Bart Layton’s “The Imposter,” which has been doing solid business in New York and opens in Los Angeles on August 3, follows the unbelievable deceptions of one Frederic Bourdin, who impersonated missing Texan child Nicholas Barclay in the mid-’90s, and was taken in by Barclay’s family as their abducted son, despite the fact that Bourdin was years too old to be Barclay and looked nothing like him. But even after being incarcerated, Bourdin was able to keep journalists running in circles, as Christine Spines attests in her fascinating feature for Word & Film.
In 1998, Spines and many other reporters received cell-block phone calls from Bourdin, in which he promised them exclusive access to his tell-all version of the story, told them of his long-suffering childhood without a stable family structure (hence his need for a “surrogate” family, like the Barclays) and — most importantly — that he could lead them to the location of an international child prostitution ring. This all turned out to be bullshit, but Bourdin’s powers of manipulation were no joke. Even after Spines went cold-turkey from Bourdin’s steady stream of fabrications, she still received pleading calls from him for weeks. (Check out her full article on the ordeal here and TOH on the art of the mystery doc here.)
In 2008, David Grann managed to gain a lengthy, corroboratable interview with Bourdin, which turned into a 13-page New Yorker profile of the serial imposter, who had moved to Brittany and married after both his stint in the Texas prison system and his attempt to re-start his child-impersonating career in Europe.
Now, with the West Coast roll-out of “The Imposter” via Indomina Releasing, Bourdin remains tricky as always by posting a YouTube review of the film, asking viewers not to judge him, and that Layton et al have made Bourdin’s story to “look like what they want.” Watch below.