NON-DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE IN THE WORKS
Some Kind of Monster directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have already made two documentaries about The West Memphis Three, with a third, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, set to debut at at the Toronto International Film Festival next month. (Although apparently without a new ending to reflect the trio’s recent release; Berlinger says that the pair have spent so long working on the movie, “it didn’t seem right to rush a new ending” at this point. They’re hoping to have the new ending ready either for October’s New York International Film Festival, or the movie’s HBO debut later this year.) Unfortunately, the audience for documentaries remains somewhat limited — while reality television is an ongoing sensation, unless it has adorable penguins in it, a non-fiction film will usually have a ceiling on how much money it can make.
And so it is not at all terrible news that Academy Award-nominated director Atom Egoyan has announced plans to make Devil’s Knot, a feature length biopic about the trio — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin.
Based on Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, the film was scripted by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, a duo who, I am sad to report, usually write total garbage (see — or rather don’t see: Hellraiser: Inferno, Urban Legends: Final Cut, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the insipid remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, etc.). But Egoyan’s presence is encouraging; I haven’t been a huge fan of his last few films, but some of his earlier work, like The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica, is fucking great. And whatever else you can say about the guy, he’s no Hollywood hack for hire; he makes really intense, unique arthouse fare that is nothing if not his own personal vision. And he’s apparently been shepherding a re-write of the script for the past six weeks.
So while there’s no guarantee that this movie will be good, you can pretty much rest assured that it isn’t going to be typical Hollywood “Based on a True Story” treacle, or star the kids from Twilight as The West Memphis Three. Devil’s Knot will almost certainly end up being a challenging and accurate portrayal of the trio’s plight.
The movie begins filming this spring on the relatively small budget of $20 million. More details as we get ’em.