Louis Theroux on his book Theroux The Keyhole: Diaries of a Grounded Documentary Maker

Virgin Radio

11 Nov 2021, 10:47

Louis Theroux at Virgin Radio

Louis Theroux at Virgin Radio

The documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer and broadcaster joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about his latest book, which is an honest, funny and heart-warming diary of family life during Covid.

Theroux The Keyhole: Diaries of a Grounded Documentary Maker is out today. Louis told Chris: “My intention was to try and be as figuratively naked as possible, to try and confess to my most undignified side, and there was plenty of that in lockdown, for sure. As a dad to three boys, as a husband to a wonderful wife, but definitely I was the lowest on the totem pole on the family front, and I wanted to make myself an object of study, in a way.”

Louis added: “Having been deprived of my normal journalistic feeding grounds, unable to fly, I had three projects more-or-less mothballed at the beginning of lockdown, I thought, well, I need to feed on something as an object of enquiry, and then found myself and family life as a subject of interest.”

When talking further about opening up his life in the new book, the author said: “I used to be precious about being the public eye, and going back years, when I did When Louis Meets, about people like Jimmy Savile and Paul Daniels, I used to think, ‘I need to be invisible. I can’t have a profile’, so I didn’t do much in the way of press, I didn’t do much in the way of self-revelation, and then as time went on, I crept out from behind the screen, gradually. And now I’m flinging myself in the eyeline of the public, saying, ‘Here it is, this is what I am.’ 

“I don’t have many secrets. Basically, my vices are probably the obvious ones of drinking too much, and being an insensitive man, in various respects. But I think that owning up to that is a public service of sorts, at least that’s what I’ve persuaded myself.” 

Touching more on his alcohol intake during lockdown, Louis said: “Comparing it with student years, the difference here, of course, was that 90 percent of the alcohol was consumed in the kitchen, sometimes while hiding from the family! On Mondays and Tuesdays, the sort of non-drinking days of the week!”

Remembering back to the start of the pandemic, the 51-year-old said: “It was that weird feeling, if you can cast your mind back, of, ‘What’s going on here?’ It’s on the news, the Government is saying don’t go into work, we weren’t quite in lockdown, but it was being suggested. It was this feeling of a gathering storm. It felt slightly unreal, because none of us knew anyone in the UK who was ill, because it hadn’t really hit our shores. It was just in the offing. And there was this sort of weird, frisson of excitement about it, like, ‘Oh, this is all different.’ A bit like at school when an alarm would go off, and you didn’t think, ‘Oh, we’re all going to be burned down,’ you thought, ‘Oh wow, the lesson has been disrupted. We’re all going to have to march out, and something different is going on.’

“What struck me about the whole pandemic was that, actually, it was almost a side-effect of a kind of greater virality of interconnectedness. In suffering, struggling, and enjoying aspects of lockdown, we were all victimised in different ways, not just by the virus, but also by things like global warming, and tech.”

Louis continued: “Tech is a theme in the book. The way in which our apps and our phones are increasingly controlling us, and so I suppose I’m trying to make a greater point, as we emerge from the Coronavirus and return to normal, for me the takeaway is, let’s not forget that we are, in different ways, still enduring and struggling what is a side-effect of the human condition as it exists in 2021.

“What struck me in lockdown was we all relied so much on laptops, phones, apps, different kinds of software. We were using them, but they were using us. I don’t want to sound all techno neo-luddite and paranoid, but I don’t think there is any doubt that we have become interdependent with machinery in a way that is, to some extent, irreversible - I don’t see us getting off that any time soon - and which has effects that we haven’t really fully gained out and understood." 

Speaking of tech, Louis told Chris that he would love to make a documentary about billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. “He’d be number one, I think, when you think about dream candidates. He’s like a figure from a Marvel comic, isn’t he?” Louis suggested.

“He’s Iron Man with a touch of Doc Ock. His Iron Man is the hero side, but he might also be one of those villains who by night has been ingested by his machinery. His new idea is brain chips. We’re all going to have brain chips. I don’t think we’re going to be forced to have them, but sort of cognitive enhancements that turn us into androids, and his point is that we’re already androids, because we rely so much on our phones.”

Louis has been assigned Executive Producer on the upcoming BBC One documentary, Joe Wicks: Mental Health, My Family And Me. He told Chris that the fitness expert’s online workouts really helped him through lockdown. Indeed, alongside a Nietzsche quote, Joe’s statement "Never easy, burpees. Never easy," features on the Epigraph page of Louis’ new book. “He’s the one, more than anything else, who made the whole experience, not just bearable, but self-improving,” Louis admitted. “I’d always had this fantasy, in the last 10 or 15 years, of, ‘One day I’m going to get fit. One day. Not now. Maybe I’ll take a couple of weeks off and go to a health farm. One day I’ll sort it all out. Not now... maybe in a few months’.

“And then in lockdown, when the first Joe Wicks workout took place, my wife alerted me to it, and we all got out there as a family, me and the three boys and my wife, and we did it. 

“My wife stopped doing it. My kids stopped doing intermittently, but I kept at it, more or less five or six days a week.

“Not only did I physically look and feel better, but mentally, I found it like a huge charge… the positive effects on my outlook and my temperament were immense.

“I’m not going to say I’m ripped. It’s not for me to say, but people say that I look better.”

Louis added: “At the beginning of lockdown, I said, ‘I’m going to come out of lockdown like a prisoner coming out of the hole, with a six-pack and a bad attitude’, and now I feel like I’ve got my six-pack and a positive attitude, and every day I think, ‘I wonder if I should tweet myself with my shirt off, showing off my six-pack?’ And then I think, ‘No that’s not who you are Louis. Stop it!’”

Theroux The Keyhole: Diaries Of A Grounded Documentary Maker is out today.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.