Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Pellicano: Wiretapper to the Stars

Rollerball

John McTiernan
John McTiernan

In April 2006, director John McTiernan got caught up in the snowballing Pellicano investigation and pleaded guilty to having lied to FBI agents about hiring Pellicano to wiretap a business associate. In the summer of 2000, McTiernan, the director of the hit movies Die Hard, Predator, and The Hunt for Red October, had hired Pellicano to snoop on producer Charles Roven, whose hits include Batman Begins, Three Kings, and Scooby-Doo.  

McTiernan and Roven were working together on the film Rollerball at the time and battling over creative control. The Los Angeles Times characterized both men as "strong-willed" individuals who had "numerous creative disagreements over the film." But McTiernan wanted a tactical advantage in his dealings with Roven, so he hired Pellicano to listen in on the producer's phone calls. Rollerball, which was released in 2002, was ultimately a box-office flop.

Charles Roven
Charles Roven

When FBI agents questioned McTiernan about his association with Pellicano, the director denied having hired the private eye to eavesdrop on Roven's phone calls. But in fact, the director had used Pellicano's services prior to this. McTiernan's ex-wife, Donna Dubrow, told the Los Angeles Times that she had seen financial records indicating that starting in 1998, McTiernan "had paid Pellicano in the neighborhood of $100,000 during their protracted divorce." According to court records, McTiernan had hired Pellicano to "harass and intimidate witnesses," but Dubrow could not say for certain that Pellicano had wiretapped her phones on behalf of her ex-husband.

Movie Poster: Rollerball
Movie Poster: Rollerball

According to the Los Angeles Times, McTiernan also commissioned Pellicano to intimidate a witness in a manslaughter case. In 1993, Dubrow's son, Ethan Dubrow, had been showing some friends a shotgun when it suddenly discharged and fatally wounded Adam Scott. Ethan Dubrow pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, but in May 1998, Pellicano called a witness to the shooting, Suzonne Stirling, and accused her of obstructing justice in allowing Ethan Dubrow's attorney to get her out of the country before she could testify. Stirling denied Pellicano's accusation and demanded to know why he was bringing up Adam Scott's death five years after it had happened. Pellicano's response, if he gave one, has not been made public.

With McTiernan's guilty plea, the Pellicano investigation had finally struck where Hollywood feared it would, the heart of the creative community. If a major director could get swept in it, who would be next?

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