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Amanda Knox Responds to Being the Inspiration for ‘Stillwater’

Knox addresses what it means to have her story cut apart and retold without her consent.
Stillwater Movie
Focus Features
By  · Published on August 3rd, 2021

Entering the Discourse is a thrice-weekly column where we dig into who is saying what about new releases and upcoming projects. Today, we share some quotes from Amanda Knox about the movie Stillwater.

In the movie Stillwater, Matt Damon plays a father who moves to France after authorities accuse his daughter (played by Abigail Breslin) of killing her roommate. If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because co-writer/producer/director Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) based it on the story of Amanda Knox. She’s the woman who was accused — and ultimately acquitted — of murdering her roommate while she was studying abroad in Italy.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, McCarthy said of the inspiration for Stillwater, “We decided, ‘Hey, let’s leave the Amanda Knox case behind’… But let me take this piece of the story — an American woman studying abroad involved in some kind of sensational crime and she ends up in jail — and fictionalize everything around it.”

The Amanda Knox Twitter Thread About Stillwater

But to Knox, this was not a sensational crime. And it is not just something to be conveniently fictionalized. After reading the interview, she took to social media to respond to his comments about using parts of her story to craft a fictional narrative that is still reminiscent of her own experiences.

In a Twitter thread, Knox wrote:

“Does my name belong to me? My face? What about my life? My story? Why does my name refer to events I had no hand in? I return to these questions because others continue to profit off my name, face, & story without my consent. Most recently, the film ‘Stillwater.'”

The Issue with the Ending

McCarthy may not have made a direct adaptation of her story, but Amanda Knox is still inextricably linked to Stillwater. Reviews mention her name and headlines speculate the similarities between the movie and the actual story. According to Knox, her reputation is tied to the crime. Especially when it comes to the ending of Stillwater and McCarthy’s interpretation of her story. She says it “reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person.”

The Murder of Meredith Kercher by Rudy Guede

She addresses what it means for McCarthy to use her name and call the tragic events “the Amanda Knox case.” This completely erases Meredith Kercher, the murdered woman. As well as Rudy Guede, Kercher’s actual convicted murderer. Headlines continue to omit Kercher and Guede, only mentioning Amanda Knox.

She tweeted an example, saying:

“This focus on me led many to complain that Meredith had been forgotten. But of course, who did they blame for that? Not the Italian authorities. Not the press. Me! Somehow it was my fault that the police and media focused on me at Meredith’s expense. The result of this is that fifteen years later, my name is the name associated with this tragic series of events, of which I had zero impact on.”

The Amanda Knox Article About Stillwater

Amanda Knox expanded on her thread about Stillwater in a recent article for The Atlantic. It digs deeper into the consequences of what it means to base a movie on the sensationalized story that dominated the news ten years ago. She discusses the power dynamics in telling these stories and who really gets to tell who’s story.

She writes: 

In light of the #MeToo movement, more people are coming to understand how power dynamics shape a story. Who had the power in the relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the president or the intern? Shorthand matters. Calling that event “the Lewinsky scandal” fails to acknowledge the vast power differential, and I’m glad that more people are now referring to it as “the Clinton affair,” which explicitly calls out the person with the most agency in that series of events. I would love nothing more than for people to refer to the events in Perugia as “the murder of Meredith Kercher by Rudy Guede,” which would make me the peripheral figure I always was, the innocent roommate.

An Ethical Mandate

In both her Twitter thread and her article, Amanda Knox illustrates the power dynamics at work. Not only with Stillwater but with the entire way the media creates and shapes her image. The movie is a prime example of how stories like Knox’s are not seen as true stories about people. Rather, they are sensational tales with high entertainment value.

And McCarthy’s comments about his inspiration add to the issue. He may not be creating a direct adaptation of what happened in Italy to Meredith Kercher, but he is still cherry-picking the details to create something not entirely his own. 

Knox understands the Hollywood machine. She says, “There’s money to be made and [McCarthy] has no obligation to approach [her].” But she still asks for consideration as her name is continually referenced in reviews and any other press coverage of the movie. “McCarthy has no legal obligation to do so,” she adds. “And he is, after all, telling a fictional tale. But legal mandates are not the same as moral or ethical ones.”

Amanda Knox has extended an invitation to both Tom McCarthy and Matt Damon to appear on her podcast, Labyrinths, to further discuss the issue. As of yet, neither has responded to the invite.

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Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)