Louis Theroux says he 'may have gone too far' in early documentaries

Amy Johnson
·2 min read
Louis Theroux attends Build Series to discuss "My Scientology Movie" at Build Studio on March 9, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
Louis Theroux attends discusses My Scientology Movie in 2017. (Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

Louis Theroux thinks he may have overstepped the mark with some of his interview subjects early on in his documentary-making career.

His comments come as the journalist reflected on the past 25 years of his career for The Guardian, noting he had been "a little bit of a tool" in the past and that he saw his younger self as sometimes being "overly pushy and badgering".

"When I look at my own motivations and my own journey, I am forced to face the negative alongside the positive: a tendency, when younger, to maybe be glib, to disarm with the aim of making light of people’s deeply held beliefs, to act the clown, to make fun," he wrote.

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"That was part of how I saw my role, to be the straight man in a weird world, and there were times, looking back, when I see I may have gone too far."

Offbeat TV interviewer Louis Theroux launches the 'Best of Weird Weekends', a collection of the finest moments from his BBC TWO series, at Virgin Megastore in  London's Oxford Street.   (Photo by Yui Mok - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Louis Theroux launches Best of Weird Weekends, a collection of the finest moments from his BBC Two series. (Yui Mok – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

His first TV series Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends – first aired when he was 27 – saw him visit groups with extreme views or unusual lifestyles. The first season saw episodes covering subjects such as born-again Christians, survivalists and people who believe in UFOs.

Theroux, 50, said the mistakes he made along the way have helped him to improve his presenting abilities, as he pointed out the more serious subject matter of his recent documentaries, including eating disorders and dementia.

"When I started out in 1994, it would have seemed ludicrous to imagine having the maturity, sensitivity and storytelling chops to make programmes about disability, mental health and addiction,” he remarked.

Louis Theroux during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)
Louis Theroux on the BBC's The Graham Norton Show. (Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)

Last year, he described filming a 2000 documentary on Jimmy Savile as “the strangest and most upsetting event” of his career.

After Savile's 2011 death it was found the DJ had sexually abused at least 72 children and women at the height of his fame, but Theroux said at the time "there wasn't enough to go on to make [Savile's paedophilia] a relevant topic of inquiry".

He explained the interview had been pitched to Savile's team as a means "to slightly poke fun at him".