Louis Theroux defends Jimmy Saville doc as “very far from soft journalism”

"We all knew he was doing some act"

Louis Theroux has defended his 2000 documentary about Jimmy Savile, where he interviewed the disgraced presenter, saying it is “very far from soft journalism”.

When Louis Met… Jimmy saw the documentarian follow Savile for a number of months, and included Theroux questioning the late presenter about whether he was a paedophile. It was subsequently discovered by an investigation after Savile’s death in 2011 that he instigated abuse over a period of decades.

As part of a Sunday Times interview with Theroux, an extract from his book is referenced, which sees the filmmaker reflect that “depending on your point of view, I either made a revealing programme about or failed to make a revealing programme about”.

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Elaborating, Theroux told the magazine: “It’s neither one or the other, is it? There’s plenty of ammo you could deploy in either direction.

Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux (Credit: Getty)

“I’ve watched it since the revelations came out and I’m struck by how much is there. It’s very far from soft journalism,” he added. “We all knew he was doing some act. He would more or less invite people to believe he had secrets.”

Theroux has reflected before on his time with Savile for the documentary and the fact that he remained friends with the DJ afterwards, admitting in 2019 that he was “confused” by how he viewed him.

“There’s a slightly naive view that if abuse happens you recognise it as abuse straight away, and of course that isn’t how it works in a real world setting,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux – Credit: Alamy

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“So, it was something that I had to learn and I’d like to think that I bring that understanding now to my work and also as a human being.”

He added: “So, while I’m still quite proud of the first programme, I’m still a bit confused about how was I able to experience him as a somewhat likeable person in the year or two after making it. That’s something I think upon.”

Theroux followed the 2000 film up in 2016 with Louis Theroux: Savile, which saw him re-examine his relationship with the presenter in light of the subsequent revelations.

Savile is set to be portrayed by Steve Coogan in a new BBC drama called The Reckoning, which has attracted a backlash, including from the disgraced presenter’s nephew.

Meanwhile, it was recently confirmed that Theroux is set to explore US rap and hip-hop as part of a new three-part BBC Two series, Forbidden America.

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