Now that the West Memphis Three have been released from prison and their saga “completed”, films based on their ordeal are rushing into production. Atom Egoyan is adapting Mara Leveritt‘s non-fiction novel Devil’s Knot, and now Johnny Depp is producing a film based on an upcoming untitled memoir from the West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols. Echols’ was one of three teenagers wrongly convicted for the murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkhansas in 1993. Their story was originally brought to national attention by the documentary Paradise Lost. Since that time, celebrities like Depp, Peter Jackson, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, and Henry Rollins have supported Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr, and Jason Baldwin and their quest for justice.
Hit the jump for more details on the project.
According to Deadline, Depp and his producing partner Christi Dembrowski will produce through their Infinitum Nihil banner with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis as executive producers. Per Deadline, “Their collective take is to spotlight the controversial conviction and imprisonment of the then 18-year-old who’s now in his mid-30s and to present his life before conviction as well its twists and turns leading to release.”
Usually blockbusters are racing to be first out the gate, but the same race holds true to smaller features as well (see Capote vs. Infamous). Egoyan’s film will focus on Ron Lax (played by Colin Firth), a private investigator who was the first pro bono supporter of the defendants; the film co-stars Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the victims who at first was convinced of the teenagers’ guilt, but started to question their conviction when the case began to drag on.
Since Egoyan’s film is already in the casting process and Echols’ book has yet to be released, it looks like Devil’s Knot will hit theaters first. That doesn’t mean it will be the better of the two movies, and I’m curious to find out the writers, directors, and cast that will come on board Depp’s movie.