- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

Former Enron Corp. boss Kenneth L. Lay is about to go where Amy Fisher, O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers have gone before: the land of the made-for-TV movie.
At least two television networks are planning movies on Enron.
CBS is developing "The Crooked E," a movie based on the memoirs of Brian Cruver, a junior executive who spent nine months at Enron. Avalon Books is scheduled to publish Mr. Cruver's story, "Anatomy of Greed," this spring.
"I am an avid newspaper reader, and newspapers do an excellent job, but there are details of the Enron story that the newspapers have missed," said Robert G. Greenwald, who will produce "The Crooked E."
Mr. Greenwald, a prolific producer whose credits include TV movies about Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and John Wilkes Booth, said "The Crooked E" will put a human face on Enron, a Houston energy-trading giant that spiraled into bankruptcy after federal regulators discovered it had been cooking its books for years.
"What you have in Brian Cruver is a guy who witnessed it all: the ambition, the greed. He lived in a world where everything was considered OK in pursuit of the dollar," Mr. Greenwald said.
The FX cable network announced plans in February for its own Enron TV movie. Former "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman will serve as a consultant to the film.
The story of Mr. Bergman's investigation of the tobacco industry was chronicled in the 1999 feature film "The Insider."
Neither Enron movie has started production, and no casting plans have been announced.
Entertainment industry magazines have suggested actors like Bruce Willis and Larry Hagman for the role of Mr. Lay, who is expected to be a central character in both movies.
Mr. Willis, who often sports a shaved head, bears some resemblance to the balding Mr. Lay. Mr. Hagman, meanwhile, played another Texas energy tycoon, oilman J.R. Ewing, on the long-running prime-time soap opera "Dallas."
At least one big-screen Enron movie is in the works. Producer Scott Rudin, whose credits include "The Truman Show" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," has purchased the film rights to an Enron expose published recently in Vanity Fair.
In addition, several Enron-related books have been announced, including Mr. Cruver's book and "Power Failure," a memoir by Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins.
Having your life turned into a TV movie is a special privilege that the networks reserve for popular culture's most notorious figures.
Within the span of a week during the 1992-93 season, ABC, CBS and NBC aired TV movies based on the 17-year-old Miss Fisher's affair with Long Island, N.Y., auto mechanic Joey Buttafuoco, then 38. In 1992, the high school senior pleaded guilty to shooting Mr. Buttafuoco's wife, Mary Jo, in the head. Mrs. Buttafuoco survived, and Miss Fisher was paroled in May 1999.
"If the Amy Fisher story can inspire not one, not two, but three TV movies, Enron should be able to support at least that many," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.
The Enron scandal lacks a sizzling ending, but that hasn't stopped Hollywood from cashing in on a high-profile scandal.
Fox aired "The O.J. Simpson Story" in early 1995, six months after the former football star was implicated in the death of his ex-wife and one of her friends.
"In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco," a TV-movie about the FBI's clash with cult leader David Koresh, aired on NBC on May 23, 1993, just 33 days after authorities killed Mr. Koresh during a raid on his compound in Waco, Texas.
Hollywood has a mixed track record with movies and TV shows about big business.
"Dallas," which focused on corporate intrigue and the machinations of the wealthy Ewing family, ran for 14 seasons on CBS. It inspired a slew of spinoffs and imitators, including "Knots Landing," "Dynasty" and "Falcon Crest" that each ran several seasons.
Critics embraced "The Insider," but it triggered a debate about the accuracy of the events it portrayed and failed to draw moviegoers.
"Erin Brockovich," a film about a real-life California woman who battled a power company accused of polluting a city's water supply, was one of the highest-grossing films of 2000.
"If you had said two years ago there's going to be several movies about Enron, no one would have believed you. Enron has made the world of corporate accounting exciting, and that's no small feat," Mr. Thompson said.


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