HBO's 'The Jinx' Director Weighs in on Robert Durst's Guilt or Innocence

The documentary explores the cloud of suspicion around the real estate scion
Courtesy of HBO
Robert Durst

The story of accused murderer Robert Durst continues to draw attention.

HBO's six-part documentary miniseries The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst isn't director Andrew Jarecki's first turn at the story of the accused millionaire murderer. He helmed the 2010 film All Good Things, a creative take on the real-life mystery in which Ryan Gosling played a character based on Durst, with Kristen Dunst as his missing wife, Katie.

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The son of real estate mogul Seymour Durst has been linked to three murders, including the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, the 2000 killing of his friend Susan Berman, and the 2001 dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black. He was only charged in latter case, in which he claimed self-defense and was acquitted. Later, he was arrested for shoplifting a chicken sandwich, a band-aid and a newspaper, despite having more than $500 cash in his pocket at the time.

The premium cable's documentary project began two weeks before All Good Things came out in theaters when Durst, who had previously declined all other interview requests, called Jarecki directly to tell him he wanted to participate. "One thing that's surprising about him is that he's enormously smart," said Jarecki from the stage at the Television Critics' Association's semiannual press tour, adding: "Bob Durst knows where you're going with your questions about a dozen questions in advance. He's uncannily bright."

When asked about his opinion on Durst's guilt or innocence, the director didn't give a definite answer. "When you shake hands with him, you are feeling the hand of a really wealthy person, someone who has not done manual labor and someone who is confident," he said. "Yet you cannot shake the feeling that no matter what you believe about Bob Durst, whether he committed murders or not, he admitted to dismembering his neighbor in Galveston, and that is something that is on your mind when you touch his hand."

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Jarecki insists that viewers, too, will be scratching their heads at the end of the miniseries, which bows February 8, trying to figure out what to believe about the mysterious man. One thing Jarecki was sure about is Durst's idiosyncratic personality. "He is slightly off center about everything," he said. "He approaches things differently. ... He'll often answer questions with a question. It's not a trick."

A self-proclaimed obsessive type, Jarecki has devoted the past five years of his life to uncovering the truth about the Durst scandal. "There's a responsibility to do right by him," he said of the challenges of presenting the story fairly. "But there's a bigger responsibility to do right by the story." And HBO isn't the only place Durst's story is being told today. Vanity Fair Confidential, an upcoming series on Investigative Discovery, is devoting an episode to the murder mysteries. The difference? Durst refused to participate.