Crazy people make the world go round. It’s the engine of innovation. You need people who break things and disrupt and revolutionize.
What we tried to show is [Adam] is a guy who gave someone a 12-minute tour and talked someone into a $4 billion investment. But what does it say about the person who invested $4 billion right after a 12-minute tour? Some craziness is good, it’s just lessons need to be learned. And there is collateral damage, and the employees were the collateral damage here. So, hopefully, craziness within limits.
LETO The answer should be no one wins in a fight. But unfortunately, I would have to say the crazy person too, because the smart person probably thinks a little too long about the consequences before they throw the first punch.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.