Reese Witherspoon will star in Devil’s Knot, the Atom Egoyan-directed drama about the West Memphis 3. As Deadline revealed just after the West Memphis 3 murder defendants were released from prison August 19, The Sweet Hereafter and Chloe director Egoyan came aboard to direct a script that was originally written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, the team behind The Exorcism Of Emily Rose. Witherspoon will play Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the murder victims who initially believes the trio murdered her son, but she is eventually persuaded that the three suspects are innocent and wrongly accused. Filming begins next summer.
Egoyan has spent the last six weeks working with Boardman on a rewrite. The script is based on investigative reporter Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, an in-depth chronicle of the sensationalized trials that sent the three to prison for the murder of the three 8-year old boys who were found hog-tied in a drainage ditch. The project is not a rush job. Derrickson and Boardman began writing it in 2006 when the film first took root at Dimension Films. It will be produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Clark Peterson, Richard Saperstein and Boardman. Saperstein was Dimension president and he acquired the film. After he left, Dimension eventually put the project into turnaround and Saperstein became re-involved as producer. The package includes life rights deals with some of the figures in the case, and especially Ron Lax, a private investigator who has been working pro bono on trying to overturn the verdict since 1993. There are no rights deals with the West Memphis 3 defendants Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr because at the time, two were serving life sentences and Echols was on death row. The plan is to finance the film independently, but the filmmakers might well make a domestic distribution deal before getting underway.
CAA and Management 360 rep Witherspoon.
Witherspoon attached to West Memphis 3 pic
Reese Witherspoon is attached to star in Atom Egoyan’s West Memphis Three drama “Devil’s Knot.”
Pic is based on investigative reporter Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book “Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three,” which chronicled the prolonged murder trial of defendants Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who served 18 years in prison before being released in August. The trio were accused of killing Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch, three 8-year-old boys who were found brutally murdered and hog-tied in a wooded area of West Memphis, Arkansas known as Robin Hood Hills.
Witherspoon will play Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims. Hobbs originally believed that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley murdered her son, but as the case dragged on and more details became available, she came to believe that the trio did not commit the heinous crime.
Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman wrote the script, which they began working on in 2006 when the project was set up at Dimension Films. Egoyan recently worked with Boardman to develop the latest draft.
Former Dimension prexy Richard Saperstein (“Hancock”) will produce with Elizabeth Fowler, Clark Peterson (“Rampart”) and Boardman.
While there are no rights deal with Echols, Baldwin or Misskelley, the producers have secured life rights to several figures involved in the controversial case, including private investigator Ron Lax.
Production on the under-$20 million feature is expected to start in the summer.
The West Memphis 3 case has attracted heightened media attention as well as the interest of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who produced Amy Berg’s documentary “West of Memphis,” which will debut at Sundance.
Witherspoon, who was last seen in “Water For Elephants,” next stars alongside Chris Pine and Tom Hardy in McG’s “This Means War.” Thesp, who won an Oscar for “Walk the Line,” recently wrapped Jeff Nichols’ indie “Mud” with Matthew McConaughey.
Witherspoon is repped by CAA and Management 360.