London Film Festival: BBC Documentary Veteran Explains Why He Made 'My Scientology Movie'

Courtesy of Sundance International Film Festival

The BBC regular's first non-TV feature documentary is having its world premiere at the festival.

He’s a well-known face in the U.K. after hosting quirky BBC documentaries for almost two decades, but Louis Theroux’s U.S. profile could be on the rise following his first feature doc, about the Church of Scientology.

Speaking at an event at the BFI London Film Festival, where the BBC Films- and BBC Worldwide-backed My Scientology Movie, directed by John Dower and produced by Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man, Man on Wire), is having its world premiere on Wednesday, Theroux described the trouble with making a documentary about an organization that had no intention of letting him anywhere near its members.

“I remember thinking, ‘They’re not going to want us to cover them. Are we just going to be running up and kicking them in the goolies [private parts] – figuratively – and then seeing how they react?' ” he joked. “I really had to spend a long time thinking about why it was an important story to tell, why is it OK."

Theroux joked that Scientology had referred to him as a "trivial sleazehound…that’s not actually the word they used" and had no interest in helping with the documentary. “They said, ‘We’re not interested in cooperating in your film about our amazing church, which is saving millions of lives on planets all around the solar system,' " he quipped. "That’s a joke -- they don’t believe that and they disagree that I said that."

But the filmmaker said he felt he had a “valid case” to explore the subject via former church members.

“The people who are upset about Scientology and have left Scientology, they have a valid subjectivity," he said. "They’re inviting us in, and part of us understanding them is understanding what Scientology is. So that’s how I got my head around the ‘not being invited’ thing.”

A short clip from My Scientology Movie showed Theroux in an awkward confrontation with a church representative on a road in the U.S., presumably near a Scientology location. In the snippet, Theroux is also being filmed by one of the church members, seemingly backing up claims he made earlier in the year in which he said he’d been told the church was making a documentary about him.

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