Louis Theroux says there were times when he went ‘too far’, as he reflects on 25 years of documentary making

Documentary filmmaker reflects on a career spanning 25-plus years, ahead of a new series looking at some of his most memorable work

Clip from Louis Theroux's Love Without Limits

Louis Theroux has suggested there may have been times when he went “too far” in his early days as a documentary filmmaker.

In a poignant article for The Guardian, the 50-year-old looked back on his 25-plus years of shooting documentaries on a wide-ranging array of subjects, from eating disorders to religion.

Addressing his earlier projects, Theroux analysed his presenting style, which he said had a tendency to “be glib, to disarm with the aim of making light of people’s deeply held beliefs, to act the clown, to make fun”.

“That was part of how I saw my role, to be the straight man in a weird world, and there were times, looking back, when I see I may have gone too far,” he wrote.

However, Theroux then pointed out that it was the mistakes he made in the past that enabled him to become the presenter he is today.

Louis Theroux in the 2011 documentary America's Most Hated Family

“They suggested the possibility of doing things differently,” he said. “After 25-plus years of doing my job, what strikes me is the development and evolution that has taken place. When I started out in 1994, it would have seemed ludicrous to imagine having the maturity, sensitivity and storytelling chops to make programmes about disability, mental health and addiction.”

Theroux will present a new four-part series next month, titled Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge, which will look back at his body of work spanning 25 years.

The series will include interviews with Theroux as well as new conversations and catch-ups with some of his most memorable or notorious contributors.

“For years I’ve wanted to go back and make sense of the programmes I’ve made, find out what happened to some of the contributors, update their stories, and see what all these many hours of making TV might add up to,” Theroux said in a statement announcing the series.

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“Lockdown gave me the time and space to do this. It’s been a strange and fascinating couple of months working on this, and especially fun to dig through old episodes of Weird Weekends - programmes I made in the mid-90s, when the world was a very different place.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do with this new series. I think we’ve been able to make the whole add up to more than the sum of the parts and to bring out surprising themes and commonalities. And, if nothing else, it was an interesting review of how my haircuts and glasses have changed over the years.”

Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge will air on BBC2 in September.

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