Another actor has joined the latest film to explore the tragic occurrences surrounding the West Memphis Three child murders, and we’ve got the latest for you right here.
According to Deadline, Colin Firth has joined Reese Witherspoon in Devil’s Knot, the Atom Egoyan-directed drama about the West Memphis Three. Just after the West Memphis Three murder defendants were released from prison August 19th, The Sweet Hereafter and Chloe director Egoyan came aboard to direct a script that was originally written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, the team behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Firth will play Ron Lax, a private investigator who was the first pro bono supporter of the defendants as they headed to trial in 1993. Lax built one of the most prominent private investigative firms in the Southeast and offered his services for free to the defendants, who at the time were reviled because of the heinous nature of the crime and the sensationalized reports about devil worship and ritualistic sacrifice. All of that was later proven to be unfounded after Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., were convicted despite not a shred of physical evidence. Lax was an unsung hero and helped find the DNA in the knots that bound one of the victims, which cast suspicion on Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Steven Branch, one of the 8-year-old murdered boys.
Witherspoon will play Pam Hobbs, the mother of Branch. She initially believed the trio murdered her son but was eventually persuaded the three suspects were innocent and wrongly accused. Filming begins next summer in Louisiana, and other big names are expected to join the cast in smaller roles.
Egoyan has been working hard with Boardman on a rewrite. The script is based on investigative reporter Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, an in-depth chronicle of the sensationalized trials that sent the three to prison for the murder of three 8-year-old boys who were found hog-tied in a drainage ditch. The project is not a rush job.
Derrickson and Boardman began writing it in 2006 when the film first took root at Dimension Films. It will be produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Clark Peterson, Richard Saperstein and Boardman. Saperstein was Dimension’s president and acquired the film. After he left, Dimension eventually put the project into turnaround, and Saperstein became re-involved as producer. The package includes life rights deals with some of the figures in the case, including Lax, who worked on the case for years. There are no rights deals with the West Memphis Three defendants Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley because at the time two were serving life sentences, and Echols was on death row. The producers are close to locking distribution and financing. It’s all coming together on the eve of the Berlin Film Market, where the film should make some noise.
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