1. Movies

Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who's the victim?

Hulk Hogan in the courtroom before the start of his sex tape trial at the Pinellas County Courthouse in March 2016. Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker in 2012 after the website published an excerpt of the video. (DIRK SHADD | Times [2016])
Published Jun. 20, 2018

Sonny Bunch

According to Vulture, there are three separate movies in the works about the downfall of the New York-based gossip blog Gawker.

One is based on the book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue; it will be adapted by Oscar-winner Charles Randolph and produced by Francis Lawrence. Another, written by John Gary, is called Gawker v. Thiel, and Vulture's Hunter Harris reported that Gary interviewed some of Gawker's staff for the script. The final offering is Just the Facts, which, Harris says, takes former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio's point of view of the trial, which took place in St. Petersburg.

As a fan of not only Hollywood doppelganging — the weird effect where projects with similar subjects come out at roughly the same time (The Illusionist and The Prestige; and Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down) — but also the intrigue surrounding Gawker's demise, this is an exciting time to be alive. I just hope these films remember the Bollea in Bollea v. Gawker, the lawsuit that ended up bankrupting the Gawker empire.

RELATED: Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair recount glory days at Tampa show

To be clear, I haven't read the scripts, and this is a simple plea that the filmmakers working on these projects and the general public alike remember the victim in Bollea v. Gawker wasn't the website that published an illicitly taped tryst between a man who had no idea he was being recorded and a woman married to the man's supposed friend. The victim in this case was the man whose sexual act was splashed all over the internet for everyone to gawk at.

Regardless of your feelings about Terry Bollea, better known as professional wrestler and Tampa Bay resident Hulk Hogan, and regardless of your distaste for the grotesque things he said about the thought of his daughter dating African-Americans, common decency suggests one should feel some pity for the man who took to the stand to discuss the betrayal he felt upon learning of the publication of his most intimate moments.

FROM 2015: Hulk Hogan begs for forgiveness, blames South Tampa 'culture' for racist rant

The New York Times had this description of Bollea's testimony at his trial:

"When he learned that his friend's voice could be heard at the end of the tape suggesting to his wife that they would be able to retire on the money they might make from selling the video, Mr. Bollea said, 'my hands just started shaking.'

"'He made me believe that he was my best friend and that he would never lie to me,' said Mr. Bollea, who noted that he often had difficulty establishing close friendships."

The human dimension here is startling, the sense of betrayal real and devastating. Written well, you'd have a juicy role for an actor who can channel rage and confusion into sadness and frustration. A deft actor's touch could demonstrate the ways in which aggressive masculinity, combined with modern celebrity, culture can lead to crippling loneliness and depression.

I understand: The revelation that billionaire investor Peter Thiel was the one funding Bollea's suit against Gawker has upended the narrative of this case. The First Amendment issues it presents are worthy of debate, if somewhat overstated. If you want to argue that one callous, disgusting mistake shouldn't destroy a legitimate media enterprise, I'm totally with you.

But it is important to remember, at heart, that Bollea v. Gawker is a case about someone who tried to sell a sex tape recorded without the permission of at least one of the participants, a case that resonates in our age of paranoia about revenge porn, a case that should appeal to anyone concerned with privacy. It's difficult to imagine a film being made about the hacking of celebrity iCloud accounts and the dissemination of nude photos of said celebrities that didn't explicitly, pointedly take the side of the stars against the side of the hackers.

Terry Bollea isn't a perfect man. He's said horrible, racist things. He's lived his life in public in a way that invites scrutiny and scorn. But on the issue of Gawker, he deserves our sympathy.

Sonny Bunch is the executive editor of, and film critic for, the Washington Free Beacon.


  1. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, shown here in the 1978 film "Grease," will make a Dec. 14 appearance in Tampa for a film sing-along and meet and greet with fans. AP
    The actors, who both have ties to the Tampa Bay area, will also do a question and answer session and meet some fans.
  2. Screenwriter Andy Warrener shows off a copy of his film "The Black String" available at a local Walmart. Andy Warrener
    Andy Warrener went from Civil War reenactor to screenwriter. ‘The Black String’ has two local screenings next week.
  3. Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times (2012)
    The expansion ‘fundamentally changes our business model,’ said the not-for-profit theater’s CEO.
  4. From left: Zoey Deutch, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in "Zombieland 2: Double Tap." JESSICA MIGLIO  |  Sony Pictures
    Plus, the ‘Jay & Silent Bob Reboot,’ Tampa Bay Latin Film Festival and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Western Stars.’
  5. Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in "Gemini Man." BEN ROTHSTEIN  |  Paramount Pictures
    ‘Jexi’ and ‘Mister America’ also open, plus you can also catch a trio of documentary screenings.
  6. In "Joker," Joaquin Phoenix plays an Arthur Fleck who has nothing to smile, let alone chuckle, about. Niko Tavernise
    And the portrait of madness is both bleak and glib. | Review
  7. Graham Kropp, 9 and his father Steve Kropp, both of Seminole, shop for Star Wars items at the Clearwater Target, 2747 Gulf To Bay Blvd, Friday, October 4, 2019 in the Disney Store section. Friday was the release of this year's Force Friday Star Wars products. Target sales associate Kat McCauley, right, offers them some Star Wars themed cup cakes.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The “shop-in-shop” location is one of only 25 in the country and two in the state of Florida.
  8. In "Straight Up," Todd (director-actor James Sweeney) wants to try being straight with Rory (Katie Findlay). Not because Todd thinks being gay is bad. He just thinks he is bad at being gay. Courtesy of the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    Wondering what to watch at the 30th annual festival? Let these reviews help.
  9. Set in the Philippines in the mid 1990s, "Billie & Emma" (2018) follows how smart, popular and pregnant Emma (Gabby Padilla, right) falls in love with Billie (Zar Donato), the new girl at her Catholic school. Courtesy of the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
    “Queer film, especially, is a really perfect time capsule," says an official of the festival starting Friday.
  10. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in "Joker." Niko Tavernise
    The Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival opens, plus the Carrollwood Cultural Center pays homage to popular flicks through song.