Errol Morris interview: ‘My Psychedelic Love Story’ director
While Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the subject of Errol Morris’s latest documentary, “My Psychedelic Love Story,” passed away in October from breast cancer, she was able to see the completed film before she passed. “I was privileged to show her the completed movie just before she died. She watched it, I’ve been told by her family, six or seven times the week of her death and she loved it,” Morris says in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). But even though Harcourt-Smith is no longer with us, Morris still finds her story to be immensely captivating. “It’s a great story and the story continues and I’m still writing about it. It still has its hooks in me.”
“My Psychedelic Love Story,” which is currently available to watch through Showtime, showcases the story of Harcourt-Smith and, in particular, her relationship with Dr. Timothy Leary from 1972 to 1977. The two met in Switzerland while Leary, who had been an advocate of the use of psychedelics like LSD, was wanted for escaping a California prison in 1970. Harcourt-Smith fell in love with Leary but he was extradited back to the U.S. shortly afterward. Harcourt-Smith then dedicated several years to advocating for Leary’s release from federal custody.
When asked about whether he thought some of Harcourt-Smith’s stories to be, literally, unbelievable, Morris was surprisingly candid about it. “Constantly! I sit there and listen to stories… that I still don’t completely understand,” he exclaims. While he did find himself questioning some of her claims about her encounters before meeting Leary, he did reference the uncertainty that both he and Harcourt-Smith had about the time following Leary’s forced return to the United States. “After they got back from Afghanistan, there are so many, many questions and so much moral ambiguity. It’s a very rich, puzzling, intricate story.”
Morris also touched on the experience he had when he won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2003 for “The Fog of War.” He recalls, “Someone asked me why win an Oscar and I said, ‘Well, you don’t have to feel bitter about not having won an Oscar, because you have.’” Morris also touched on the craziness that was involved in making the short film that opened the 75th Academy Awards that featured a bunch of people (both regular and celebrities) talking about their favorite movies. “The experience of having in the green room, at one time: Walter Cronkite, Jesse Norman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Iggy Pop and Donald Trump, that’s never going to happen again. It’s insane!”