The West Memphis Three trials are infamous, not just for the brutality of the crime that spawned them, but also for the controversy surrounding the verdict. The case involved the triple homicide of three 8-year-old boys and the conviction of three teenagers, who were thought to be responsible for the crime. After the three were imprisoned, however, doubts began to grow about their guilt, eventually leading to their release from prison on August 19th of this year, 17 years after their conviction.
The entirety of the trials, convictions, imprisonments, and further investigations into the murders that eventually led to the suspects’ releases were already well-chronicled in the Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries done by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, but now it seems that since the whole ordeal has come to an end, Hollywood is going to take a crack at dramatizing the story. To that end, screenwriters Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) have been adapting a screenplay from a book about the murders, Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, which was written by Mara Leveritt. That’s a lot of names involved with this project already, but let’s add one more to the pile. Derrickson and Boardman’s script is going to be directed by Atom Egoyan (Chloe), who has worked on the latest draft of the script with Boardman.
The newest news about the film is that Egoyan and company have signed Reese Witherspoon to play a featured role. She’ll be portraying Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims, who at first was happy with the conviction of the three, but who later grew to doubt their guilt. Witherspoon is a bankable name whose involvement should help this grim story along as far as getting support from the studios goes, so I imagine this should be looked at as good news for Egoyan and company, who are still planning on financing this thing independently.
Come on studios, who wants to be the guy to invest in this one and give it a big time release? This is a story that more people need to hear.
The latest Paradise Lost film will be broadcast on HBO next year, and another doc about the subject from producer Peter Jackson, called West of Memphis, is set to premiere at next month’s Sundance Film Festival. [Deadline Harriman]