Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and journalist Louis Theroux will return to one of his most interesting subjects – the late Jimmy Savile – to discuss the former TV presenter’s dark past with those that knew him best.
In 2000, acclaimed documentary maker and journalist Louis Theroux switched his attention from American subcultures (the focus of much of his television documentaries in the 1990s) to obscure, eccentric and controversial British TV personalities.
In his “When Louis Met…” documentaries he spent a week with various people including magician Paul Daniels and his assistant/wife Debbie McGee, former boxer Chris Eubank and politician Anne Widdecombe.
His most notable films during this period were those he made with husband and wife Neil and Christine Hamilton who were arrested on sex allegations during filming, and offbeat fundraiser and disc jockey Jimmy Savile.
The hour-long documentary with Savile saw Theroux, a journalist who has profiled key figures in the Westboro Baptish Church, various racist supremacist groups and post-apartheid South Africa amongst other controversial figures, shadow the former coal miner from Leeds on various professional and personal outings.
Much of the more intimate discussions, however, took place at one of Savile’s various homes. At the time, there were only rumours about Savile’s predatory sexual activity. Many of his victims had been silenced by fear, believing no one would take them seriously given the TV personality’s reputation as a tireless charity worker.
Before his death he was an eccentric DJ, television and radio personality, erstwhile dance hall manager, and serial charity fundraiser. After his death it was alleged he’d committed hundreds of instances of sexual abuse over a period of more than 50 years.
Theroux has said in interviews that he’s disappointed he wasn’t able to “out” him then but believes his line of questioning, which did raise the issue of paedophilia, halted Savile’s predatory activities for at least a year. Records show that no allegations were made against Savile in the few months after filming.
During a discussion with Richard Herring on his Leicester Square Theatre podcast, Theroux said he did feel a “sense of responsibility”. He added, as someone who spent ten days making a documentary about him, how did I fail “to reveal the fact that he was one of the most prolific sex offenders of modern times possibly. I’m trying to go back and figure out how did I miss that?”
Theroux’s new film may be cathartic for the journalist. This documentary will investigate how Savile’s crimes impacted those people who knew him as well as his victims, and how he was able to get away with it for so long.
Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said: “Louis Theroux is one of the country’s most talented filmmakers, and I am very pleased that he is revisiting this important – and deeply personal – subject for us, asking difficult questions about the life of Jimmy Savile and those around him and exploring the impact his crimes had on his victims.”