Celebrated US documentary film-maker Errol Morris is being sued by Joyce McKinney, the ex-beauty queen subject of his recent film Tabloid (released in the UK later this week by Dogwoof).
Morris, currently in London, was served with legal papers during a screening of Tabloid in the UK last week.
The film tells the story of Joyce McKinney, the young-ex-model with the very high IQ who, back in the 1970s, kidnapped the Mormon priest she loved. In the process, she became the target of the British tabloid press.
Speaking to ScreenDaily on Monday, Morris didn’t seem unduly worried by McKinney’s surprise legal action against him.
“I’ve been told not to speak about it but I can say a couple of things,” Morris told Screen. “Joyce McKinney has been litigious over the years. I am not the first person to be sued by her and probably will not be the last.”
The director said that, in Tabloid, he had tried to create a “respectful” portrait of McKinney.
“The allegations, if I understand them correctly, that I have defamed her I just believe is completely untrue.”
Morris said that the ongoing legal spat should have no effect on the UK release. He pointed out that Tabloid has already shown widely on the festival circuit and has also been in distribution in the US since last summer. He also remarked that McKinney has appeared at various festivals where Tabloid showed.
“In at least two instances, she appeared with me at screenings – in fact, three screenings I can think of,” Morris said. “I can’t tell you what her underlying motivation might be. I don’t know.”
Asked what he felt about McKinney, Morris responded: “I like her. I’ve always liked her. I feel I have created a very respectful portrait of Joyce…a fond – and I would go so far as to say – loving portrait of Joyce.”
Morris also revealed further details of his forthcoming film projects.
One documentary he has already been shooting (with support from Jeff Skoll’s Participant) is an adaptation of Richard Preston’s book, The Demon In The Freezer. He describes this as a “hybrid” film that will include interviews and dramatic scenes.
The book is about the development of biological weapons, in particular smallpox and anthrax. Preston is working with Morris on the film which, he says, has material “among the best I’ve ever shot.”
Another new project will be a full blown dramatic feature film which Morris will be making in collaboration with US radio personality, Ira Glass. This is a film based on an episode of Glass’s celebrated NPR radio documentary show This American Life. Christopher Walken, Paul Rudd and Kristen Wiig are attached to the project. “It was developed at Mandate and now we are looking for additional financing,” Morris said.