It was Kristen Stewart’s turn to grace the red carpet of the Toronto Film Festival with Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy. In this captivating true story, a young woman (Kristen Stewart) spends years playing the public role of Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy, an enigmatic and celebrated literary persona created by her sister-in-law (Laura Dern).
In a stroke of dream casting, filmmaker Justin Kelly brings together Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern to tell a story that’s stranger than fiction, wilder than fact, and full of the drama we need right now. Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy is a delicious dive into the hubris, risk-taking, and jealousy that so often surrounds great talent.
Laura Albert (Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy. Her JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker. Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene. Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers love it. The media loves it. They love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person. As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Stewart). Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.
A former protégé of Gus Van Sant’s, Kelly graduated from music videos to directing the acclaimed independent films I Am Michael and Welcome the Stranger. Here, he invites his audience along on what may look like a very strange ride. Layers of artist masquerade? Yes. Gender fluid everything? Naturally. Queer looks? Of course. Stewart and Dern, who’ve long proved their ability to make creative leaps look perfectly normal, are at their best here. As everyone’s persona begins to bleed a little around the edges, it just makes the world that much more exciting. True story.
Ikon Magazine asked the director – Justin Kelly – what inspired him to pick this story for his next film. “I was following the story from the beginning. I was a big fan of Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy books myself and then when the truth came out, I always wondered how did they manage to pull it off and, most importantly, why. So, when Savannah’s memoir came out I, of course, bought it and decided it would make a great film.” Acknowledging the financing issue for indie films, the director continued, “And we were lucky enough to find a financier who backed us up a hundred percent. And now we are here.
Savannah, head to toe in Rick Owens, approved our remark of the story being a mother of all PR stunts with a smile. Seemingly overwhelmed with the premiere and the attention of the press, former impersonator admitted that the memoir covers her story from the age of 18 until 25, when she was “discovering herself and coming to terms with the way she is”.
Kirsten Stewart was in great spirits as she arrived at the premiere – wearing white sequin dress-jumper. She posed for photos with the cast and spoke to the press before being rushed to the screening.
The distribution deal for TJ Leroy has not yet been confirmed so stay tuned for further news.