Hollywood Con Queen Season 1 Review – A tale of broken dreams and empty bank accounts

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5


Imagine the scene.

You’re at home watching hilarious cat videos on the internet. Suddenly, you get an email notification. The email isn’t from your mom asking you while you haven’t called for weeks or your energy company reminding you of a bill you haven’t paid. Rather, it’s from director Doug Liman asking you to be involved in an upcoming Tom Cruise movie. 

What do you do? Well, it’d be rude not to reply, right? 

Think again. We don’t know if jobbing actor John Taylor has an interest in cat videos, but we do know he was emailed in 2019 by somebody claiming to be the director of The Bourne Identity. ‘Liman’ wanted John to get in shape for a physically intense movie role and instructed him to undergo martial arts training, which he would have to pay for. He was also told to watch several movies a day in preparation for the role.

John was then put in touch with who he thought was Universal chairperson Donna Langley, who asked him to reenact a movie scene on Skype –  with his trousers off! In this current climate, with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and other Hollywood players in the press for sexual harassment, that last request was possibly unsurprising. Not that we’re suggesting Langley would ever request something so sleazy. But for John, who had been strung along in what turned out to be an elaborate scam, it was the last straw!

In the new Apple TV+ docuseries Hollywood Con Queen, we hear from John Taylor and the experiences he had with the fraudster claiming to be Liman and Langley. He isn’t the only person interviewed. We also hear stories from others who were duped, including photographer Will Strathman who received an email from somebody claiming to be film producer Amy Pascal. 

A short while later, Will spoke to ‘Pascal’ on the phone. He was then instructed to fly out to Jakarta to shoot photos that would be used for a storyboard for a non-existent Netflix show based on the children’s book Sidewalk Flowers. Will had to pay for his own flight and other expenses but was promised the money would be reimbursed. He never did get the money back. In total, he lost over $54,000 in the scam.

So, who was this person claiming to be Amy Pascal? And not just Pascal, but other Hollywood bigwigs too? That’s what award-winning author and journalist Scott Johnson wanted to find out. He talks about the “Con Queen” case in the documentary, telling us his motivations for wanting to learn more about the fraudster, and how he tracked down the scam artist in the UK. We also see footage of his first meeting with the criminal, who it turns out was an obnoxious online influencer living in Manchester, England. 

Scott Johnson, whose book The Con Queen of Hollywood: The Hunt for an Evil Genius is the basis for the documentary, interviews the scammer over Zoom, footage of which is shown in the series.

We aren’t going to reveal that person’s identity – we don’t want to reveal too many spoilers – but you might be surprised at the guy’s reasoning for scamming his victims. At one point, he calls himself the “nicest criminal you’d ever know.” That’s quite a claim considering he conned hundreds of freelancers, including actors, writers, photographers, and make-up artists, out of their money. 

Episode 1 of the documentary is probably the most interesting. We hear from several victims of the scam, as well as Scott Johnson and a private investigator who were vital in cracking the case. During this episode, recordings of the impersonator are revealed. The man behind the scam is very convincing as he alters his voice and accent to sound like the Hollywood execs that promised a dream come true for many. 

The remaining episodes include the moment when Scott tracks down the imposter and his subsequent interviews with him. This footage is fascinating to watch, more so because we are given insight into the mindset of the scam artist who wasn’t entirely motivated by money.

The docuseries is upsetting to watch as some of the victims of the scam are clearly wounded by what happened to them. One interviewee was left with feelings of paranoia and insecurity after discovering he had been duped by the fraudster. For people like him, it wasn’t only money that these victims lost. In some cases, they lost their mental stability too. 

Those of us on the outside looking in might ask ourselves one simple question: How did the victims of the Con Queen let themselves get scammed? Surely they must have suspected something was amiss after they were directly contacted by someone claiming to be a Hollywood power player. 

But put yourselves in their shoes. If you were called by someone claiming to be Steven Spielberg or Tom Cruise, would you put the phone down? Or would you take a risk if they offered you a dream opportunity?

The victims featured in the documentary are freelancers working in the entertainment industry. They need to make money where they can. Job offers can be few and far between, especially those that could potentially be a big break. As such, it’s understandable that somebody might risk all, which is what the people featured in the documentary did. If you’re a freelancer yourself, you can probably relate to the situation these people found themselves in.

Hollywood Con Queen is a reminder to us all that there are people in the world who can’t be trusted. It’s also a reminder that we’re all vulnerable to scams, no matter how intelligent we are. 

As such, the documentary can certainly be recommended, so is worth the price of Apple’s subscription fee. It’s cheaper than a flight around the world, which is where life might take you if you respond positively to an email from Meryl Streep asking you to be a part of her latest movie! 


Read More: What happened to the Hollywood Con Queen?

Feel Free To Check Out More Of Our TV Show Reviews Here!

  • Verdict - 7.5/10

Leave a comment