The saga of the West Memphis Three is far from over. “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” hits HBO next month and the Peter Jackson-produced documentary “West Of Memphis” will make its premiere at Sundance in January. Their story will still very much be in the public eye for the next while, and now, the West Memphis Three will be getting the big screen movie treat courtesy of Atom Egoyan.
First announced back in the summer, the feature film will take a different tack than the documentaries, getting out of the courtroom and taking a look at how the murder impacted the lives of those in the community. Kicking off the casting, Deadline reports that Reese Witherspoon is the first to join the pic, which will find her playing Pam Hobbs, one of the mothers of the victims who eventually becomes convinced that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr have been wrongly convicted.
The film is based on the book “Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three” and has been in development since 2006, with “The Exorcism Of Emily Rose” writers Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman (which has subsequently been rewritten by Egoyan and Boardman), and the production has landed the life rights to many people involved in the case. However, it does not have rights the West Memphis Three boys themselves, so it will be interesting to see how this is approached. Back in August, the film was said to be reaching for something tonally similar to “The Sweet Hereafter.”
The film is moving ahead with a summer shoot in mind and with Witherspoon on board, this seems to be pointing toward to a starrier cast than we were anticipating. It’s certainly the most intersting role the actress has taken on in a long time, and we’ll be curious to see what Egoyan’s stamp is on the material. For now, check out the two news reports to get a flavor of what accent Witherspoon will be working on for the next few months.