EXCLUSIVE: Here’s yet another new twist in the saga of The Voyeur’s Motel, the Gay Talese book about a voyeuristic motel owner named Gerald Foos that sold in a million-dollar screen rights auction to DreamWorks for a film that Sam Mendes might direct. While there was speculation over that film’s future after the Washington Post combed property records to discredit the motel owner’s chronology and prompted Talese to briefly disavow his own book, one movie on the project has completed principal photography. After three years in production, editing has begun on the documentary feature Gay Talese and the Voyeur.
Directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, the film is a co-production between Brooklyn Underground Films, Public Record, Impact Partners and Blumhouse Productions. The filmmakers followed Talese as he reported a story as provocative as his signature work Thy Neighbor’s Wife. Here, the movie chronicled the author as he researched this Colorado motel owner who for decades secretly watched his guests from an “observation platform” he build in the motel’s attic, keeping detailed journals of intimate moments that went beyond sexual encounters. There also was a murder he witnessed. In that case, he was more than just an observer: According to a New Yorker article about the case, the motel owner observed a drug dealer operating from the premises and flushed his drugs down the toilet. The dealer blamed his girlfriend for the missing stash, and strangled her.
Talese’s findings were first bared in his April 11 article in The New Yorker, and that started the movie rights stampede won by DreamWorks, which seemed somehow fitting given that Steven Spielberg helped get Mendes’ directing career off the ground with the Best Picture-winning and similarly sometimes creepy and morally complex American Beauty. The book was published in June by Grove Press. According to the documentary filmmakers, their film explores a tangle of ethical questions including: What does a journalist owe his subject? What does a voyeur owe to the people he spies on? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? When the story is finally published, and new questions about Foos’s credibility surface, he and his wife learn how it feels to be the objects of intense and unwanted scrutiny. Talese’s relationship with Foos abruptly shifts, and the filmmakers find themselves implicated in the central question of this tale of the watcher and the watched: Who is really the voyeur?”
“This is one of the most exciting projects we have seen in quite some time,” said Impact Partners’ Dan Cogan, who is exec producer. “The relationship between the storyteller and their real-life subject is the secret third rail in every great work of nonfiction. It drives the creation of the story, but nobody wants to touch on it. This film jumps right into that breach and tells an amazing story of the crazy, deeply fraught but nonetheless essential relationship between storyteller and subject.”
The film will be ready to premiere next year, but it hasn’t been acquired for distribution. It’s produced by Trisha Koury, with DP Cris Moris and editors Myles Kane and Josh Koury with Doug Abel. Aside from Cogan, the exec producers are Julie Parker Benello, Jason Blum, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Lagralene Group, Ken Pelletier, Jeremy Yaches and Jeremiah Zagar. The co-exec producers are Steven Cohen, Paula Froehle and Jenny Raskin.