Another bum (and rich) socialist. By ROBERT FRANK February 23, 2008; Page W1 Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, used to be an accepted member of the New York elite, with a trust fund, a top education and loads of old-money friends. Now, thanks to his film career, he's not as welcome. "I'll walk into a social event where there are a number of people who I grew up with and they'll treat me apprehensively," says Mr. Johnson, 28. His relationship with his family, especially his father, has also cooled. "There was a sense that 'If you go too far with these [films], you won't be welcome in your own home,'" he says. Mr. Johnson is getting used to being an outcast among the upper class. After the 2003 release of his first film, "Born Rich," which looked at the lives of the silver-spoon set, and now his second, "The One Percent," which focuses on the American wealth gap, Mr. Johnson has become the rich man's Michael Moore -- a trust-fund populist who's not afraid to attack the wealthy and powerful. While his wealth has helped him gain access to the people he's filming, it's also carried personal costs. He has learned the hard way that the biggest betrayal for the rich is to talk publicly about their riches. "I think most wealthy people want to live with this myth of equal opportunity and equality in this country," he says. "I don't think they want to question their right to this wealth." The films have generated their share of controversy. "Born Rich," which featured several of Mr. Johnson's childhood friends talking about everything from drugs to prenuptial agreements, sparked a lawsuit and accusations from a few of his friends that Mr. Johnson portrayed them unfairly. "The One Percent," which is running on Cinemax until April 1, has spawned its own mini scandal. After Warren Buffett's adopted granddaughter, Nicole Buffett, spoke to Mr. Johnson on camera about her views on money, Mr. Buffett sent her a letter stating that she was not legally his granddaughter The most personal casualty of Mr. Johnson's cinematic class crusade is his relationship with his father, James Loring Johnson. Jamie Johnson is the great-grandson of J&J's founder. After three generations of family scandal and feuds, Jamie's father turned to a quiet life of reading and painting landscapes. Throughout "Born Rich," Jamie pursued his dad, Roger-and-me-style, asking him about the family's wealth. His father, adhering to old-money codes of conduct, demurred. Yet while making "The One Percent," Jamie made a surprising discovery. Decades earlier, his father had helped fund a documentary about apartheid and economic unfairness in South Africa. His father refused to talk about the film, although Jamie learned about it from his mother and got a copy. His mother told him that his father was reprimanded for the film by Johnson & Johnson and by members of his family. His father never made another film. "The fact that a reprimand was all it took to completely push him off that path says something about how fearful he must have been," Jamie says. "It is true that I did have strong feelings about the injustices of apartheid," says the elder Johnson. "But it was complicated with the company and it was a different time and, you know, this is uncomfortable." The conflicts play out in "The One Percent," as Jamie follows his father from the croquet court to family meetings asking about the film and his family's wealth. His father tries to answer his questions on several occasions, but eventually gives up, walking out of one interview with his head in his hands saying, "I can't take any more. It's too much for me." Brian McNally, the Johnson family's financial adviser, chastises Jamie on camera for his behavior. "You're behaving like a little arrogant trustafarian," he tells him. Milton Friedman, the famed economist, was equally impatient with Mr. Johnson's questioning. During his on-air interview -- among Mr. Friedman's last before he died -- he accuses Mr. Johnson of advocating socialism and abruptly ends their talk. Mr. Johnson insists he's not opposed to wealth -- including his own. Wealth, he says, has given him a great education, freedom, chances to travel and, best of all, the resources to do films about wealth. He says that while his documentaries are profitable, they wouldn't pay for his lifestyle. Yet with "The One Percent," Mr. Johnson wanted to show how the rich have gone too far. Through interviews with economists, policy experts and environmentalists, Mr. Johnson argues that today's wealthy have become an increasingly isolated elite. He says rather than using their wealth for good, they have used it to restructure the economy, lower their taxes, cut social programs for the middle and lower classes, and amass ever more wealth. Mr. Johnson says finding willing subjects for "The One Percent" was difficult, and not just because of his reputation. He sent out more than 100 letters to wealthy people asking for interviews and most said no or failed to reply. Even George Soros, the billionaire financier who often argues against inequality, refused. "We have an aristocracy in this country that has convinced everybody else that they don't exist," Mr. Johnson says. Rejections by his fellow elites won't be a problem for his next film, however. Says Mr. Johnson: "My next projects are fictional." Battle of the Buffetts In Jamie Johnson's film "The One Percent," Nicole Buffett talks about how lucky she is to be a Buffett. "I feel very fulfilled and happy in my life," says Nicole, the adopted daughter of Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett's son. Warren Buffett, however, wasn't pleased. Shortly after Nicole appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about the film, Mr. Buffett sent her a letter saying that, while he was proud of Nicole and her achievements, "...I have not legally or emotionally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin." Nicole is the biological daughter of Mary Buffett (with another man), who married Peter when Nicole was 4 years old. Peter and Mary divorced but Peter adopted Nicole when she was 18. Warren Buffett declined to comment. Nicole says she spent almost every Christmas with Warren Buffett between the ages of 4 and 11 and often went to his home in Omaha for spring break. Susan Buffett, Warren's first wife, who died in 2004, named Nicole in her will as one of her "adored grandchildren" and left her $100,000. She added that Nicole "shall have the same status and benefits ... as if they were children of my son, Peter A. Buffett." A source close to the family says Nicole spent "very little time" with Warren Buffett over the years but that he paid for Nicole's school and living expenses until she was 28. Nicole says that Mr. Buffett's reaction may have reflected his philosophy about wealth. "Sharing my experience as a Buffett was stepping outside the box," she says.