Louis Theroux has tackled all sorts of taxing hobbies in the name of journalism, from UFO-hunting and body building to recording a rap single. But now his latest interviewee Anthony Joshua has inspired him to take up boxing – and he wants Talk TV host Piers Morgan as his first opponent.
The documentarian is returning for a second round of BBC Two’s Louis Theroux Interviews, chatting to heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in the series debut and declares he’d take Piers on in a celebrity match, and is already trash talking about Piers’ weight. Addressing his brave comment, Louis says: “It would be stressful having a fight with Piers Morgan – the stressful part is he might even do it.
“He is quite big though, isn’t he? Which can be misleading. Do you remember when [TV personality] Grant Bovey went up against Ricky Gervais in a celebrity boxing match? Ricky duffed up Grant – who was the skinny, fit one in appearance. So it might be my Grant Bovey moment. The offer still stands though.”
After a successful first run of Louis Theroux Interviews, the 53-year-old is back to unpack the UK’s biggest personalities, sitting down with Hollywood star Joan Collins, Top Boy’s Ashley Walters and singer Raye to name a few.
Stepping into the ring for a chat with AJ proved to be tougher than expected after Louis struggled to uncover his vulnerable side. “He’s someone who has a sense of how he needs to express himself which is vaguely rooted in self-empowerment and self-help ways of thinking,” he says.
He adds that he wanted to address the “elephant” in the boxing ring – the medical side effects that come with the sport, such as memory problems and brain injuries. “He seems appropriately concerned about the long-term health consequences but if anything more bruised by the feeling of judgement and the weight of expectation that he’s saddled with.”
Louis isn’t afraid to shy away from the more tender topics, from Raye’s traumatic experiences in the music industry to transgender whistle-blower Chelsea Manning’s time in prison for leaking classified documents. “There were a few moments [with Chelsea] of conflict or high emotion,” he admits. “She’s been through a lot – she bears the scars of not just her upbringing but being incarcerated for seven years and kept in solitary confinement for a lot of that.”
Meanwhile, in his chat with Libertines frontman Pete Doherty, Louis brings up his drug addiction and the 2006 death of actor Mark Blanco – who fell to his death from a first-floor balcony after an argument with the singer.
“I was surprised that [Pete]’s recovery still seemed precarious and by his level of openness. He deflects a bit but I never felt like he was especially unwilling to talk about stuff,” Louis says. “I did ask about the death of Mark Blanco – I felt he was truthful emotionally. He understands Mark’s mum Sheila would feel the way any mother would in those circumstances, but the idea that he had something to do with [his death] is unfair.”
It’s not all doom and gloom however. “I think the goal is to see people clearly and explore their vulnerability but alongside that, it’s just as important to have moments of lightness and humour,” Louis says. “And sometimes that’s as difficult, if not more difficult, than being pulled into the more troubling areas of conversation.”
Louis gets to show off his rapping skills once again after the success of his ‘Jiggle Jiggle’ rap, which went viral earlier this year. Has his bigger public profile had a negative impact on his celebrity interviews? “I think it’s done the opposite – there’s a sense of goodwill that comes from people knowing who I am and liking what I do.
“Out of all of this series’ celebs, Chelsea Manning was the only one who had no clue who I was and in some ways, that was helpful to keep my ego in check,” he laughs.
And despite his calm and collected nature, Louis admits that he gets starstruck himself sometimes. “I think I can play it off but when I look at the footage, my face gives me away sometimes,” he sighs. “I prefer it when I’m respectful and appreciative, not this weird gurning fanboy.”
Since making his telly debut in 1992’s TV Nation, Louis reckons he’s certainly grown in confidence. “That’s a really big part of why I felt able to take on the first run of the show. Ten or 15 years ago, I would never have done it. I would have thought, ‘That’s too much pressure.’
“Now, I make a pretty good job of faking my way through it, which is basically the job,” he adds.
But can he fake his way through a fight with Piers? “To take that seriously, if it was three rounds now, I don’t want to have an actual physical fight with Piers Morgan. But I will do it if I have to,” he smiles.
Louis Theroux Interviews airs Tuesday 7th November at 9pm on BBC Two.
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