‘It’s really sleazy and low’: Netflix’s John McAfee documentary attacked by people who appeared in it

By Jon Swartz

The tech mogul’s ex-girlfriend is shown suggesting he’s still alive, but tells MarketWatch his words were twisted out of context, just one of many complaints from family members and friends. others who were close to the cybersecurity pioneer about the popular new film and how it was made

In the chilling climax of “Running With the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee,” a documentary that has become one of the most popular films on Netflix since its premiere last week, a former girlfriend of the tech reportedly said she got a call from him after he died.

The quote intrigues and teases with supposed evidence that McAfee – a shadowy figure whose savage life has garnered a global cult following – did not die by suicide in a Spanish prison more than a year ago, a conspiracy theory that followers began moving forward almost as soon as news of his death broke.

The woman who said that now insists her comments have been twisted out of context.

“What I said was I got a call from Texas from someone saying it was John, who said he was still alive in Spain. I told the directors from the movie that I didn’t know if it was him or someone impersonating him. I said that on the movie, but it wasn’t used,” Samantha Herrera told MarketWatch last week. .

In his only interview since the documentary’s premiere, Herrera shared with MarketWatch, during a lengthy phone conversation, his frustration and anger. Speaking about this phone call claiming to be from McAfee, she said she questioned the mysterious voice on the phone to assess if it could be McAfee’s, but doubt set in as the voice struggled to answer. to most of his questions.

“I’m so upset. They’re making a lot of money off my name, and I asked them to blur my face. It’s really dodgy and low,” said Herrera, a mother of two young children who said that she had recently lost her job because of the notoriety stemming from the documentary. “They trashed my name. People are harassing me on social media.”

Much like its subject, “Running With the Devil” is a spooky tale of death, sex, drugs, guns and cryptocurrency, but also a dark descent into deception, media manipulation, falsehoods and self-glorification. And, as with everything about the late cybersecurity pioneer, it quickly turned into wild hearsay that sparked debate, controversy, and the threat of legal action.

In-depth reporting: John McAfee’s body is stuck in a Spanish prison morgue as a fight rages over his inheritance

“This monster Frankenstein movie is a cautionary tale about fabricated reality and lateral truth,” said former vice editor Rocco Castoro, who is featured in the film and said he is now considering action in justice. “This is the only truth about John McAfee. He was a bad faith actor before fake news, a protoplasm of Trump and his team.”

Castoro traveled to Belize in late 2012 to meet and film McAfee after he was named a person of interest in the homicide of American businessman Gregory Faull, and this footage forms the backbone of the film. Castoro says he owns the main footage used in the film and claims that the director and producers of “Running With the Devil” were not allowed to use the footage, but stole the pitch deck for his own documentary – titled “Running With John McAfee” – – and denied him a producer credit and payment.

“Curious Films’ repeated requests for me to sign a release and my repeated refusals warrant further investigation into why they felt they needed a release in the first place,” Castoro told MarketWatch.

Krista Worby, Castoro’s manager and documentary filmmaker, said Curious Films – the creators of “Running With the Devil” – used her client’s footage without proper credit and lifted her pitch deck. “My question is how [did] Is Netflix legal to accept the publication of the document? He’s our doc. They literally ripped it off,” she said.

Castoro said Curious Films also failed to mention that the doc would be distributed by Netflix, a claim echoed by Herrera and John McAfee’s daughter Jen, who expressed disbelief that the documentary gave credence to a theory debunked according to which John McAfee was implicated in the death of his own father.

“They didn’t do a documentary,” Jen McAfee told MarketWatch. “It looks a lot more like a James Bond movie.”

More from Jon Swartz: The Brilliant (and Very Dark) John McAfee I Got to Know

Netflix Inc. (NFLX) did not respond to emails seeking comment on McAfee’s documentary, which is getting mixed reviews but ranked No. 7 in Netflix’s Top 10 Movies last week despite its debut midweek; the streaming service called it the weekend’s second most popular movie. Netflix’s documentary division has distributed three of the last five Oscar-winning documentaries, while adding voluminous amounts of real films about characters such as Marilyn Monroe, serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Epstein and the infamous DB Cooper hijacker.

