BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN directed by Ivy Meeropol (“Indian Point,” HBO’s “Heir to an Execution”) offers an unflinching look at the infamous attorney who prosecuted Meeropol’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and later argued persuasively for their execution in what became known as the atomic spy case.
The film examines Cohn’s life as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the late 1950s – when the young Cohn first experimented in the process of wielding of political power – through the 1980s, when he became a darling of the Reagan White House, a rabid anti-homosexuality activist and political mentor to Donald J. Trump before meeting his death from AIDS in 1986.
This vivid portrait is cast by Cohn’s friends, family, colleagues, employees and lovers, some of whom were at times political targets of Cohn, all of whom were profoundly affected by their interactions with him. The film draws from extensive, newly unearthed archival material, as well as recently discovered audiotapes featuring a wide range of candid discussions between Cohn and journalist Peter Manso, recorded at the height of Cohn’s career as a power broker in the rough and tumble world of New York City business and politics. The documentary also highlights interviews with Cindy Adams, Alan Dershowitz, Tony Kushner, Nathan Lane and John Waters, among others.