SALT LAKE City – Jared Hess, the director of cult classic Napoleon Dynamite (which was filmed in Preston, Idaho and launched his career) and the director of Nacho Libre as well as other comedies, has moved into a new, more serious cinematic genre.
Hess and another film director, Tyler Meason, are making a three-part docuseries that releases March 3 for Netflix, titled “Murder Among the Mormons.”
It all starts in Salt Lake City in 1985. “A series of pipe bombs kill two people and severely injures another, jolting the epicenter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The murders send further shockwaves through the community when a trove of early Mormon letters and diaries are found destroyed in the vehicle of the third victim, Mark Hofmann, a renowned collector of rare documents, including the infamous White Salamander Letter — an artifact whose contents threatened to shake the very foundations of Mormonism,” a release about the series explains.
“The series is about Hoffman, the master forger, and the bombings that occurred in the mid-80’s,” Hess said. “The series drops on March 3, and we have his full confession. You hear in detail his methods and motives.”
Hess said the buzz around the film and from the people at Netflix has been positive. He and Meason are both active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and came from the same film school, Hess said. They have been friends for a long time. Meason is also an award-winning filmmaker having worked on films like the Sons of Perdition, An Honest Liar and more.
Mark William Hofmann was one of the most successful and accomplished counterfeiters and forgers in U.S. history. He later became a convicted murderer when his bombs killed two people while trying to cover his schemes.
Hofmann was especially noted for his creation of documents relating to the history of the Latter-day Saint movement.
After killing two people on October 15, 1985 Hoffman accidentally had a third bomb go off in his car the next day.
The bomb going off in his car it made him the number one suspect in the other murders. He is still serving a life sentence in the Utah State Prison.
“I’ve been a Mormon History buff forever and this is such a unique story,” Hess said. “Even though I was young when the bombings happened, I have talked to people that were participants in it one way or another.”
Hoffman forged documents that could have changed the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was selling his forgeries for millions of dollars.
“Fifteen years ago, I started reading books on Mark Hoffman and his forgeries,” Hess added. “It’s been incubating for a long time. Tyler and I both have different backgrounds that we bring to the project.”
He said it is amazing people outside of Utah didn’t know too much about it and people in Utah are really astonished at what happened 35 years ago.
“We were able to find some of the original news footage and for people familiar with Salt Lake it is very enlightening,” Hess said. “I started finding myself watching documentaries and I love the genre and this was the perfect story to tell.”
The Preston High School graduate hopes this series will open doors for future documentaries.
Jared Hess and his wife Jerusha Hess are also adapting a screenplay based on a children’s book by Aaron Blabey, Thelma the Unicorn, into an upcoming animated feature for Netflix.
See the trailer for the Neflix docuseries here: