The story of JT LeRoy, the fictional persona and nom de plume of San Francisco kook Laura Albert, feels vaguely embarrassing now, even more than it did when local writer Stephen Beachy first broke the story of this literary hoax in 2005 in New York Magazine. Now, 11 years on, there's a movie in the works, as Variety tells us, possibly titled JT LeRoy.
The film is based on the 2011 memoir and life rights of Savannah Knoop, Albert's sister-in-law who was made to don wigs and pretend to be LeRoy at a couple of public appearances in the early aughts, and it's being directed by Justin Kelly who made last year's I Am Michael, starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto. Like that film, which focused on embattled "ex-gay" writer and onetime gay magazine editor Michael Glatze, JT LeRoy will tell a sort of LGBT-adjacent story namely that of a cis woman pretending to be a transgender woman who is actually the literary creation of a frustrated novelist who is herself a woman.
As the Hollywood Reporter puts it, it's going to be a "Hollywood-set transgender story" with Kristen Stewart starring as Knoop, Helena Bonham Carter as Albert, and James Franco as Albert's former partner, Geoffrey Knoop (they were never actually married, but were together 16 years, until the JT LeRoy ruse essentially destroyed their relationship, and he helped with Albert's outing in 2006).
The creation of JT (Jeremy "Terminator") LeRoy began with a phone call to gay writer Dennis Cooper in 1996. Albert created the persona of a troubled, HIV-positive, trans teen prostitute hanging around West Virginia truck stops who sounded like a character straight out of one of Cooper's dark novels. Albert created the character specifically to appeal to Cooper, and while many people praised the writing Albert created out of this persona the novels Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold's End things got weird after the ruse came to light and celebrities like Courtney Love, Lou Reed, and Garbage singer Shirley Manson all realized that they'd been tricked into having phone conversations with this imposter who was really a 39-year-old woman. As pressure mounted for JT to make public appearances and sign books, Albert roped her young sister-in-law into the role.
Part of what made Albert's story interesting was how she tapped into the culture's and the literary world's hunger for "real" stories, especially gritty memoirs, and it was LeRoy's intense backstory as the child of an emotionally disturbed truck stop prostitute, and a prostitute himself though the character identified as possibly transgender, he tended to stick to male pronouns, and the name Jeremy or Jeremiah that sold books more than the quality of the books themselves.
Below, Albert told the story of her and her "avatar" JT, four years after being outed, to an audience at The Moth in 2010.