Why did Timothy Leary, the High Priest of LSD, become a narc in 1974—abandoning the millions he urged to turn on, tune in, and drop out? Was his “perfect love” Joanna Harcourt-Smith a government pawn? Or was she simply a rich, beautiful, young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime? Looking back, Joanna doesn’t know. In My Psychedelic Love Story, Errol Morris and Joanna Harcourt-Smith reexamine this chaotic period of her life and explore the dark side of the Timothy Leary saga: his period of exile, reimprisonment, and subsequent cooperation with the authorities.
“I had met Timothy Leary just before he died. I was amazed,” Morris says, with perhaps a touch of his dry humor, during a panel for his film at Deadline’s Contenders Documentary awards-season event.
“Of all the people I have met over the years I’ve never known anyone who actually radiated light. He was luminescent.” - Erol Morris on Timothy Leary
Eventually Joanna Harcourt-Smith came to feel betrayed by Leary and suspicious that the CIA had used her to discredit the Harvard psychologist.
“The whole movie, the whole enterprise, My Psychedelic Love Story, is about her quest to figure out who, in fact, she is and how she might or might not have been used in entrapping Leary. It’s an odyssey of self-discovery, if you like.” - Morris on the film's protagonist Joanna Harcourt-Smith
Morris said Harcourt-Smith got to see the film before her death in October 2020.
“I was told she watched it four or five, six times the week that she died and she loved the movie,” Morris says. “To me, that’s an enormous reward in and of itself.”