Timothy Leary’s longtime partner Joanna Harcourt-Smith recalls one of her early trips with the acid advocate in the first look at Errol Morris’ upcoming documentary on Leary, set to premiere on Showtime later this year.
The as-yet-titled film was inspired by Harcourt-Smith’s memoir, Tripping the Bardo With Timothy Leary: My Psychedelic Love Story, and centers around the question of why Leary turned away from psychedelics in the Seventies and began to work with federal agents.
Per a statement: “Was [Leary’s] ‘perfect love’ Joanna Harcourt-Smith a government pawn, as suggested by Allen Ginsberg? Or was she simply a rich, beautiful, young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime? Morris and Harcourt-Smith will re-examine this chaotic period of her life and explore the mystery of the Leary saga: his period of exile, re-imprisonment, and subsequent cooperation with the authorities. Devotion or selfishness? Perfect love or outright betrayal? Destiny or manipulation?”
In the new clip from the documentary, Harcourt-Smith fondly remembers receiving an invitation to Leary’s home and being rather awed by the canary-yellow Porsche in his driveway. “This man is hip,” Harcourt-Smith says with a laugh, “maybe hip enough for me!”
While there were other people with them, Harcourt-Smith remembers having only enough acid for herself and Leary, and she goes on to share what seems to be a particularly vivid memory from their trip together: “He said to me, ‘You’ve come to free me.’ I thought, ‘OK.’ I didn’t really understand what he meant. But I knew we were bonded, truly bonded from that moment.”
In a statement, Morris called the upcoming film a “dream project,” adding, “I’m always looking for alternative ways into a story. You never want to go through the front door. Or even the back door. Much better to find an attic window that has been left ajar. Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who had a love affair with Timothy Leary, wrote a book detailing how they met, how they fell in love, how they took drugs together, how he ended up in prison. And then something surprising happened. I found Joanna as interesting as Timothy Leary, perhaps even more so. It was a way to tell a story about the Seventies in a powerful and unexpected way.”