Louis Theroux’s Hollywood star cousin, meeting Jimmy Savile, Joe Exotic and the Westboro Baptist Church

British-American documentary-film maker Louis Theroux has lead an interesting life so far and, at 51 years old, shows no sign of his best work being behind him.

We take a look into the life and work of Louis Theroux starting with some members of his family who you may not realize were his relatives.

famous family

Well, we say you may not realize, but they do have the same unusual surname so you might have known, really.

First up it’s movie-star and screenwriter Justin Theroux, best known for his roles in Girl on a Train and The Leftovers, he is the ex-husband of superstar Jennifer Aniston also Louis’s cousin on his dad’s side.

Louis and Justin spent time together in America when they were growing up.

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When Louis interviewed his movie-star cousin for the podcast, Grounded, they pair were heard to disagree on how to pronounce their shared last name:

“You go by ‘ther-oo’ and I go by ‘ther-oh’,” says Justin.

“Or to put it another way,” Louis responds, “I use the correct pronunciation, and you use some weird, incorrect one.”

But Louis is determined he’s correct, because the name is actually French. “If you want to get technical,” says Justin, “when you go to France, they say… ‘terr-oo’.

Other family members include his father Paul Theroux, Marcel Theroux (brother) and Alexander Theroux (uncle), all American novelists.

New documentary series: Forbidden America

Forbidden America: Extreme and Online is on Sunday, BBC at 9pm
Forbidden America is on BBC2

New documentary series Forbidden America, sees the documentary maker meet people who could be described as being on the fringes of US society.

Speaking to the BBC Theroux said he was aware of the criticism often leveled at him that he gives people with controversial views a bigger platform by interviewing them but said: “This phenomenon exists in the world, and by not reporting on it, it’s not going to go away.”

The new series is three episodes: One about young men with far-right views. Two will explore the issues of consent in the porn industry and three is about the impact of trap music, a genre of hip-hop that glorifies gun violence and drug use.

When Louis Met Jimmy

A remarkable documentary was aired in 2000. Theroux spent time with Jimmy Savile who was then 73 years old and described as Louis’ former childhood hero. Theroux spoke to him briefly about allegations of paedophilia which was all of course before the historic child abuse scandal broke in the wake of Savile’s death in 2011.

Louis decided to revisit and reflect upon his previous work in 2016 by speaking to victims and producers closely tied to Savile in a documentary titled: Louis Theroux: Savile.

The Westboro Baptist Church

The Most Hated in America
The Most Hated in America

One of Louis’s most memorable documentaries is The Most Hated Family in America (2007) and is subject matter he’s returned to several times throughout his career.

The film follows him as he spends time amongst members of the Westboro Baptist Church who are nearly all from one family and are known for extreme homophobia and picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers.

He returned in 2011 to make the film America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis.

And in 2020, he caught up online with Megan Phelps-Roper, one of the main characters from the documentaries who had since broken away from the church and was interviewed by Theroux to discuss her experiences.

He also made a film with Joe Exotic long before Netflix had success with Tiger King.

Louis meets Joe Exotic
Louis meets Joe Exotic

marriages and children

Theroux’s first marriage was to Susanna Kleeman from 1998 to 2001 but he told the Financial Times in an interview: “What happened was that my girlfriend was living with me in New York. She was having trouble finding work… legally. So we got married, to make it easier for her. We never really considered ourselves married in the full sense – there were no wedding photos or anything like that. It was really a marriage of convenience.”

Theroux married Nancy Strang in 2012. and they live in London with their three sons: Frederick, Walter and Albert.

Award winning documentaries

Theroux has made many films but the following ones he’s won awards for:

In 2001 he won a BAFTA for the Weird Weekends series.

In 2002 he won a BAFTA for When Louis Met… series.

In 2018 he won a BAFTA for Talking to Anorexia

And in 2010 he won a Royal Television Society Award for A Place for Paedophiles.

Louis Theroux’s Forbidden America: Extreme and Online will be shown on BBC2 on Sunday, February 13 at 9pm


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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