‘The Jinx’ Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki Says Despite True-Crime Boom Robert Durst “Is Kind of a Unicorn”

Since HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst aired in 2015, Durst, who was arrested shortly before the docuseries’ shocking finale, was convicted of murder in 2021 before dying months later.

In that time, true-crime projects have proliferated in the wake of hits like The Jinx and contemporary docuseries Making a Murderer, the podcast Serial and based-on-a-true-story fictional series like The People v. O.J. Simpson and subsequent American Crime Story installments.

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Yet despite being part of this early true-crime wave, The Jinx filmmaker Andrew Jarecki says that there were things about Durst that made him even more riveting than an unsolved murder.

“I think Bob is kind of a unicorn because he’s so unusual, because he’s such a powerful personality and also reckless and also willing to be honest about things that most people aren’t honest about, so you feel like you’re seeing inside him,” Jarecki told The Hollywood Reporter at Thursday’s New York premiere of The Jinx — Part Two, hitting HBO Sunday night. “And beyond that he’s also rich and he’s also from this family, not only a rich family, but also a family that he’s constantly embarrassing. There’s so much to him, and he’s a troublemaker and kind of a firestorm. That draws people in. It’s very seductive. I’m not sure we’re going to find another Bob Durst. A lot of people are going to find fascinating stories in that vein, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to find a story like that.”

Los Angeles deputy district attorney John Lewin, who helped prosecute Durst for the murder of Susan Berman and appears in The Jinx — Part Two, agrees with this assessment, coming from the standpoint of a career chasing criminals.

“I’ve been trying cases and been a prosecutor for 30 years. When they made the Bob Durst mold, they broke it,” Lewin told THR. “As talented as Andrew is, as great as the show is, in the end Bob Durst is singularly unique in terms of who he is and what he’s done. If you had a fictionalized version of what occurred, people would walk out because they would say it’s not believable. So the great thing about reality is it doesn’t have to be believable, it just has to have happened. Bob, who he is, how he responded and what he did, we’ll just never see it again and he is compelling.”

Ahead of a screening of the first episode of Part Two, Jarecki looked back at his 20-year journey with Durst and spoke about how the latest batch of episodes focuses on complicity.

“We would always say when we were making the first Jinx, we would always say in the edit room, ‘How do you kill three people over 30 years and get away with it? It takes a village.’ And let’s talk about who else was there enabling him, because there was a whole group of people who are all people who see themselves as ordinary, decent people but end up getting drawn in to these very bad acts,” Jarecki said, connecting Durst, as he has multiple times during this press tour, to former President Donald Trump. “That’s something that I feel is very timely right now, so that’s something that drew me in was people who say, ‘I don’t know, I wasn’t part of those bad things that happened in the government; somebody else did that.’ And that’s a lot of what we saw with Bob Durst: Someone that was very persuasive, that was a spellbinder, with a strong, hypnotic voice, a lot of dominance. When Trump says, ‘When you’re a star they let you do what you want,’ I think that’s what people felt with Bob as well. He was always this crackly energy. Even if it was a bad energy — he was where the action was. He’s so fascinating. Yes, he’s rich but beyond being rich, he was this kind of mesmerizing personality. He knew that about himself and he used that so he preyed on a lot of vulnerable people. That was the kind of thing that drew me in — maybe that was Bob Durst drawing me in too but it was an important part of it.”

Later, in a Q&A with Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, during which Jarecki was joined by fellow producer Zac Stuart-Pontier, Jarecki took a moment to highlight the complexity of some of the people who helped Durst and got caught in his web, pointing out how they are real people with needs and problems.

“It’s very easy for us to see some of the people you will see in Part Two and see them as kind of ridiculous burlesque figures,” he said. “People who say, ‘Well I did this, but I wasn’t part of the problem; I was part of the solution.’ It’s very easy to see those people and kind of put them at a distance and not see their humanity. But what we tried to do was see what was going on inside. Because Bob really did draw in vulnerable people. And he found people who had needs. You have to ask yourself — it’s easy to say, ‘I would never have done something as amoral as helping this murderer’ — but then you have to say, ‘What if I had a sick child and what if my friend had some amount of money, probably four or five thousand dollars, that he was willing to trickle out to me over time? That would radically change the situation in my family,’ so if you don’t understand what was really behind the complicity, you just see it as a punchline.”

Jarecki, who told THR at the premiere of The Jinx part one that by the end of those episodes, “you’re going to know what happened,” said that there wasn’t as much of a central revelation coming in Part Two.

“I think the surprises in this are not going to be a single surprise, but it’s an extremely surprising set of stories, and there are a lot of revelations that were huge surprises to me,” he told THR Thursday. “It’s important to try to tell that story in a way that makes those revelations present for the audience, sort of the way that we discover them.”

Jarecki also said he tried to keep people like the family members of Kathie McCormack, Durst’s first wife who disappeared and whom he had long been suspected of killing, in his focus even as Durst can be distracting.

McCormack’s family members “weren’t jaded and did everything I would hope someone would do if somebody in my family had disappeared,” Jarecki said. “[Her brother] Jim [who was at Thursday night’s event] sometimes talks about keeping the porch light on for Kathie. They did that for about 40 years and never forgot her. I hope that The Jinx and all of the work we’ve done around it honors that. They really trusted us to tell this story.”

Still, the filmmaker — who said that his therapist, who had been listening to him talk about Durst for 20 years, was in attendance — couldn’t resist sharing one more anecdote about his early days with Durst.

Jarecki recalled a breakfast with Durst and his lawyer at the nearby Lambs Club, after he and Durst had met separately with Durst’s attorney.

At that meal, Durst’s lawyer informed them that he thought Durst sitting down with Jarecki for the interview that makes up the bulk of part one, “is possibly the worst idea I have ever heard in my entire life. You’ve been accused of three murders over 30 years and have never gotten convicted of any such murder so perhaps it would be wise for you to leave well enough alone and not do such a ridiculous thing as sit with an investigative filmmaker and have him poke around in your life.”

However, the attorney continued, Jarecki recalled, “Since you’ve [Durst] already told me that you’re definitely going to do it, all I can tell you is [list of things Jarecki was supposed to do including giving Durst approval over the interview, which had to be turned over to his lawyer and only air once], and Bob interrupted him in the middle and said, ‘Steve, I don’t care if he puts it on a billboard in Times Square, let him do what he wants.'”

Jarecki continued, “A few years later, [my wife] Nancy and I were walking around Times Square around the day of Bob getting arrested before the final episode and we looked up and there was this giant billboard and we said, ‘Bob got his wish.'”

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