Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the seductive subject of Errol Morris’ Showtime documentary My Psychedelic Love Story, was enthralled by LSD guru Timothy Leary in the 1970s. It’s a feeling the Oscar winner could understand.
“I met Timothy Leary shortly before he died. I was amazed, ”says Morris with a touch of dry humor during a panel for his film at the . Contenders Documentary Awards season. “Of all the people I’ve met over the years, I’ve never known anyone who actually emitted light. It was shining. “
Harcourt-Smith and Leary were romantically linked in Europe, where Leary fled to escape US authorities. After Leary was caught and returned to America, she said to Morris, “She would have done anything to get him out of jail.” Even flying naked in a helicopter over Leary’s prison to take him to freedom, as Harcourt-Smith tells in the film.
Eventually she felt betrayed by Leary and suspicious that the CIA had used her to discredit the Harvard psychologist.
“The whole movie, the whole company, My Psychedelic Love Story, is about her quest to find out who she really is,” says Morris, “and how it may or may not have been used to trap Leary. It’s an odyssey of self-discovery if you want. “
Morris said Harcourt-Smith saw the film before her death in October 2020.
“I was told she saw it four or five times, six times in the week she died, and she loved the movie,” says Morris. “For me, this is an enormous reward in itself.”