10 Surprising Facts About HBO’s ‘The Jinx’

Andrew Jarecki never planned to make a second season of ‘The Jinx.’ But he probably didn't expect to hear “Killed them all, of course” either.
Robert Durst in HBO's 'The Jinx.'
Robert Durst in HBO's 'The Jinx.' / Courtesy of HBO

HBO’s The Jinx has renewed everyone’s obsession with true crime documentaries with its unexpected season 2 follow-up. Nearly a decade after putting the story of real estate heir Robert Durst on the map (and our screens), the series has returned to captivate audiences once more, diving into the legal battle between Durst and prosecutors seeking justice for the murders of Susan Berman and Kathie Durst.

While we don’t know exactly how this story will end—and we’re not popping over to Wikipedia to spoil things before the season 2 finale airs on May 26—there are some fascinating behind-the-scenes details of the making of The Jinx that make watching this whole televised circus that much more interesting. From Ryan Gosling tie-ins to sibling rivalries and ongoing lawsuits, here are a few facts about The Jinx you need to know.

1. The Jinx first arrived on HBO nearly a decade ago.

Audiences might be devouring director Andrew Jarecki’s true crime documentary at the moment but the story of Robert Durst has graced our small screens before. In 2015, HBO premiered The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, a six-episode series that investigated the unsolved disappearance of Kathie Durst in 1982, drawing connections to the murder of Susan Berman in 2000 and the murder and dismemberment of Morris Black in 2001. In the show’s original run, Jarecki links Durst to all three killings (Kathie was his wife, Berman his best friend, and Black his neighbor) while giving background on the real estate heir’s troubled upbringing and the disturbing details of his time living as a mute woman in Texas.

2. In a way, Ryan Gosling helped make it happen.

Jarecki has been studying the life of Durst for decades. He grew up in the same area and with the same privilege as the tycoon-turned-convicted-felon, but his real fascination with Durst began when he signed on to direct the 2010 thriller, All Good Things. In the movie, Ryan Gosling plays David Marks (a fictional version of Durst) while Kirsten Dunst plays his wife, Katie (a stand-in for Kathie Durst). To help the actors better understand their real-life counterparts, Jarecki made a short documentary about Durst.

Durst himself was so impressed with the resulting feature that he contacted Jarecki to express his approval. He also agreed to give Jarecki an on-camera interview after the film premiered, parts of which were included in its DVD release. This was the genesis of The Jinx.

3. The so-called “cadaver note” launched a new murder investigation.

While Durst had long been a person of interest in the murders of both Kathie Durst and Susan, it was the documentary footage of Berman’s son finding a letter linking Durst to the infamous cadaver note that spurred his indictment. Before police found Berman’s body in her California home, an anonymous note was sent to law enforcement with Berman’s address and the word cadaver in block style lettering. The word Beverly had also been misspelled and both the handwriting and the note’s spelling mistakes matched up to a letter Durst sent to his friend earlier that year.

4. Prosecutors timed Robert Durst’s arrest to the season 1 finale.

Robert Durst
Robert Durst / Courtesy of HBO

Despite handing over evidence to the police once filming was done, Jarecki and his crew had no idea when authorities would act on what was revealed in The Jinxs footage. Prosecutors in the Durst case did know about the explosive accidental confession in the show’s sixth episode and they timed their arrest to the eve of the season 1 finale. Police suspected Durst would try to flee the country, which is exactly what audiences see him attempt to do in the season 2 premiere.

5. Andrew Jarecki never planned to make a second season of The Jinx.

After the initial success of The Jinx, Jarecki never planned to revisit the cases against Durst. But, with a new investigation and the willingness of Durst’s friends to finally talk to law enforcement, Jarecki knew he needed to document the legal follow-up.

“It was never an intention necessarily to come back and do more if this story didn’t warrant it,” Jarecki’s producing partner Zac Stuart-Pontier told USA Today. “But then once the trial started heating up and the arrest happened and some of Durst’s friends started flipping on him, the story just continued. It almost felt like a necessity to make more episodes.” The crew were eventually able to interview major witness (and Durst’s closest friend) Nick Chavin as well as Durst’s own defense team for season two.

6. The season 2 Susan Berman bombshell gives Durst a murder motive.

Susan Berman and Robert Durst
Susan Berman and Robert Durst / Courtesy of HBO

Season 2 of The Jinx, consisting of interviews with members of Durst’s inner circle as well as courtroom footage and recorded prison phone calls, posits a shocking new theory that ties Berman’s death to that of Kathie Durst, a medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at the time of her disappearance.

Prosecutors allege that Berman pretended to be Kathie, calling in sick for a hospital rotation and providing a timeline for Durst that ruled him out as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Phone recordings of Berman discussing Kathie’s disappearance were unearthed, showing she was instrumental in crafting a plausible reason for why Kathie went missing, helping Durst shore up his defense in the press. The revelation that Berman may have aided Durst in getting away with murder is also alleged to be the motive for why Durst killed her—he needed to tie up loose ends—but that same theory is a plot line in Jarecki’s fictional film, calling into question whether the movie influenced the doc in any way.

7. The Durst sibling rivalry almost turned deadly.

Robert Durst never really got along with his brother, Douglas Durst, as evidenced in season 1 of The Jinx when Douglas felt threatened by his sibling’s on-camera visits to his home. Douglas initially took Jarecki to court, claiming the docuseries painted his family in a bad light, but he dropped his lawsuit following his brother’s arrest. Douglas admitted to a tremendous sense of relief following his brother’s capture and actually thanked Jarecki for making the show, saying, “I no longer am looking over my shoulder. I’m very grateful to The Jinx for having brought this about.” Douglas even testified against his brother, alleging he was worried Robert would try to have him killed from jail.

8. Durst’s many medical complications were real.

Robert Durst attends court.
Robert Durst attends court. / HBO

Despite prosecutors suspecting Durst was playing up his various illnesses to engineer sympathy with the jury, it seems the real estate mogul truly was sick. He had battled esophageal cancer, had a spinal fusion, survived a bout with COVID that left him on a ventilator, and was fighting bladder cancer by the end of the Berman trial. His lawyers tried to get his case dismissed on medical grounds numerous times, appealing for delays and mistrials, but were denied.

Durst died on January 10, 2022, of a heart attack, but the show’s second season promises to deliver a resolution to the Berman trial before touching on Durst’s death.

9. Key witness Nick Chavin asked to be in season 2.

Nick Chavin
Nick Chavin / HBO

Nick Chavin proves to be a key witness for the prosecution in season two and the access he gave Jarecki was instrumental in getting the follow-up season filmed. But it was Chavin, not Jarecki, who pursued the on-camera interview.

“After Nick refused to be in the first season, I ran into him at Charlie Bagli’s retirement party, the New York Times writer who covered the Durst case,” Jarecki told The Hollywood Reporter. “And I said to him, ‘Hey, how you doing Nick?’ And he says, ‘Oh, how do you think I’m doing?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. How are you doing?’ And he said, ‘That was the biggest mistake of my life.’ And I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘If I had been in The Jinx, I would’ve been famous. It’s the biggest mistake I ever made.’ And I said, ‘All right, we’re doing it again.’ He said, ‘Really? All right, where do I sign up?’ So that’s what drove him to be in Part Two.”

10. Justice for Kathie Durst is still possible.

Kathie Durst
Kathie Durst / Courtesy of HBO

Despite Durst’s passing, the family of his first wife, Kathie, are still pursuing justice for her disappearance and presumed murder. The McCormack family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Durst’s estate, preventing his second wife, Debrah Charatan, from accessing the $100 million inheritance Bob left her. 

Read More About True Crime: