The script just keeps getting worse for Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos. Earlier this morning, Deadline reported that Jennifer Lawrence is slated to play the lead in a movie directed by Adam McKay--based on the embattled startup.
Anyone who's been following the saga knows this isn't going to be a feel-good story for Theranos: In the past several months, the blood-testing startup's credibility has been questioned in an explosive series of investigations over claims of faulty technology and inaccurate test results. The company was once valued at more $10 billion. Last week, Forbes dropped the founder's own net worth from $4.5 billion to--well, nothing.
Hollywood has decided to write an early obituary. It might be naive to express any sympathy for the young founder, who could be banned by the FDA from the business for two years. But in defense of all entrepreneurs who've suffered from a startup crisis, it simply feels too soon to write off a company that hasn't officially died. Yes, things are looking bad, but the case is still ongoing. There's also the long wait for August 1, when Holmes herself is scheduled to give an address in Philadelphia at the annual scientific meeting of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry.
Still, Hollywood loves a good drama, as does America. If it's based on real life--an attractive, highly-intelligent young woman with a startling new product-- we'll add extra butter on the popcorn. There's also no doubt that Silicon Valley (and all things falling in the realm of tech and entrepreneurship) has morphed into its own kind of celebrity. Steve Jobs lives on in iJob, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs: The Man Behind The Machine, among others. And let's not forget the brutal portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg inThe Social Network (directed by David Fincher). The 32-year-old billionaire said the movie went "out of its way to try to get some interesting details correct like the design of the office, but on the overarching plot...they just kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful."
To be fair,The Social Network only aimed to tell the story of how Zuckerberg created Facebook during his time at Harvard. As for McKay's project, there aren't a lot of details so far--except that we'll be seeing Lawrence rocking a black turtleneck for most of the movie. There's no release date, so it's also unlikely that a full script has been completed for the rise-and-fall cautionary tale. (Even after the pre-production stage, it may take up to a year or more for a movie to be released.)
There's no denying that the team behind the project will produce enough buzz to make it worth watching. Lawrence, one of Hollywood's leading ladies, earned her fourth Oscar nomination for Joy --another a "true" account of a woman entrepreneur. Lawrence played Joy Mangano, a stay-at-home mom who invented and marketed the Miracle Mop. On the directing end, McKay stunned critics with his clever dramatization of Michael Lewis' non-fiction account of the real estate crash inThe Big Short. Anyone who can make collaterized debt obligations seem entertaining clearly has talent.
In the "business-movie" business, there aren't many heroic tales-- and this won't be one of them. But there's an argument to be made against the scathing movie portrayals of entrepreneurs: Somewhere--amidst the fame, glory, money, and lies--there exists a goal to create products that change and improve how we live. For Theranos, the idea was to simplify blood tests and make them far more useful. Maybe that will still happen. Sequel, anyone?