So to celebrate the documentarian who will no doubt arrive on our shores and figure out all of our nation’s ills before he checks in to his first hotel, here are some of Louis Theroux’s best moments...
Let’s start with the lighter moments...
Louis and the over-amorous politician's wife
In When Louis Met… The Hamiltons, right before his documentary crew happened to be around when Neil and Christine Hamilton were arrested for involvement in the sexual abuse of a younger woman, Christine forced Theroux into an uncomfortable corner (of a comfortable couch).
Louis and the vengeful professional wrestling trainer
In Weird Weekends: Wrestling, after Theroux suggested to one of professional wrestling’s most coveted trainers that not everything seen in the ring is real, the bulging trainer responded in the most brutal of ways:
Louis and the live rap battle
In Weird Weekends: Gangster Rap, Theroux sets out to cultivate a hip-hop persona, replete with a moniker, style and signature track. In this scene, he has the opportunity to test the results:
Louis and the prostitute
In Louis and the Brothel, at a legal sex retreat in Nevada, Theroux gets quite close to Hayley, in the emotional sense. But in one scene, Hayley gives him a very PG demonstration of her skill-set, and turns out even PG makes Theroux squirm.
Louis and the orgy room
In Weird Weekends: Swingers, Theroux is perhaps at his most uncomfortable, trailing a bunch of partner-swappers as they prepare for the mother of all swingers parties, which he cordially attends. When Theroux enters a room, you know he’s not going to leave until he’s learnt everything he needs to learn, but he spends barely 10 seconds in this one...
Louis and the shopping channel
In Weird Weekends: Infomercials, the experienced on-screen personality opts to try his hands at selling a paper shredder on live TV. What you’d think would have been a piece of cake, was more like a piece of stale biscuit.
Louis and the struggling, insecure actress
A struggling actor tells Theroux “you can be the finest actor on the planet, yet if you’re not auditioning well, you’re not going to get the job”. He goes on to sing a Broadway song and ask for her opinion, and the forced politeness on the woman’s face is a thing of beauty. She should be the one singing.
Now, onto the heavier side...
Louis and the surprising prison inmate
In Miami Mega Jail, Theroux meets a multitude of intimidating inmates, so when he interviews an unassuming young man who looks and talks like anyone but a criminal, we can’t help but feel like the poor kid’s been on the receiving end of a rotten deal.
Later on, he gives Theroux a vague, but subtextually frightening account of his crime, and it’s a conversation that ends with the kid admitting that “I guess… it’s not normal to get this upset with people”, after which he implies he's insane.
Then they ride the elevator together.
Louie and the castrated paedophile
In A Place For Paedophiles, Louie meets an older man who had been incarcerated for a long while, and had undergone castration as part of a long, deep journey of repentance.
You come pretty close to feeling empathy for the man, as he’d been deemed fit for release for quite some time, but remained incarcerated due to over a thousand communities refusing to grant him housing.
All that sympathy vanishes once Theroux (and we) discover(s) the nature and extent of his offences.
Louie and the tanking gambler
In Gambling in Las Vegas, Theroux strikes gold when a regular gambler, who's rather existential about the whole practice, heads steadily towards an angry, nervous breakdown as he willingly continues along his losing streak. It’s a disturbing depiction of how winning or losing at an arbitrary game can determine one’s inherent sense of worth.
Here’s a clip of the man in question – the wide-eyed guy with the goatee - but we don’t get a proper glimpse of the borderline frightening madness until the very end. Eerie stuff.
Louis in the West Bank
Ultra Zionists was a fantastic bit of Theroux-dom set in the West Bank, where Theroux chatted with those of all ages from both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
The most interesting character to us Aussies had to be Australian Daniel Luria – a man who finds property in the Palestinian-dominated area for Jews from all nations.
When at the end of the doco, Theroux questions whether Luria’s practices may actually be an affront to the rights of Palestinian property owners, he responds with the chilling words, delivered with chilling conviction:
“The point is that you’re in a suka, in a building that Jews have gone back to, and there are going to be 1000 Jews walking through here over the next few days. There’s the flag, there’s the tabernacle, there’s the house – there’s Jewish life in the united Jerusalem, and there’s nothing, NOTHING, that you or the world can do about it.”
Louis and the most hated granddaughter in America
During Theroux’s first visit to the Westbero Baptist Church in The Most Hated Family In America – he witnessed some loopy stuff. He stood with the infamous Phelps family (and kids as young as eight) as they picketed funerals with such signs as “God Hates Fags”, and was told he and all his kind are set for an eternity of hell-fire.
But in one of the more subtle moments – Theroux brings up interactions with boys to Phelps’ more camera-brave granddaughter, who repeats religious rhetoric as best she can, but as her sisters and cousins hover around the conversation, and giggle and cover their mouths, it’s clear that there’s a bunch of ordinary schoolgirls underneath their strident belief structure.
My Scientology Movie is in theatres now. Speaking tour dates run from 22 September to 1 October.