Atom Egoyan set to make West Memphis Three film in the spring

It’s been a long time coming, but this week feels like a sort of a miracle to anyone who’s been following the story of the West Memphis Three.  Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. are free men today, albeit with some rather large caveats attached.  Still, considering Echols woke up on Death Row, I’d say it’s been a massive improvement for all of them, and they had some big help to get there.

The full story of the involvement of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will, I’m sure, be published at some point, but it’s not because they want a film out of it.  They’ve been doing this quietly behind-the-scenes for a while now, and they’ve been a big part of today’s decision.  I love that Berlinger and Sinofksy were there for it, and I can’t wait to see “Paradise Lost 3” at Toronto next month.

I’m not sure any one film can tell the whole infuriating, insane story of what these guys have been through, or what the families of the victims are still going through, but if anyone’s going to take a shot at pulling it off, I must admit Atom Egoyan is a better than average choice.

Egoyan is one of the great untamed indie filmmakers, a guy who has never made the big jump over to studio filmmaking, and whose voice has been refined over several decades of directing at this point.  I don’t love everything he makes, but I respect him, and I certainly think he’s capable of greatness.  His film, currently titled “Devil’s Knot,” is based on the nonfiction book Devil’s Knot: The True Story Of The West Memphis Three, and it’s evidently been in the works since 2006.  Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, who co-wrote “The Exorcism Of Emily Rose,” worked on several drafts, and now Boardman is working with Egoyan on a rewrite while Derrickson is preparing to make his new film “Sinister,” co-written with Christopher Cargill.

The film was originally set up at Dimension, but it’s now an indie package, and it sounds like the announcement today was timed to draw attention to the production which starts shooting in the spring, and which will be looking for a distributor at some point.  I wonder if they’ll have to negotiate the life rights for Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley now that they’re free men.  I think it would be the right thing to do, but I’m not sure how their plea bargain affects their legal standing.

One thing’s for sure… even though today was a major turning point in the story, it’s not done yet, and there are several versions of it still to be told.  I am curious to see how all of this plays out.