Arts, Culture & Media

‘American Animals’: Bart Layton’s new breed of true crime

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Director Bart Layton with Barry Keoghan as Spencer.

Director Bart Layton with Barry Keoghan as Spencer.


Wilson Webb / The Orchard

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.” 

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.”

Check out a longer version of Kurt's conversation with Bart Layton on our podcast.

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