‘The Voyeur’s Motel’: Gay Talese Disputes Sam Mendes’ Reason For Axing Film

Peter Bart
Deadline

It’s the deal that blew away, but no one agrees on why. The million-dollar deal for The Voyeur’s Motel involved such high-profile players as Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Jason Blum and Gay Talese, but now it has disappeared into a rabbit hole.

The project started as a 15,000-word article in The New Yorker by Talese about his experience with a Colorado voyeur who bought a motel and renovated it to allow him to watch his guests having sex. Then it grew into a book, which DreamWorks acquired and assigned to Mendes, with Spielberg’s blessing. After developing a script, however, Mendes saw a documentary called Gay Talese and the Voyeur that was developed with Talese’s cooperation. He then canceled his film deal. Meanwhile, producer Blum acquired the doc, which he plans to release.

But Talese argues that the documentary is about him as a working journalist and about his writing process but does not directly tell the story of the voyeur. Indeed, Talese insists its point of view is totally different from that of the Mendes project. Therefore, he believes the movie deal should not have been axed.

Talese’s earlier book, Thy Neighbor’s Wife, was acquired by UA in 1980 for $2.5 million to be directed by Billy Friedkin, but it was never made. That book, too, had a strongly sexual subtext.

While the DreamWorks deal engineered by Lynn Nesbitt now has been canceled, Blum is moving ahead with the release of the documentary about the Voyeur’s Motel – or about its creation. He could not be reached for comment.

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