Before Netflix’s Making a Murderer set the true crime genre on fire, there was The Staircase from French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, which focused on the bizarre death of Kathleen Peterson. Her husband, author Michael Peterson, was accused of the crime, but the docuseries raised significant questions about his guilt. Now, those events are being turned into a limited series starring Colin Firth as Peterson that will adapt the original work by de Lestrade along with “various books and reports on the case,” at least one of which, hopefully, involves killer owls. Harrison Ford was originally attached to the Peterson role, which is a joint venture between Annapurna Television and HBO Max, but maybe one man can only star in so many projects about husbands suspected of killing their wives.
Uproxx‘s Brett Michael Dykes raved about the original The Staircase docuseries back in 2016 when SundanceTV brought it back for a limited run on its website and mobile app. Declaring the series to be “as riveting as — if not more than — Making a Murderer,” Dykes provided background for new viewers looking to dive into the Peterson mystery:
Originally aired by Sundance in 2004, The Staircase follows the legal saga of Michael Peterson, a Durham, North Carolina-based writer whose wife, Kathleen, died mysteriously in 2001. (She appeared to have fallen or been pushed down a flight of stairs in the couple’s home; thus the name, The Staircase.) Local prosecutors — among them the notorious Mike Nifong of the Duke lacrosse team rape case infamy — charged Michael Peterson for her murder. French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade was provided extraordinary behind-the-scenes access throughout the months that followed Kathleen’s death, the result being the eight-part docuseries.
Dykes ended his praise for the original The Staircase series with the following recommendation: “Watch it, dangit.”