He was born in a suburb of Paris in His mother, Ghislaine, was 18 when she became pregnant by an older Algerian man whom she had met at the factory where she worked. Bourdin never knew his father.
At the age of five he moved with his grandparents to the village of Mouchamps, near Nantes. His grandfather, he told me, was 'a racist. Someone who thinks that Arabs are some kind of lesser human beings. And all his anger he took out on his children and his wife. He remembers her feigning death so that he would run to the neighbours for help. Because he was half-Algerian, parents forbade their children to play with him. And from the age of eight, he said, he lived in terror of a neighbour who molested him.
No charges were ever brought — his grandmother did not want the scandal, he said. A solitary child, he retreated into fantasy, creating his own private world drawing comic strips, at the same time proving increasingly disruptive at school. At 12 he was sent to live in a juvenile home near Nantes. Aged 16 he was moved to another home, but, unhappy there, he decided to run away, hitch-hiking to Paris. Lost, with no money, he roamed the streets, looking for a phone box. In Paris! He telephoned the police, pretending to be a tourist, and told them he had found a young English boy of 13 or 14, looking scared and lost.
Now posing as the young boy, Bourdin was picked up and taken to the police station. Unable to speak English, his story quickly fell apart. Bourdin is a vivid storyteller, and listening to this account of himself as a young boy, alone on the streets of Paris, vulnerable and afraid, it is easy to feel for him, and to see the persuasiveness with which he would later tell other stories — hundreds of them — about being abused, kidnapped, traumatised, orphaned.
He had found his modus operandi: pretending to be a year-old boy in a phone box, in need of care, attention — a home. He was Peter Samson, Robin Morris, Alex Dole, Arnaud Orions, Benjamin Dianason, Sladjan Raskovic… He taught himself to appear younger; softening his voice, modifying his posture, even using depilatory creams to disguise his appearance. He would sometimes pretend to be mute. He had rules: he did not like to steal; he never tricked anyone for money, or defrauded the railways — he always hitched.
He had only one motive, he insists: to find shelter, a family and love. I wanted it for me. But love must be based on truth, I said. Bourdin shrugged.
Bourdin began to achieve a kind of notoriety on his travels. Newspapers wrote stories about him, and in he appeared on a French television programme, Everything Is Possible. Through his frequent brushes with the law he also acquired a file at Interpol. He was questioned by an official from the American consulate who quickly concluded he was a fraud.
The Imposter, review. Sound Mix: Dolby Digital. In , an American teenager named Nicholas Barclay disappeared after playing basketball with his friends in San Antonio. R nineT Racer. Trailers and Videos.
He was expelled and put on a plane to Paris, then made his way south. That October he was placed in a youth shelter in Linares, Spain, again posing as a year-old boy. Doubting his story, the child welfare judge in charge of his case gave him a choice: tell her who he really was, or he would be fingerprinted — an option that Bourdin believed would lead to prison. Until then Bourdin had only invented identities. But he now made the fateful choice to steal one.
Claiming that he was American, he persuaded the judge to let him use an office in the shelter, ostensibly to call his family in America. Astonishingly, she agreed. Posing as the director of the Linares shelter, he told the woman on the other end of the line that a young American had turned up at the shelter, and gave a rough description of himself.
After searching, the woman at the centre suggested that the boy might be Nicholas Barclay, who had disappeared in San Antonio, Texas, three years earlier. He asked her to fax over details of Nicholas. They were sufficient to give Bourdin the bones of a new identity.
He phoned back the centre. Nicholas was blond-haired, blue-eyed and had a tattoo of a cross on his hand. Bourdin dyed his hair, and a friend at the shelter executed a similar tattoo in the same place. Now he needed a story to explain himself. After being abducted in San Antonio, he said, he had been flown to Europe and abused by a paedophile ring before managing to escape. He had been injected in the eyes, changing them from blue to brown.
And he had been forbidden to speak in English — hence the pronounced French accent. Bourdin now explains all of this as a desperate strategy for survival that got out of control. And this was wrong. But at that moment it was just a cruel joke. Because I wanted a way out of there. So when the judge came to see me and said, OK, your sister is flying here, it made me sick. Things happened too fast. Nicholas Barclay had a half-sister; so does Bourdin.
The packing company where she worked gave her the fare. Bourdin had muffled himself in a scarf and hat. But he said when Carey walked into the shelter in Linares he knew it was all over. How could she be? She walked up to him and embraced him. There was nothing. There was no relief. There was just emptiness. I should have known that. She needed for me to be her brother. Together, they left the shelter and checked into a hotel. Who are you? It occurred to him then, he said, that this was his opportunity to run.
If she was ready to do that for love — and what she did, she did for love, of course — then I imagined, if her family was like that, it must be the perfect family. So I chose not to leave.
He was ready 'to do anything to be happy. And the only thing I knew how to do was pretending to be someone else.
If Bourdin had imagined he was entering the bosom of the American dream, he quickly came to realise that the family he had joined was as dysfunctional as the one he had been raised in. Jason had his own problems with drugs. He enrolled in the local high school. He told Carey it was good to be home. Watching this unfold in The Imposter, the same questions keep repeating themselves.
How could the family have possibly believed that Bourdin was Nicholas? How, in particular, could Beverly have possibly believed that he was her son?
Bourdin insists that everything in her behaviour suggested she did not really believe that at all. I am sure per cent that when Beverly went back to her house she cried her heart out. So much had happened to him. When I suggested to him that his claim that the family were deceiving themselves was some kind of plea for mitigation on his own behalf, he denied it. It just happened. How can you feel guilt for fate? Or the devil.
Anything you want.
Jason, his elder brother, was 24 when Nicholas went missing. It was he who had taken a telephone call from Nicholas wanting a lift home on that day and who had told him to walk instead. According to Bourdin, Jason beckoned him outside and gave him his necklace with a gold cross. My deep understanding of it is that he respected my presence there.
The Imposter is a British-American documentary film about the case of the French confidence trickster Frédéric Bourdin, who impersonated Nicholas. An impostor or imposter is a person who pretends to be somebody else. Impostor (s), Imposter(s), The Impostor(s), or The Imposter(s) may also refer to.
This could not be Nicholas Barclay. Parker told Fisher and Beverly Dollarhide of his theory about the ears, but they brushed it aside.