Artist Ron English says the celebrated street art doc may have begun as a way to head off a lawsuit between Shepard Fairey and Thierry Guetta.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is not just a great movie, it’s a great movie to talk about. Is the documentary for real or is it a hoax? is Thierry Guetta a real guy or an elaborate construction of Banksy’s to punk the art world?

Pop artist and culture jammer Ron English (you know him from the fat Ronald McDonald featured in Supersize Me) weighs in with his own insider view: Exit Through The Gift Shop is real, but it began as something very different. It began as a hoax on Guetta in order to get footage away from him.

While in Decatur, Illinois to put up a mural (it’s his home town), English spoke with the local paper. Not everything in the interview was relevant to the main story, so the reporter published the rest of it on the Posters and Prints Blog. Thanks to loyal reader Arson for pointing it out.

Here’s what English said:

Here’s what actually happened: When we first met Thierry, he was supposed to be making a movie about Shepard. He was filming Shepard all the time, wherever he went. They made a deal, 50/50, we’ll make a movie. They shot for five years doing this, Shepard in his Spiderman prime, leaping off buildings and stuff. At the end of five years, Shepard says “Alright, let’s put the movie together,” and Thierry said “I’m not giving you the footage.” He’s actually quite smart and can be a little devious-he figured “I just took away five years of your fame,” because in his heart, Thierry always wanted to be the artist. He figured he was messing up his competition, in a way, and holding onto valuable footage. Shepard didn’t quite know what to do and filed a lawsuit against Thierry.

Then Banksy figured “I’m in the same situation, he has tons of footage for me.” He had some of the only footage of Banksy where you could actually see who he was. So he calls up Thierry and said “I’m sending you a first-class ticket to London, get on the plane, I have to talk to you.” That’s when he told Thierry that he would make a movie about him instead, in exchange for the footage, which Thierry turned over to Banksy. That’s when they realized that the footage wasn’t nearly what they thought it might be, but it turns out they did get a different sort of treasure trove, because you’ve got a portrait of this weird guy, Thierry.

According to English almost all of Guetta’s footage of Fairey was shit:

Banksy first thought that Thierry had a collection of the greatest street art footage ever filmed, that all these major moments had been captured, but when they looked at the footage they said ‘he had the camera pointed the wrong way almost every time.’

So the movie began as a way for Banksy to wrest away control of the footage from Guetta by playing on Guetta’s vanity… and then morphed into something else. This actually makes me believe more than ever that the career of Mr. Brainwash, while not exactly a hoax, was guided by Banksy exactly to create a critique of the modern art world.