The West Memphis Three

John Mark Byers

I interview a lot of people — it’s part and parcel to the job of entertainment journalism. It’s not generally my favorite thing, as I’m almost always more interested in writing about my film experience and discussing said experience with the screenwriters, whom I rarely find myself in a room with. More often than not I’m visiting an actor who has spent the better part of the day repeating themselves and building up a frothy disdain for the questions I’m trying to avoid, but eventually going to have to ask. There has been very little, if any, gravity to my interview experience. They’re mostly non-events. …until last week. I had no expectation that I would be sitting across from the step-father of a brutally murdered child when I arrived in Santa Barbara on the twenty sixth. To be honest I could think of few things I’d want less, and yet I was the one that requested his time on a whim as I watched Mark Byers shuffle painfully through the lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara. The festival’s publicist caught him as he stepped onto State Street, and five minutes later we were together — and my video camera was pointed at him.

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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 […]

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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