Davis Guggenheim Interview: ‘Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates’
Even though a bunch of the world is shut down due to the coronavirus, Bill Gates has been busy helping to fund research that seeks to fight COVID-19 on several different fronts, according to director Davis Guggenheim. “He’s deep in the COVID thing in terms of accelerating the research for a new vaccine and the progress on therapeutics, so even before there’s a vaccine, something can help people not die when the get COVID,” explains Guggenheim in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). He goes on to say that he finds it comforting to see someone not running away from these very complicated problems. “Every time I’ve talked to him during COVID I feel a little bit better because he explains everything so well and he’s putting his money into getting some solutions on these fronts.”
Guggenheim directed the Netflix docuseries, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates.” The series looks at the work Gates is doing through his foundation and how he’s approached solving some of the world’s biggest problems. Among the issues that Gates’s work is shown on is developing a low-cost toilet for the third world, attempting to eradicate polio throughout the world and developing nuclear power that results in a very low amount of waste. Guggenheim has directed many prominent documentaries including “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” “He Named Me Malala” and “An Inconvenient Truth.” The latter film earned Guggenheim the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Guggenheim had known Gates for a couple of years prior to this documentary being made. Before he met him, he did have a few misconceptions as to what Gates would be like. The biggest of those was that that he thought Gates would be an emotionless person who acted like a super-computer, but he soon discovered that this was not the case: “What I realized getting to know him is he’s a very emotional person. He’s the first person to cry at movies, his kids make fun of him for it, but it’s just a side that you don’t see until you get to know him better.”
He also reflects on his Oscar experience from 13 years ago, describing it as a magical night. “We had done something impossible with this movie—it was a slideshow—and it captured the imagination of people and we made it in five-and-a-half months, people loved it and it played really well.” But there was another side to the win for Guggenheim. “It was about something that was really important. Al [Gore] had been trying to convince the world that climate change is urgent and real and the film helped in that moment. Our little film was not only being recognized for an award, but the world was learning about climate change.”