Colin Firth is set to co-star with Reese Witherspoon in Atom Egoyan‘s adaptation of Devil’s Knot. The film is based off Mara Leveritt‘s novel of the same name, which centers on the West Memphis Three. For those who don’t know, the West Memphis Three were three non-conformist teenagers who were arrested and convicted for the murder of three eight-year-old boys despite flimsy evidence and the jury’s ignorance and prejudice. The three remained in prison for almost 20 years on a crime they obviously didn’t commit. Their story was chronicled in the documentary Paradise Lost (and its two subsequent sequels) and the new documentary, West of Memphis.
Hit the jump for more.
Per Deadline, “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.”
As we reported in December, Witherspoon will play Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the victims who is at first convinced of the teenagers’ guilt, but starts to question their conviction once the case drags on. In a dramatic twist, Lax found DNA evidence that cast suspicion on Terry Hobbs, Pam’s husband and step-father to the 8-year-old murder victim, Steven Branch. Filming begins next summer in Lousiana, and Deadline reports “other big names are expected to join the cast in smaller roles.”
What happened to the West Memphis Three—Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley—was horrible. However, I believe their case has found traction not only because of devoted documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, and from Leveritt‘s book, because of what Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley represent. They were outsiders, and adults who are captivated by their case remember what they were like as the ostracized teens and they wonder, “What if that had happened to me?” It’s a curious support because injustice like this happens all the time. It usually happens to racial minorities, but those cases don’t get as much attention although they happen far more often.
So how will Egoyan’s movie go deeper than simply presenting themes of prejudice, ignorance, and injustice? What does this movie provide, especially since The West Memphis Three were finally freed last year (although under shitty circumstances where they had to admit guilt)? What is it casting light on? The movie isn’t a rush job and they’ve been working on the movie since 2006 with Egoyan recently re-working the script with co-writer Paul Boardman (The Exorcism of Emily Rose). I’m curious to see how recent events will affect their script or if the Three’s release will simply be an end title card.