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Months after his public breakdown, Kony 2012 director Jason Russell recounted his “out of body experience” on Sunday’s edition of Oprah’s Next Chapter.
Russell, co-founder of the organization Invisible Children, helmed the half-hour documentary Kony 2012, which urged action against Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and went internet-viral last spring with 100-plus million views in just one week. He was detained March 15 in San Diego for allegedly masturbating in public and vandalizing cars, with several people reporting a man running along a street in his underwear and screaming.
Video of the incident spread online, showing Russell — completely naked — behaving erratically and slapping the sidewalk on a street corner.
“There were rumors of masturbation, but no one who was there ever said that that was happening,” he told Oprah Winfrey, adding: “I’m naked so it’s not a far extension of imagination that that would be happening but, no, I don’t remember any of that, and no one we knew there said that I was. I don’t remember anything except like a half-second. I don’t.”
He said he does recall, however, “why I left the backyard. I thought, ‘I have to get to New York in the next 12 hours.’ That’s what I thought. ‘Because I have to stop the war.’ So I ran out to the front and I think I was trying to ask cars to take me to the airport. In my underwear.”
After the fact, Russell’s family issued a statement saying that drugs and alcohol didn’t play a role in his meltdown, which was instead a result of “extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration” from the sudden fame Russell had been experiencing at the time.
Russell was taken to a mental health clinic, where it took two weeks for him to get back to normal, he said, recalling of the aftermath of his “out of body experience”: “I was so confused. I thought people were trying to kill me.” Doctors said he suffered a psychotic break.
When Winfrey asked the married filmmaker about rumors he’s gay (“that you were running in the streets nude because you were gay”), he laughed, saying: “I grew up in theater, my parents started a large children’s theater organization, so I am animated, I am … theatrical. That’s me by nature. So when you take me, times it by ten … .”
Russell also appeared on NBC’s Today show Monday.
Watch an excerpt of his Oprah’s Next Chapter sitdown below.
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