Adapting Laura Albert; or, Being JT Leroy

I can’t resist another article about Laura Albert, née JT Leroy. According to the New York Times (“Going to Court over Fiction by a Fictitious Writer,” by Alan Feuer), a film production company that had planned to make a movie out of Sarah is now suing Albert for fraud. Their rationale? The person who signed the contract — JT Leroy — doesn’t exist.

The trial, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, promises to be an Escher-like convergence of the movies, literature and journalism with references to sex in truck stops thrown in and a documentary filmmaker, considering a project on the case, sitting quietly in back.

The plaintiff is only out about $45,000 in option money, plus whatever they’ve paid the screenwriter(s). But here’s the kicker: because the book itself is now tainted by the revelation of Leroy’s true identify, the producers were hoping to salvage the project by incorporating the story of Albert herself.

It was at this point that the sort of lemonade-from-literary-lemons notion that can exist only in Hollywood was introduced. Mr. Weinstein said the director, Mr. Shainberg, decided he would now make a new film, something in the vein of "Adaptation" or "Being John Malkovich," a "meta-film" that mixed the novel with the lives of its real and purported authors in a project touted in-house as "Sarah Plus."

But that required obtaining the rights to Ms. Albert’s story – a story of such apparent darkness that she herself had required a literary dopplegänger to tell it.

She refused to grant the rights. "And that," Mr. Weinstein said, "is why we find ourselves here."

Personally, I keep getting hung up on one detail: why anyone would have believed the part of Leroy’s story about submitting manuscripts via fax from gas-station bathrooms. Believe me, I take my fax machine with me every time I need to make a pit stop, and I have yet to find a phone jack where I can get a dial tone.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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