Intense Netflix Documentary Examines Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Lawsuit

It's a timely story about threats to the free press.

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Paul Kane

World-famous wrestler Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against Gawker Media last year was varyingly praised as a victory for privacy rights in the digital age and decried as a threat to the free press by moneyed interests. It’s a complicated — and dramatic — story on which filmmaker Brian Knappenberger has a fierce take. His documentary about the events, “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press,” will air on Netflix, and the network shared a trailer on Thursday.

In 2012, Gawker published a sex tape of Hulk Hogan — whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea — with his wife’s friend (who secretly filmed the event), an abhorrent invasion of privacy reminiscent of celebrity “Fappening” incidents. Bollea sued Gawker and had help paying for his legal fees from a secret, wealthy backer: business mogul Peter Thiel. Bollea won the case and settled with Gawker for $31 million. Gawker declared bankruptcy and shut down in August 2016.

When Thiel revealed his involvement, many commentators were outraged and argued that wealth’s influence over the legal process inhibits the free press. That’s also the stance that Netflix is taking for “Nobody Speak.” Here’s the description of the documentary:

“Hulk Hogan’s court case against Gawker Media sheds light on wealthy, powerful figures who challenge freedom of the press in order to silence critics.”

The film will also address billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s “shadowy” acquisition of Las Vegas Journal-Review and President Donald Trump’s threats to change libel laws to make it easier to sue media outlets.

It looks to be one intense film, though possibly quite good: It was selected for premiere at the 2017 Sundance Festival, and the director Knappenberger has won several awards and been on an Oscars short list. Check out the trailer below.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press will premiere on Netflix on June 23.

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