Representatives for Curious Films, including founder Dov Freedman, McAfee documentary filmmaker Charlie Russell and producer Faye Planner, as well as the production company’s US attorney, Kathleen Conkey, did not return emails. or calls asking for comment for several days. In an interview with Esquire published this month, Russell explained Herrera’s latest supercharged quote: “I don’t know what I’m thinking, and I don’t think she does. She says it, then she looks at the camera, and I can ‘I don’t know if she thinks it’s real or not.”

The production company also dodged repeated pleas from critics who participated, including Castoro, Herrera and Jen McAfee.

“I’m not trying to be contentious about it,” Castoro told MarketWatch. “His family deserves to have their story told.”

Controversy follows McAfee, even in death

The controversy surrounding the mysterious McAfee is no surprise. Conspiracy theories and unfounded myths about McAfee’s life were often propagated and propagated by the man himself, a great storyteller who had a slippery grasp of the truth. Exacerbating McAfee’s big stories were a bunch of hangers, an arsenal of guns, and a seemingly endless supply of drugs and alcohol.

“The drugs reinforced his psychosis, his paranoia,” cameraman Robert King, who teamed up with Castoro on the Belize trip and shot footage used throughout the documentary, told MarketWatch. “John had quite a bit of it.”

After traveling with McAfee in the United States and abroad, “Syria felt like a vacation,” said King, who risked his life shooting video in war-torn countries before filming the theft of McAfee from Belize to Guatemala and the United States in late 2012. King also recorded video of McAfee later traveling through the United States, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic, and said he authorized the documentary to use these images.

“He was a narcissist who was emotionally upset and hid it well,” said Alex Cody Foster, author of the forthcoming book The Man Who Hacked the World: A Ghostwriter’s Descent Into Madness with John McAfee.

“I’ve seen violent outbursts. He once gave a guy $400,000 in cryptocurrency to buy cars, but the guy wasted it, and John ended up threatening to kill him. and his family,” said Foster, who traveled for five weeks. with McAfee in 2018 and is featured in “Running With the Devil”.

It’s Foster who mentions speculation about McAfee’s role in the death of her abusive father. Some suggest John McAfee killed his father, Don McAfee, and staged a suicide, a claim categorically denied by McAfee associates, who claim John McAfee was in school when his father died.

In 2016’s “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee,” Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein (“American Teen,” “The Kid Stays in the Picture”) accused the cybersecurity pioneer of two murders and a rape. She said he was leading a small army of armed goons in Belize and had singled one out as the shooter in Faull’s murder.

John McAfee vehemently denied the charges in a 2016 interview with this reporter, but members of the McAfee family are convinced he was present during Faull’s shooting death in Belize. And nearly everyone interviewed on camera in “Running With the Devil” told MarketWatch they thought he was capable of violence, citing personal interactions with McAfee.

But many of these narratives are missing from the finished documentary. An underlying theme of the review is that the filmmakers shot hours of interviews that boiled down to a single sensational quote – as seems to be the case with Herrera. McAfee’s first wife, Jen McAfee’s mother, was interviewed for hours, but she does not appear in the film at all, according to the family.

Foster said he and other filmed subjects signed waivers knowing that the final say on the footage belonged to the director and that it was unclear what form the project would take. Foster and Castoro said they believe Netflix decided to go with a documentary rather than a multi-episode miniseries, which they say led to a potentially rushed last-minute edit of the film.

More:John McAfee died by suicide, Spanish court rules after prolonged delay

The film ends abruptly with the suggestion that McAfee is alive, glossing over much of the last years of his life: his failed bids in 2016 and 2020 to become the Libertarian Party’s nominee for President, his emergence into the world of cryptocurrency, his October 2020 arrest in Spain for tax evasion in the United States and his suicide in a prison outside Barcelona on June 23, 2021. McAfee’s body remains in Spain amid legal wrangling, more than a year after his death.

“I wanted the movie out. I didn’t feel like I was misled,” cameraman King told MarketWatch. “I’m glad viral eyes are on the Spanish justice system. The film puts pressure on the Spanish authorities to close this case so it doesn’t fester in their system. People deserve the right to ‘to be buried after their death.’

-Jon Swartz

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

09-02-22 0741ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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