JT Leroy I started reading in Toronto early last year, somewhere between William Burroughs early novels, the bleakness of James Elroy, and Larry Clarke’s films, but altogether different. His book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things premiered at Cannes this year, with screenplay and direction by Asia Argento, better known for hanging out with my favourite action-man Vin Diesel in XXX, and starring rock-god Marilyn Manson and a host of other delinquents. Reuters had this interview with him.
“The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things”, based on his critically acclaimed short story collection, documents the American author’s childhood spent with his drug-addict mother and fanatically religious grandparents.
The film divided audiences at the Cannes festival in May. The British daily The Independent rated it as one of the top 10 films of the fortnight, but the trade paper The Hollywood Reporter described it as “a gruelling, cinematic excretion”.
Argento met LeRoy when she gave a reading of his work and was so moved by “The Heart…” that she suggested making it into a film. She co-wrote the screenplay and plays the role of the abusive mother.
“I really think that she pulled it off in a genius way,” said LeRoy, who was a consultant on the project. “It’s going to get a lot of attention and it will be controversial.”
Produced on a small independent budget, the film deals with tough subjects that few Hollywood studios dare touch.
The young hero, Jeremiah, is neglected by his prostitute mother and raped by her boyfriends. His Bible-bashing grandfather subjects him to scalding baths and regular beltings.
In one scene Jeremiah dresses up in his mother’s clothes and seduces her redneck boyfriend, played by shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
“I think a lot of these child abuse type books have the problem that the victim always has to be this angelic child. When you grow up with an abusive parent you learn to be mean and cruel and evil, and you learn to survive,” said LeRoy.
Like the book, the film does not judge the abusers, a stance that was unpopular with some of the critics at Cannes.