HBO has closed a deal for Doomsday Machine, a limited series about Facebook starring Emmy winner Claire Foy as embattled tech giant COO Sheryl Sandberg and executive producing as well. Anonymous Content (Spotlight, Mr. Robot) and wiip (Mare of Easttown, Dickinson), which took the project to the marketplace in October, will co-produce with HBO.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar, Doomsday Machine is based on Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang’s bestselling book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination as well as their New York Times reporting and the reporting of the New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz. Doomsday Machine chronicles the political and social minefields Facebook has navigated on its relentless quest for growth. The series places us in the shoes of Sandberg (Foy) and Mark Zuckerberg, who are shaping the way that billions of people around the world communicate and consume information.
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The series is expected to cover the period beginning with the wave of disinformation surrounding the 2016 election, and the internal struggles leading to the recent revelations reported in the Wall Street Journal and NYT. Those include the disclosure of XCHECK, a program that shielded VIP users including Donald Trump from the platform’s normal rules and regulations; news that the company was aware of the mental health risks posed by Instagram to younger users despite their public downplaying of the issue; and an effort by Zuckerberg to use the News Feed to push out positive stories about Facebook to help shape public opinion.
In bombshell Senate testimony last fall, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen urged lawmakers to impose tougher regulations on the social media giant. Then earlier this month, Facebook’s parent company lost a quarter of its value on a disappointing earnings report and forecast.
Zuckerberg was previously portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg in the 2010 movie The Social Network, which tracked the origins of Facebook. It did not feature Sandberg as a character.
Foy and Akhtar executive produce Doomsday Machine alongside Paul Lee and Josh Stern for wiip, David Levine and Doug Wald for Anonymous Content, Adam Berkowitz, Elyse Cheney and Adam Eaglin. Frenkel, Kang and Marantz serve as consultants.
Akhtar’s most recent novel, Homeland Elegies, was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2020 by both the New York Times and The Washington Post and listed by President Obama as his top book of 2020. In addition to his work as a writer he is also the president of the PEN America foundation. Akhtar is repped by CAA, Adam Berkowitz of Lenore Entertainment Group, and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman.
Foy, coming off her second Emmy win for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown, stars opposite Frances McDormand and Rooney Mara in the upcoming movie Women Talking, from Plan B and MGM’s Orion Pictures. She is repped by UTA and Independent Talent Group.
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