“By the time you get to the end of this series, you won’t be scratching your head — you will have a clear view of what happened,” Andrew Jarecki told TV critics this afternoon, of his six-part documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” that tracks his experience being contacted by Robert Durst, son of a New York billionaire real estate mogul who was accused of three murders in the past three decades but convicted of none. It airs at 8 PM Sundays, February 8-March 15.
Jarecki previously directed the 2010 film All Good Things in which Ryan Gosling played a character based on Durst and Kristen Durst played his vanished first wife, Kate. Shortly before the movies’ release, Durst contact Jarecki “out of the blue” and suggested Jarecki interview him, the director proudly said at Winter TV Press Tour 2015.
The thing that really surprised Jarecki was finding Durst to be enormously smart. Because someone who is suspected of three murders in three decades, including his first wife, his friend Susan Berman, and his neighbor Morris Black, but convicted of none, usually is a stupid person? “I think Bob Durst knows where you’re going with questions about a dozen questions in advance. He’s uncannily bright,” Jarecki marveled.
When you shake hands with Durst, Jarecki said, “you are feeling the hand of a very wealthy person; someone who does not do manual labor, someone who is confident about shaking your hand” Jarecki said. “And yet you cannot shake the feeling, whatever you think about Bob Durst, whether he committed the murders or not, he admitted to dismembering his neighbor in Galvaston (self defense) – and that is something that is on your mind when you’re touching his hand.”
Jarecki seemed pretty taken with Durst, describing how, when Durst reached out to him, he paid him the compliment of saying “I’m not surprised my lawyer didn’t tell me you had called to speak to me.” Jarecki said he and Durst grew up in houses in well-to-do neighborhoods that are “almost identical.” He seemed displeased when one TV critic wondered how his HBO docu would distinguish itself from the glut of true crime reporting found on TV these days. Those stories, he said, are trivial; “This is a story that has significance,” because it “begins with enormous wealth and privilege,” and Durst himself is “extraordinary,” Jarecki said.
Instead of the customary headshot on screen during a Press Tour Q&A session, Jarecki chose to have HBO use a photo of him taken with Durst. “I did think about the photo,” he said, but insisted that when the network asked him to send a headshot “I thought, this isn’t really about me at all. This is a story about Bob and yet, it’s really a story of both of us.” He adding quickly, “I’m not nearly as important to the story as Bob.”
“I felt it was not my job to represent his position – though that would certainly be a part of this piece – but let the audience get there on its own,” Jarecki said. “It’s essential for people to be able to see and experience this the way that I did. I will tell you by the time you get to the end of this series, you won’t be scratching your head. You’ll have a clear view of what happened.”