Is WeCrashed based on a true story? Real life drama behind Jared Leto series
The story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann is stranger than fiction.
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway are the latest Hollywood stars to feature in the growing roster of original series on Apple TV Plus, as they take on the roles on Adam and Rebekah Neumann in WeCrashed.
You will probably have heard of WeWork - the flexible shared workspaces for individuals and companies that popped up all over the world (there are currently 49 in London alone).
The conception, success and subsequent trials of the real estate company might not sound like fertile ground for an eight-episode drama, but don't let that fool you - this is a true story filled with scandal, greed and chaos set to rival recent series with similar premises such as The Dropout.
WeCrashed is based on the hit podcast WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork, and focuses on WeWork's founder Adam Neumann, who is played by Jared Leto.
Adam was born in Israel and spent five years as an officer in the Israeli Navy. In 2008, he founded Green Desk with Miguel McKelvey, a shared office space that acted as a precursor to what would become WeWork.
The pair launched their first WeWork office in New York in 2010, using funds from the sale of Green Desk and a $15 million investment from real estate developer Joel Schreiber. The space was marketed with the promise of being more than just an office, and instead being a community, a family even. Buzzwords galore, neon signs and a free snack bar helped to sell this dream.
As time went on and the business grew and grew, eventually reaching a $47 billion valuation, reports emerged of Adam behaving erratically, with Vanity Fair claiming he missed important meetings and reorganised divisions haphazardly. Meanwhile, one former WeWork senior executive speaking to the publication likened the company to a "cult". Adam was said to give barefooted spiritual presentations, host office parties that were more like outdoor raves and spout projections of outlandish profits in interviews.
Things got particularly eerie when Adam founded WeLive, a communal living space founded on the same principles as WeWork but for your everyday life, and WeGrow, a private elementary school and passion project for his wife Rebekah. Meanwhile, employees of The We Company were reportedly being made to wear tracking bracelets at a yearly corporate retreat (according to the New Yorker).
His wife Rebekah's role in all of this was by no means minimal. Played by Anne Hathaway in the WeCrashed cast, Rebekah is a cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow and acted as a behind-the-scenes advisor in the early days of the company.
Rebekah served as WeWork's chief brand and impact officer and is said to have hired and fired people based on their "energy" (per Vanity Fair). She had wanted to become an actor, but pivoted to a day-to-day interest in WeWork and later had particular oversight when it came to WeGrow.
In 2019, when the company attempted to go public, it all came crashing down. A valuation showed the company was worth approximately $10 billion, much less than its previous valuation of $47 billion earlier that year. Amid reports of eccentric behaviour and other news stories, Adam was asked to step down from the company and later resigned.
"While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction, and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive," he said in a statement.
More like this
He was also paid $5.9 million for the use of the word We, after he trademarked it. Seriously. It makes Taylor Swift trademarking the phrase "this sick beat" look positively mundane. When this deal was made public, Adam gave the money back.
In an interview with JoBlo ahead of the series, Leto called the circumstances surrounding the story "just unreal" and said the show explores "the good, the bad and the ugly, warts and all".
So there you have it. Of course there are likely to be some creative licences taken in the telling of the story for Apple's new series, but this really is another case of a true life story you just couldn't make up.
WeCrashed episodes 1, 2 and 3 will be available to stream on Apple TV Plus on Friday 18th March, with new episodes weekly. Find out how to sign up for Apple TV Plus here, check out our Drama hub for more news, interviews and features or find something to watch with our TV Guide.
The latest issue of Radio Times is on sale now – subscribe now to get each issue delivered to your door. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.