He’s tackled the prison system, consent and gangs. Now Louis Theroux wants to turn his filmmaking gaze on to Melania Trump.
Documentary maker Louis Theroux has never been afraid of a challenging subject. He has made films on Neo-Nazis in America, filmed two documentaries about Jimmy Savile and spent two weeks in the notorious San Quentin State Prison in California.
He also looked at consent and sexual misconduct on US university campuses for The Night in Question, and his forthcoming documentary Mothers on the Edge, out this month, is about postpartum psychosis.
Given the range of subjects he’s tackled, maybe it’s both surprising and completely believable that Theroux would now like to make a documentary about one of the most famous yet mysterious women in the world - Melania Trump.
President Donald Trump’s wife is often in the news, but it’s usually for negative reasons, such as her clothing choices. Remember the “I don’t care” jacket she wore to visit Texas facilities where migrant children separated from their parents are being detained? Or when she wore an outfit during a trip to Kenya that had strong colonialist connotations?
And what she’s said has been as much under the microscope as what’s worn – a speech Trump gave to the United Nations was criticised for being allegedly plagiarised in part from a speech by Michelle Obama, and Trump came under fire for comments during an interview where she said victims of #MeToo need to be heard but must “show the evidence”.
During that same interview, Trump said that she feels like she’s “the most bullied person in the world”, and it’s perhaps this that makes her a subject Theroux would like to explore in a documentary.
The Independent reported that Theroux called Trump a “prisoner”, saying: “You would sort of film with her in this kind of gilded cage that she inhabits,” he said.
It’s not the first time a comment like this has been made about Trump. Following a trip to the United States, Brigitte Macron, the First Lady of France, expressed surprise at how “Melania cannot do anything” and is trapped in the White House. And the internet has also long been fascinated with the idea of Trump as a victim, using clips of her refusing to hold hands (again) with her husband or a smile slipping off her face after President Trump looks away from her as evidence. Then there was the time the First Lady’s official Twitter account liked a tweet that belittled the Trumps’ marriage. All of these have led to many questions about Trump, and it’s those questions that Theroux wants to answer.
He said the documentary would address whether Trump could “have known what she was signing on for” and said: “Did she just think she was marrying a billionaire, who she thought was perhaps quite funny, and interesting?”
He continued: “Maybe not physically attractive, but that he could provide her with certain lifestyle, introduce her to a world that was interesting?
“And then now, she’s a prisoner of – I mean, I’m speaking hypothetically because we don’t really know, do we – but she’s a metaphorical prisoner of that lifestyle.”
There’s no denying that Trump would make a fascinating subject for a documentary, but it’s highly unlikely that the White House would grant Theroux the access he’d need while President Trump is still in office to make a truly brilliant film. Perhaps once the Trumps are out of office, Theroux can revisit the idea? In the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing Theroux tackle many more difficult topics with bravery and honesty.
Mothers on the Edge will air on BBC2 in May 2019.