Watch Michael Keaton, Bryan Cranston, and Other Stars Read Richard Sackler’s Emails Aloud to Demonstrate the Extent of His Callousness

Comedian John Oliver hired the actors to give voices to the nasty memos.

Bryan Cranston, MIchael Keaton, Richard Kind, and Michael K. Williams each play their version of Richard Sackler. Screenshot courtesy of
Bryan Cranston, MIchael Keaton, Richard Kind, and Michael K. Williams each play their version of Richard Sackler. Screenshot courtesy of "Last Week Tonight" on HBO.

It’s always shocking to learn about nonchalant corporate executives blithely describing their misdeeds in company memos or meeting notes. But all too often, we lose their specific tone, their particular manner of speech, the cadence of their disregard. Comedian John Oliver wants to fix that.

So the late night host of Last Week Tonight has created an online gallery featuring clips of Hollywood stars acting out phrases recorded by Richard Sackler, the former chief executive of Purdue Pharma, who made more than a few shocking statements in recently released documents and internal company emails. In one 2001 memo, responding to the news that 59 opioid-related deaths has occured in a single US state, he said it was ” not too bad. It could have been far worse.”

Sackler maintains a famously low profile, so in lieu of video evidence of his testimonies and personal correspondence, Oliver’s famous stand-ins—Bryan Cranston, Michael Keaton, Richard Kind, and Michael K. Williams—help deliver the full emotional impact of Sackler’s callous missives. Explaining why he selected Keaton in particular, Oliver says: “when you’re casting for a shadowy heir to a vast fortune who doesn’t like to be in the limelight, you go with Batman.”

The segment also acknowledges the role of photographer and activist Nan Goldin, who staged a protest at the Guggenheim Museum earlier this year and referenced a quote from Sackler about “a blizzard” of prescriptions. Since then, museums in the UK and the United States have distanced themselves from the Sackler family, which has donated millions of dollars to cultural institutions, and the Sackler Trust has halted philanthropic giving.

The dramatic readings of the documents are available on the Sackler Gallery website, because as Oliver says, “they love having their names on fucking galleries.”

Watch the full segment of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, below.


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