Film

‘Bully Coward Victim’ on HBO

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June 19 marks the 67th anniversary of the execution of Ivy Meeropol’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. On Thursday, June 18, Meeropol’s documentary film, “Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn,” will premiere on HBO.

Airing at 9 p.m. ET, 10:45 p.m. PT, the film takes an unflinching look at the life and death Cohn, the infamous attorney who first gained prominence by prosecuting the Rosenbergs, known as the “atomic spies.”

Director Ivy Meeropol

Director Ivy Meeropol

Director Meeropol draws on extensive archival material to present a revealing portrait of Roy Cohn, but also comes equipped with a unique background as the Rosenbergs’ granddaughter and filmmaker of “Heir to an Execution,” an earlier HBO film that explored her family’s conflicted views of the Rosenberg trial and execution.

“The McCarthy era was all about quashing dissent in the name of national security, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Meeropol said regarding the “Heir,” in an interview with FF2 Media. “There were massive, peaceful marches in the period leading up to the start of the Iraq War, but the protesters were told that they were ‘unpatriotic.’ You don’t support the troops if you have any questions for the government? This country is supposed to be about encouraging dissent; that’s the beauty of democracy.”

Meeropol has spent much of her life feeling both repelled and fascinated by the man who prosecuted her grandparents, obtained their convictions in federal court, and then insisted on their executions.

“Roy Cohn made his name prosecuting and pushing for the execution of my grandparents Ethel and Julius Rosenberg,” says Meeropol. “Many years later he became Donald Trump’s lawyer, mentor and close friend. If there was ever a time to reflect on how we got here, it is now.”

This film, which had its World Premiere at the 2019 New York Film Festival, will also be available to stream on HBO GO, HBO NOW, and on HBO via HBO Max and other partners’ platforms.

Trump Mentor, Died of AIDS

Chronicling Cohn’s life from the late 1950s as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, when he first began wielding political power, Meeropol follows him into the 1980s, when he became a darling of the Reagan White House, a rabid anti-homosexuality activist and political mentor to Trump, before dying from AIDS in 1986.

The film includes archival material and recently discovered audiotapes of candid discussions between Cohn and journalist Peter Manso. The material provides a vivid portrait of family, friends, colleagues, employees and lovers, as well as those targeted by Cohn.
Cohn’s life in Provincetown, MA, was also examined, where he was considerably more open about his sexuality, and where he shared a house with Manso and novelist, Norman Mailer.
Interviewees in the documentary include John Waters, Cindy Adams, Alan Dershowitz, Nathan Lane and Tony Kushner, whose 2018 Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning revival of “Angels in America” featured Lane as Cohn. Lane offers insight into how devastatingly dangerous the actual Roy Cohn was and how he wielded power through invective and innuendo.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to share the film with HBO audiences,” says Meeropol.

Watch the trailer here.

“Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn” is a Motto Pictures and Red 50 Production for HBO Documentary Films; directed by Ivy Meeropol; produced by Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Ivy Meeropol, Carolyn Hepburn; associate producer, Juan Daniel Torres; co-producers, Marissa Ericson, Peter Manso; consulting producer, Frank Rich; director of photography, Daniel B. Gold; editors, Anne Alvergue and Adam Kurnitz; music by Nathan Halpern, Chris Ruggiero. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and is currently producing a documentary for her own company, Saving Grace Films.

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