The story of what many have labeled the first literary hoax of the 21st century is getting the documentary treatment.
A&E IndieFilms and Brett Ratner’s RatPac Documentary Films are teaming up with youth media company Vice to produce a documentary telling the story of author Laura Albert and her infamous persona JT LeRoy.
Jeff Feuerzeig, who made the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, wrote the script and is directing the feature, which is currently in production.
LeRoy burst onto the literary scene in the mid-to-late 1990s and had his first novel, Sarah, published in 1999 when he was only 19 years old. That same year also saw the release of his novel The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.
With a dark backstory that included being a transgender prostitute, he quickly gained a following and celebrity status. Lou Reed and Garbage frontlady Shirley Manson were supporters, as was Gus Van Sant, who had LeRoy pen an early draft of his movie Elephant.
The literary and media community were stunned, however, when in the mid-2000s it was revealed that LeRoy was actually Albert, a middle-aged musician and former phone sex worker. Albert wrote the works and had her husband’s half-sister act as LeRoy for public appearances. Lawsuits were filed and Albert was shunned by those close to her.
Feuerzeig has unique access to Albert’s extensive archives and is looking at the subject’s own history, posing the question of whether LeRoy is a fraud, a postmodern masterpiece or something else?
“The story of J.T. Leroy is so wild, fascinating, and thought-provoking that it’s a classic example of something you couldn’t have made up,” said Ratner. “We are certain that people will be discussing and debating the movie for a very long time.”
Vice’s chief creative office Eddy Moretti said the company has been following LeRoy’s story.
“As the celebs glommed on, and the stories got weirder and weirder, we were totally hooked. Then the whole thing imploded and in a flash the community withdrew their support and Laura Albert’s real story was buried,” said Moretti. “Jeff is going to tell a deep, twisting, twisted, tragic-comic human drama and along the way turn the mirror on the artist and media community as well.”
Feuerzeig is producing along with Danny Gabai and Jim Czarnecki for Vice. Ratner and James Packer are producing for RatPac Documentary Films. Molly Thompson, Bob DeBitetto and David McKillop are executive producing for A&E IndieFilms. Moretti and Shane Smith are the executive producers for Vice.