Roy Cohn Documentary to Debut in 2019

Director Ivy Meeropol, whose grandparents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were prosecuted by Cohn, will take a closer look at the controversial lawyer and fixer.


Legendary and controversial attorney Roy Cohn was a power broker in the rough and tumble world of New York City business and politics. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top counsel during investigations into Communist activities in the 1950s, Cohn is also known for being Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, fixer and mentor.

Focusing on key periods of his life, and drawing on extensive, newly unearthed archival material, a new documentary on Cohn’s life will debut on HBO in 2019. Director Ivy Meeropol (Indian Point, Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter’s Story) spent much of her life feeling both repelled and fascinated by the man who prosecuted her grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, in what became known as the “atomic spies” case; Cohn obtained their convictions in court and then insisted on their executions.

The currently untitled film features recently discovered audiotapes of candid discussions between Cohn and journalist Peter Manso, recorded at the height of Cohn’s career. With a lens on Cohn’s family, friends, colleagues, employees and lovers, as well as those targeted by him, it includes his time in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he shared a house with Manso and Norman Mailer, and was considerably more open about his sexuality than in other settings.

Playwright Tony Kushner, whose Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play Angels in America features Cohn as a main character, and actor Nathan Lane, who starred in it as Cohn, also provide interviews, with Lane giving insights into how Cohn wielded power through invective and innuendo.

The documentary was directed and produced by Ivy Meeropol; producers, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn; co-producer, Peter Manso; director of photography, Daniel B. Gold; editor, Anne Alvergue. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.