Filmmaker Bart Layton talks about his genre-bending film American Animals.

Making an Audacious Movie About an Audacious Art Heist

Making an Audacious Movie About an Audacious Art Heist

The Peabody Award–winning show from PRI.
May 29 2018 9:32 AM

American Animals: Bart Layton’s New Breed of True Crime

How filmmaker Bart Layton blurred the line between a feature and a documentary to create American Animals.

Director Bart Layton with Barry Keoghan as Spencer in American Animals.
Director Bart Layton with Barry Keoghan as Spencer in American Animals.

Wilson Webb/The Orchard

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In 2012, Bart Layton made his directorial debut with The Imposter—an ambitious true-crime story that mixes documentary and narrative filmmaking. His latest movie further blurs the lines between fiction and reality: American Animals depicts a 2004 book heist by interspersing interviews with real people and the fictionalized version of the events. “I found myself thinking maybe there’s a new way to tell a true story,” Bart Layton tells Kurt Andersen. “Where you kind of get to have your cake and eat it.”

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Layton breaks down how he made one of the inventive, meta moments of the film and discusses the possible motivations behind the senseless crime. “We’re all inhabiting a culture where we’re told that we have to be special,” he says. “It came from a place of wanting to leave a mark on the world.”

American Animals opens in theaters on Friday.

This podcast was produced by Studio 360's Sam Kim.

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