Theranos Founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Having told the stories of Scientology, Enron, and Steve Jobs, filmmaker Alex Gibney knows something about captivating personalities and the power of persuasion.

In his latest film, Gibney and his colleagues take on a subject that manages to combine elements of all three prior subjects — Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes.

During an on-stage Q&A after the Silicon Valley premiere of "The Inventor," I had a chance to ask Gibney where Holmes fits in, as we spoke in front of a packed auditorium at Lucasfilm's offices in the Presidio.

  • “If you really look at it hard, what [Holmes] shared with [Jobs] was that she was a magnificent storyteller,” Gibney said.
  • Unlike Apple co-founder Jobs, whom Holmes idolized, Gibney said the Theranos CEO didn’t surround her herself with people who were willing to give her bad news.
  • “I think Elizabeth was very much a prisoner of belief,” he said.

Yes, but: Fellow panelist Phyllis Gardner, with whom Holmes shared her initial idea while she was still a student at Stanford University, had harsher words: “I think she’s a sociopath, I think she’s a liar of the deepest kind.”

  • More than anything, Gardner expressed anger at Holmes for her actions. “I think it’s been devastating for women,” Gardner says of her possible impact on the ability for female entrepreneurs to be taken seriously.
  • Both in the movie and during the on-stage panel, Gardner also pointed out that Holmes’ biggest blind believers were older men. “It’s so crazy that she had this wizardry over them,” she said on stage.

The big picture: Since the Wall Street Journal published its first report on the company’s misleading practices in October 2015, Theranos has become the poster child for Silicon Valley’s worst frauds.

  • And the HBO premiere drew quite the crowd, including a wide range of executives, venture capitalists and reporters.
  • Among those in attendance were Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and wife Lynne, along with rapper-turned-investor MC Hammer (whose song “U Can’t Touch This” was featured in the film), eager to watch the new movie.

Go deeper: Silicon Valley, get ready for your closeup

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 18,996,008 — Total deaths: 712,476— Total recoveries — 11,478,835Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 4,877,115 — Total deaths: 159,990 — Total recoveries: 1,598,624 — Total tests: 59,652,675Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi rips GOP over stimulus negotiations: "Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn" — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive.
  4. Public health: Majority of Americans say states reopened too quicklyFauci says task force will examine aerosolized spread Study finds COVID-19 antibodies prevalent in NYC health care workers.
  5. Business: The health care sector imploded in Q2More farmers are declaring bankruptcyJuly's jobs report could be an inflection point for the recovery.
  6. Sports: Where college football's biggest conferences stand on playing.

Trump issues order banning TikTok if not sold within 45 days

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans and U.S. companies will be banned from making transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, in 45 days, according to a new executive order President Trump issued Thursday evening.

The big picture: Last week Trump announced his intention to ban TikTok but said he'd leave a 45-day period for Microsoft or other U.S.-based suitors to try to close a deal to acquire the popular video-sharing app.

Bill Hagerty wins Republican Senate nomination in Tennessee primary

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty speaking at CPAC in 2019. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Republican Senate primary on Thursday evening, beating out surgeon Manny Sethi for GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander's seat, who announced his retirement in late 2018, AP reports.

Why it matters: Though the race narrowed in July, Hagerty — who received President Trump's endorsement in 2019 — stuck close to the president's messaging and touted his Tennessee roots.