YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

CYBERCULTURE | Heard on the Beat

Movie About Hacker Is a Hack Job of Its Own, Protesters Say

July 20, 1998|GREG MILLER

Supporters of notorious computer hacker Kevin Mitnick gathered outside Miramax Films' offices in New York last week to protest the way their hacker hero is being portrayed in an upcoming movie about his capture.

"This movie makes him the Hannibal Lecter of hacking," said Emmanuel Goldstein, 38, who organized the protest and edits the pro-hacker 2600 Magazine. "It demonizes Kevin to an unbelievable extent."

Goldstein was among about 25 demonstrators and said the event was the beginning of an ongoing protest of the film, titled "Takedown."

Mitnick, who dodged authorities for years while hacking private and government computer networks, has been confined to a federal prison cell in Los Angeles since 1995. He is still awaiting trial on many of the more serious charges he faces.

Miramax is scheduled to begin filming "Takedown" in the next few weeks in North Carolina, where Mitnick was captured three years ago in a predawn raid after a cross-country manhunt by federal authorities.

"Takedown" is based on the book of the same name by New York Times journalist John Markoff and San Diego-based computer security expert Tsutomu Shimomura, who turned capturing Mitnick into a personal crusade.

The book was controversial for the amount of harm it attributed to Mitnick and for the halo it placed on Shimomura, who had hacking connections of his own. But Goldstein says the script for the movie goes much further and even concocts episodes that never took place.

"There's a scene in a dark alley where Mitnick clubs Shimomura over the head with a garbage can lid," Goldstein said. "They never had any kind of encounter."

Of course, Hollywood has often taken artistic license with subjects ranging from Richard Nixon to Jesus. Miramax declined to comment on the Mitnick film, except to say that it will star Skeet Ulrich and Russell Wong.

Goldstein says he speaks with Mitnick almost daily and that the jailed genius appreciated last week's gesture. "He was very happy that people are showing support," Goldstein said.

Los Angeles Times Articles