How 'The Jinx' Landed Robert Durst Pal Nick Chavin for 'Part Two'


[The following story contains spoilers from the first two episodes of The Jinx — Part Two.]

In The Jinx — Part Two, John Lewin, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney investigating whether Robert Durst killed Susan Berman, recalls the moment he knew he might get a key witness to turn on his close friend.

Nick Chavin, who is described as the third member in the once-tight trio of Durst and Berman, is heard on a phone call in the HBO series where Lewin asks if he thinks his best friend Durst killed his other best friend Berman. “That’s one I’m not gonna answer,” Chavin answered.

“I did not know what Nick knew. But I thought that he had very damaging information, that he was conflicted about it and wasn’t ready to talk,” Lewin tells the filmmakers in Sunday’s second episode of Part Two, the follow-up to HBO’s shocking 2015 true-crime series.

The premiere of Part Two helped establish the timeline of the Durst case by telling viewers that The Jinx filmmakers first handed over evidence in 2013, which led Lewin to reopen the cold case investigation into Berman’s murder. Durst’s close friend Berman was shot dead execution-style in December 2000, and part one ultimately pulled a recorded confession out of Durst (who said, “Killed them all, of course”), which kicked off the remarkable series of events that would lead to his arrest and, ultimately, his conviction for Berman’s murder.

The Jinx director Andrew Jarecki and executive producer Zac Stuart-Pontier recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the biggest difference when making Part Two — which is now airing weekly on Sunday nights nine years after the shocking bathroom confession in the part one finale — was that participants wanted to speak to them for the first series. This time around, that was a much bigger challenge.

“A lot of people in part one wanted to participate. Bob Durst volunteered to be interviewed. And a lot of his friends wanted to be there and support him and say good things about him, and other people wanted to make their points and say how frustrated they were by him. People really had a desire to be in it,” Jarecki explained. “And people don’t want to be in Part Two.

The exception to that, however, was Chavin.

When speaking to reporters ahead of The Jinx — Part Two‘s release, including THR, Jarecki and Stuart-Pontier revealed that Chavin actually approached him to express his regret over not participating in part one, which had made Durst a household name, and provided additional background to what viewers see in Part Two.

“We almost interviewed him as part of season one. And a whole bunch of stuff happened to not let that happen,” said Stuart-Pontier of Chavin and Jarecki corresponding during the making of part one.

“When Nick Chavin first was talking to us, you can tell, if you’ve seen [Part Two], he’s obsessed with fame,” added Jarecki of Chavin, who aspired to be a famous musician, under the stage name Nick “Chinga” Chavin, before his eventual career in real estate advertising. “He can’t think of anything else. If there’s a camera or a paparazzo outside a hotel, he’ll go stand in front of him hoping that he won’t take a picture of Tom Cruise and he’ll only take a picture of Nick Chavin. So, he loved the idea of being filmed.”

Nick Chavin, Susan Berman and Robert Durst.

HBO

But when the filmmakers arrived to interview Chavin for part one as a friend of Durst’s, Chavin changed his mind. Later, Chavin explained to Jarecki that his hesitance was over his business relationship with the Durst Organization. “Nick was in the advertising business, the real estate advertising business, and Bob had sort of given him his first gig because the Durst organization is this huge advertiser,” explained Jarecki.

“Douglas Durst, Bob’s brother, was very anxious about us making a film about Bob that might make them look bad and various things. [Nick] called Douglas and he said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I’m going to be doing an interview with these guys making this film about Bob.’ And Douglas said, ‘Over my dead body. If you do that, you’re not going to get any business from us ever again.’ And so Nick was manipulated by Douglas because Douglas didn’t want the story out there,” said Jarecki, before adding, “So it was another example of something that would change over time.”

In Part Two, Chavin further explained his hesitation.

“I didn’t want to get involved in this trial. But I’ve never abandoned my feelings for Bob, which drove my wife up the walls,” he said of his wife Teresa Chavin’s influence. “What do you do when your best friend kills your other best friend? Loyalty is due to Susan. But it’s also due to Bob.”

As it turns out, Teresa ended up contacting Lewin to say that Chavin had information about Durst that would be helpful to the case. Though she didn’t share what that was, Lewin says they ambushed Chavin with that fact and the second episode ends with Chavin contacting Lewin and coming to the realization: “I’ve got to stop protecting Bob. Friendships die hard.”

The real-life trial events will spoil what Chavin ultimately reveals, which comes in the next episode that drops on Sunday. Chavin was identified in 2017 as a secret witness in the Berman trial, and his bombshell testimony that Durst confessed to him to killing Berman helped lead to Durst’s guilty verdict. Chavin testified that Durst told him after a 2014 dinner in New York City, “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice.”

Circling back to how Chavin approached the filmmakers for Part Two, Jarecki explained, “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 [and who is in Part Two]. 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.”

When speaking about this moment on Jarecki and Stuart-Pontier’s The Official Jinx Podcast for HBO, Jarecki said this conversation happened some time after Durst’s arrest, which came one day ahead of The Jinx part one’s March 15, 2015 finale.

On the podcast episode, the filmmakers play more from their recorded conversations with Chavin about the beginnings of that infamous Durst dinner, which Chavin said came after their friendship had gone dormant following Berman’s death.

“Nick describes that he walked into the restaurant, Barrawine in Harlem, and it’s a time when he hasn’t seen Bob in a long, long time. And he sees Bob, and I think he says that he just sort of waits for a minute and just watches him,” says Jarecki, setting up the scene.

“So I walked in,” says Chavin, “and he was already there, and he was sitting… And I hadn’t seen him in a while, some years. He was sitting there alone. I looked at him for a few minutes, and I told the maître d’, I said, ‘Geez, I haven’t seen this friend of mine in a few years.’ And she sort of smiled, and later when we sat down, she brought us a bottle of champagne.

“He told me directly, he said, ‘I have wasted my life.’ I said, ‘No, you haven’t Bob.’ I mean, I was just trying to make him feel better. He says … ‘Yes, I have. There’s so many other things I could have done. I just completely threw it all away and wasted my life.’”

Of what comes next in that dinner (and on Part Two), Jarecki said, “It’s going to change his perception of Bob forever. I think Nick knew this might be the end of something.”

In September 2021, Durst was convicted of the first-degree murder of Berman, including the special circumstance that he killed her as a witness because of what she might reveal about what happened to Durst’s first wife, Kathie McCormack, who disappeared in 1982 and whose body was never found. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Two months later, he was indicted on the charge of second-degree murder in Kathie’s killing. However, he died in prison in January 2022 before a trial could begin.

The Jinx — Part Two releases new episodes at 10 p.m. Sundays on HBO and Max. Read THR‘s premiere postmortem interview with Jarecki and Stuart-Pontier, where they break down Durst’s arrest coming the day before the season one finale, and their reliving of uncovering Durst’s bathroom audio confession.



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