ESPN Films’ latest film in the 30 for 30 series, “The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius,” is streaming now on ESPN+.
The four-part documentary profiles the South African Paralympic sprinter and international hero who had inspired millions with his determination and dedication – and who was then suddenly at the center of a murder investigation.
Front Row spoke with ESPN correspondent and Outside the Lines host Jeremy Schaap about his time with Pistorius while filming an episode of E:60 more than 10 years ago.
You traveled to South Africa to meet Oscar Pistorius for an episode of E:60 back in 2008. What was the experience like?
That was an interesting trip. We spent a lot of time with Oscar, on the track, at his home in Pretoria. I interviewed his father, too. Oscar was magnetic and charismatic, and he was attempting to do something important. I’ve been doing this a long time, and he’s one of the few subjects I’ve encountered who was eager for us to really get close to him, which was fascinating. Oscar invited producer Sean Herbert and me to his house for a brai, or barbecue, and we spent the evening with him and, as I recall, several professional rugby players and their girlfriends. It was a good meal.
Do you have an anecdote from your time with him?
One of the things I remember clearly is the way his father described the decision made when Oscar was an infant, to amputate his legs below the knee.
Sean and I also had dinner with Oscar and his then-girlfriend Jenna Edkins at a fancy restaurant, I think, in Johannesburg. He was excited about the possibility of competing that summer in Beijing at the Olympics. Ultimately, he didn’t compete at the Olympics until 2012.
By the time we had finished the story, I was impressed with Oscar — it was hard not to be. I certainly thought he deserved to win his case at the CAS, and I thought by doing so he would inspire untold millions.
Is there something in the film that you didn’t know?
The film is terrific–and heartbreaking, on several levels. There is so much there I didn’t know. Especially about Oscar’s life in the years between when I profiled him in 2008 and when he killed Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. For someone who’d accomplished so much, who was considered a hero, he was certainly troubled –and seemed to have lost himself. I frankly didn’t remember that he’d nearly died in a boat accident in 2011. Then there is the trial itself, which like most Americans, I followed only intermittently. I didn’t remember much about the case made by the state, or Oscar’s defense, the conflicting versions of events, and the nature of his relationship with Reeva. The film covers all this and more, fashioning a complete portrait of Oscar’s rise and the crime that would shock the world.