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Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, JT LeRoy

Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern scam the literary world in JT LeRoy movie


It was the notorious literary scandal long before the summer of scam, where one woman wrote under a pseudonym with a salacious life and another posed as the fictional figure IRL that garnered a legion of fans. Now, the story of JT LeRoy is coming to our screens, and the trailer is finally here.

JT LeRoy stars Laura Dern as Laura Albert, the Brooklyn writer behind the pseudonym, while Kristen Stewart is Savannah Knoop, the sister-in-law who plays LeRoy in public appearances. Albert wrote multiple books under the JT name, crafting the story of a teenage boy in West Virginia, working as a sex worker at truck stops. The film chronicles the beginnings of the deception Albert and Knoop orchestrated, and the glamour, adventure, and chaos that ensued.

As popularity grows for JT’s stories, which explore the dark aspects of the human experience from what people believe is a genuine point of view on poverty, sexual abuse and drugs, the media and readers demand to see JT in person. Desperate but also intrigued by what they could do, Albert conspires to dress Knoop up, have her don a wig, adjust her voice to sound like a teenage boy, and play the persona everyone demands. 

The duo were eventually exposed in 2006, when Stephen Beachy of New York Magazine revealed the elaborate set-up as a hoax. Albert was then charged with fraud.

“It was created the way an oyster creates a pearl: out of irritation and suffering,” Albert told the San Franciso Bay Guardian at the time. “It was an attempt to try to heal something. And it actually worked, and it did so for a lot of other people... It's OK with me if someone doesn't like my writing. But they shouldn't try to tell me how I'm obliged to present my work.”

One clip shows the scheme take them to Courtney Love’s home, where she highlights her interest in adapting one of JT’s story for a film. The trailer features some bad wigs, awkward press moments, and intense drama as the pair try to cover up their hoax.

The JT scandal has been the subject of documentaries, The Cult of JT LeRoy (2015), and Author: The JT LeRoy Story, which came out in 2016. The latter caused a lot of anger at the time, as people close to the story discovered they had been allegedly recorded in interactions with Albert and Knoop without their knowledge.

Directed by Justin Kelly, film is based on Knoop’s memoir, Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy. Knoop has also co-written the script. The film also co-stars Diane Kruger, who plays a fictionalised version of Asia Argento called Eva Avelin, who befriends Knoop unknowingly. Argento directed, co-wrote, and starred in a film adaptation of LeRoy’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Love, Jim Sturgess, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. appear in the film.

JT LeRoy will premiere in cinemas April 26