Director James Jones on Telling the Carlos Ghosn Escape Story

In 2018, former Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn—known as “Le Cost Killer” and credited with turning Nissan around when it was near bankruptcy—was arrested in Japan on allegations of underreporting his salary and misusing company assets. Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive, was arrested on the same day for helping to conceal Ghosn’s transgressions. Ghosn received bail multiple times and was arrested on four occasions before being confined to strict house arrest. But while his aide Kelly continued to be detained in Japan, Ghosn orchestrated an escape for himself, proclaiming his innocence and arguing that he would not receive a fair trial.

In late 2019, Ghosn was smuggled to his home country of Lebanon, which has a no-extradition policy with Japan, in a musical equipment box, with the help of Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son, Peter Taylor. The Taylors returned to the U.S. but were quickly extradited to Japan and arrested. Though Interpol put out a red notice seeking Ghosn’s arrest, he remains a fugitive to this day and has not been in contact with the Taylors since.

The new Apple TV+ series Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn provides an in-depth presentation of the saga, with interviews featuring Ghosn, his wife, the Taylors, Kelly and more key figures, giving viewers perspectives from every angle and ultimately posing the question: Is Carlos Ghosn a victim or a villain?

“When Carlos Ghosn escaped hidden inside the music equipment box, I think most people reading that [news] thought, ‘This feels like a Hollywood movie,’” said director James Jones. “A few people were chasing the story.”

The Wall Street Journal reporters published Boundless: The Rise, Fall, and Escape of Carlos Ghosn in 2022, which provided Jones with “the journalistic foundations of incredible contacts and evidence” to make his own documentary.

While there have been programs about the story before, the Apple TV+ series stands out in that Jones and his team were able to get Ghosn and his wife to participate. “I think they appreciated that we were serious and talking to all the right people,” Jones explains. “We wanted to shed light on the Japanese hostage justice system and all those things that they felt were important. But they also understood it wasn’t going to be one-sided. It was going to put the tough questions to him as well. I think in those situations, being straight with people [works]. You say, ‘You’re not going to love everything in this series. But you are your own best advocates. You’re going to like the series a lot more if you can be in it and put your case forward and make the viewer understand what you went through.’”

Getting to speak with the Taylors proved to be a tad more difficult, as they had been jailed at the initial time of filming. By the time they got out, “they’d been through a lot,” Jones notes. Throughout his time behind bars, Michael’s team says he got frostbite from an unheated prison and spent a long time in solitary confinement. “They were probably a bit traumatized by it all. You don’t want to be that journalist showing up when people are exhausted. It’s a really tough thing to manage.”

But Jones did manage, and upon first meeting Michael, the two forged a connection. “I think there was stuff he wanted to get off his chest. It was the same discussion [I had with Ghosn]: ‘You deserve to have a platform to tell your version of this story. And I would love it to be in our series.’”

While the interviews are explosive, they’re not all that sets the tone of the story. Jones utilized lighting and filming methods to set the tone for the saga as well. “We wanted it to feel high energy but kind of like a noir thriller,” he explains. “It’s quite dark. The drama re-con is shot, usually, handheld. It’s slightly impressionistic, but hopefully it just feels very alive and dynamic.”

The tone is further set through the music of Scottish band Mogwai, who Jones says has “composed music for some of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. I’ve always dreamed of working with them.” After hearing the details of the story, the band jumped on the opportunity to participate and “made an extraordinary soundtrack, which gives the whole thing this epic darkness, as well as being a bit of a romp.”

As the film unravels the various perspectives from Ghosn to the Taylors to Kelly and plenty of others, with the aid of darker shading and Mogwai’s music in the background, “you’re slightly pushed and pulled in different directions,” Jones says. “There’s no doubt that there is a conspiracy to take [Ghosn] down in Japan, and the way he was treated in Japanese prison and the whole hostage justice system. To most people, including the United Nations, it does appear kind of cruel and very different from the type of justice you might get in the United States or the United Kingdom.”

After hearing from Ghosn, his wife and others on his side, “particularly given the nature of the early allegations, which were quite weak, I think you probably feel a lot of sympathy for them,” Jones notes. “Then you might hear about the more serious allegations that were uncovered and start to question whether he really is just purely a victim or whether he has done something wrong. We present both sides from all the different perspectives, and you see the number of lives ruined by this whole thing. You can make up your own mind. It’s a complicated question. It’s certainly not like we landed firmly on one side or the other, and it’s possible he could be both [a victim and a villain].”

Ultimately, though, “we allow him to present his case, and we allow his critics to present theirs,” Jones says. “I think with the best documentaries, different people can watch and take away quite different things.” Viewers can make up their own minds when the docuseries bows on Apple TV+ on August 25.