Though many may be meeting the figure of Robert Durst for the first time through the HBO documentary miniseries "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," some may have a passing familiarity with his story via the 2010 feature film "All Good Things." Ryan Gosling played a thinly fictionalized version of Durst in the film, which was directed by Andrew Jarecki, who has also made "The Jinx."
Gosling was curious to hear more about "The Jinx" as he chatted recently about his upcoming debut as writer and director, "Lost River," which will have its U.S. premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
In "All Good Things," Gosling played a character named David Marks. The character was quite expressly based on Durst, the troubled scion of a wealthy New York City real estate family, a man who now lives in the long shadow of the 1982 vanishing of his first wife in New York, the 2000 killing of a female friend in Los Angeles and the 2001 death and dismemberment of a neighbor in Galveston, Texas.
So, does Gosling think Durst did it?
"Oh, boy. How can you know? You can't," he said at a Los Feliz bistro. "He's a very complicated guy. He either did or he didn't. And even if all of it or none of it or some of it might be true, there's just no way to really know. Maybe there's more being revealed in this documentary than we knew at the time that we made the film."
Gosling has not seen any of the six-part series yet; he's waiting for it to conclude so he can watch it all at once. (He can pace himself sometimes, he added. He's been watching the comedy series "Broad City" episode-to-episode this season but says he still prefers binge-watching.)
In the course of making "All Good Things," Gosling never met Durst. It was only as that film was about to come out that Durst and Jarecki at last made direct contact, setting in motion the events leading to the making of "The Jinx." Or as Gosling put it, "the saga continues."
"At that time I don't think anyone knew he would be as agreeable to this as he is," Gosling said of Durst and "All Good Things." "I think seeing the film, seeing the perspective on him, that it wasn't trying to judge him, it was trying to understand him. Maybe that helped sort of pave the way.
"It's a fascinating story," he added. "We wanted to try to tell that story but obviously not pretend to know the heart of the man or the mind of the man. I think a little distance there gave us some room to work."
It perhaps speaks to how unusual the scenario between filmmaker and subject is regarding "The Jinx" that even with Gosling's perspective on Durst and Jarecki, he doesn't seem to have any advantage in understanding the dynamic.
"I think Andrew was in a different place with the story at that time," Gosling said. "First of all, to play real people, but also we'll never know the truth. How do you approach that? I thought Andrew did such a great job with 'Capturing the Friedmans' of doing that in a way I hadn't really seen. And we tried that with the film. But I think it's great he's making this. He's the only person that could tell Robert's story."