watch the first trailer for a documentary about the jt leroy literary scandal

In the early 2000s, gender non-conforming wunderkind JT LeRoy was mingling with Winona Ryder and Gus Van Sant. Then he was revealed to be a 40-year-old former phone sex operator from Brooklyn.

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Jul 20 2016, 9:15am

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In 2000, the literary world went nuts for Sarah, the explosive debut novel from an elusive, gender-nonconforming teen author called JT LeRoy. The reclusive wunderkind had apparently drawn heavily upon his own experiences as the heroin-addicted, HIV-afflicted child of a truck-stop prostitute for a critically acclaimed debut that won him celebrity fans including Winona Ryder, Courtney Love, Juergen Teller, and Gus Van Sant. LeRoy even wrote the original screenplay for Gus Van Sant's Elephant and is listed as the film's associate producer. 

After six years and another book, a collection of short stories aptly titled The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, a New York Times article revealed that LeRoy didn't actually exist. Rather he was the alias of 40-year-old former punk musician and phone sex operator Laura Albert, who convinced her sister-in-law to dress in a blonde wig and oversized sunglasses to mingle with the glitterati at readings, rock concerts, and fashion shows. The saga is now the subject of a fascinating documentary called Author: The JT LeRoy Story, which is slated for release on September 9. 

While LeRoy is hardly the first literary figure to cause a scandal in the celebrity world — in 2006, the same year the New York Times article was published, Oprah ripped James Frey a new one on-air for faking parts of his memoir — it's probably the craziest. Director Jeff Feuerzeig patches together the story using archival material, exclusive interviews with LeRoy's celebrity entourage, a gripping phone call with Courtney Love, and the support of Albert herself — who somehow remains convinced that LeRoy "was not a hoax" at all. 

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Text Hannah Ongley