Real life is often stranger than fiction and some real-life characters far more obscure, sinister and twisted than any ever written for the screen. That is definitely true of Robert Durst, the wayward son of a New York real estate dynasty worth a reported $8 billion, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 78 while serving a life sentence for the execution-style shooting of his longtime best friend, Susan Berman. At the time of his death, the eccentric Manhattanite was also facing criminal charges for the 1982 murder of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack. But incredibly, those two deaths are not the only ones attributed to the infamous scion! Durst also stood trial – and was found not guilty – for the 2001 shooting and subsequent dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black, an act he carried out while living in hiding as a mute female in Galveston, Texas and which he inexplicably claimed was self-defense. Stranger than fiction, indeed!
So it’s no surprise that the bizarre story has made its way to the screen in several forms, including a handful of “Law & Order” episodes, a Lifetime Original Movie and the thriller “All Good Things.” Released in 2010, the latter tells a somewhat fictionalized version of Durst’s life, with Ryan Gosling stepping into the role of Robert counterpart David Marks and Kirsten Dunst playing his loving, ill-fated young wife, Katie McCarthy. The film was directed by Andrew Jarecki, who was also behind the esteemed true-crime documentaries “Capturing the Friedmans” and “Catfish,” but is most famous for his other Durst endeavor, “The Jinx.” It is thanks to the 2015 docuseries (streaming now on HBO Max) that the murderous heir was finally arrested after Jarecki caught him confessing to his many killings off-camera via a hot mic. Interestingly though, without “All Good Things,” there would never have been “The Jinx.”
In the docuseries, Andrew explains that he was drawn to “All Good Things” because he wanted to “make a movie that Robert Durst himself could sit and watch and have an emotional reaction to.” Well, mission accomplished! Shortly after the film debuted, Robert contacted Jarecki and, against the advice of his lawyers and pretty much anyone else with half a brain, offered to sit for an interview with the director to finally tell his side of the story. Jarecki wound up compiling more than 20 hours of footage of the typically reclusive Durst, the result of which is “The Jinx.”
While “All Good Things” often gets lost in the many chapters of the twisted saga, it makes for a compelling watch. Named after the Vermont health food store that Bob and Kathleen ran in the early years of their relationship, the film closely follows actual events – so much so that Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey sought to use it as evidence in the Berman trial. A 2018 motion regarding the matter rather sardonically summed things up by stating, “The Defendant, through his admissions, has adopted the truth of allegations presented in the movie . . . after reading the script and watching this movie, Defendant did not sue the production company for slander, nor did he object to how the movie portrayed him. Instead, he contacted the director and expressed how much he had enjoyed the film and agreed to sit for a series of interviews, including the DVD commentary for the movie. When Defendant was asked on camera about his feelings about a film which had alleged that he had murdered three people and a dog, he responded, not with denials, but by stating, ‘I felt the movie was very, very, very close in much of the ways about what, pretty much, happened.’” You honestly can’t make this stuff up!
At the center of both the real story and its cinematic counterpart is the idyllic lakehouse Durst purchased after abandoning the health food store to work for his family’s business.
Said to be at 24 Lobel St. in South Salem, the movie version of the abode can actually be found in Brookfield, Connecticut, on the shores of Lake Lillinonah at 38 Lillinonah Dr.