Showtime has announced a new limited series, Escape at Dannemora, which will be directed in full by Ben Stiller. The eight-hour production will star Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano in a tale about a prison break in upstate New York in 2015. The event launched a massive manhunt, and was complicated by the sexual politics at the core of the escape.
According to a press release, “Del Toro will play convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. Arquette will play Tilly Mitchell, a working class, married woman who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both convicts, inducing her to assist them with their escape. Dano will play David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who uses his good looks to seduce Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard Matt’s plot. ”
Stiller commented that,
“We are all very intent on trying to tell this singular story in a way that shows the reality and humanity of the people involved. While the genre is a prison escape story, at its core it is a story about real people, some criminals and some not, who make some bad choices that have huge consequences. I think that’s what’s so compelling about this.”
For some background on the men of this true story: Matt was sentence to 25-years-to-life without parole in 2008 for killing and dismembering his boss. He later fled to Mexico where he killed a man outside of a bar and went to jail there, where he was later extradited to the United States. Sweat was also sentenced to life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy. Aided by Mitchell and another corrections officer, the two became the first escapee’s in the prison’s 170-year history, New York state’s largest maximum security facility.
So yeah, it sounds intense.
The series will start production soon on location in upstate New York, and we’ll bring you more information as we hear it. For now, it’s interested to not only see Showtime continue to produce more limited series (like Guerilla and Twin Peaks), but to escape their own formula of having series focused around one star character (think Dexter, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Homeland), which can tire out narratively pretty quickly. Escape at Dannemora should be an intriguing new entry into Showtime’s newly expanded slate of dramas.