Focus Features surprised the industry when it announced in late August that Todd Haynes’ true-crime drama “Dark Waters” was getting a prime theatrical release right in the middle of awards season. The movie, which stars Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, began filming in mid January of this year and will be turned around fast for a November debut. While many expected the movie to be a part of Focus’ 2020 slate, the studio is in need of a dominant Oscar contender this year and Haynes is a reliable auteur.
“Dark Waters” stars Ruffalo as a tenacious attorney who uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one the world’s largest chemical corporations. In the process, he risks everything — his future, his family, and his own life — to expose the truth. The supporting cast includes Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Mare Winningham, Victor Garber, William Jackson Harper, and Bill Pullman. Haynes directed from a script co-written by Mario Correa and “Valley of the Boom” creator Matthew Carnahan. Haynes’ frequent collaborators Christine Vachon (producer) and Ed Lachman (cinematographer) are on board as well.
The film is based on Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Corporate defense attorney Robert Bilott had been practicing law for eight years when he took on an environmental suit against the chemical company DuPont. The suit would turn into a battle exposing a decades-long history of chemical pollution. The DuPont name should sound familiar to moviegoers as family heir John du Pont was played by Steve Carell in Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” which co-starred Ruffalo.
“Dark Waters” is Haynes’ first directorial effort since “Wonderstruck” and it marks Ruffalo’s return to serious-minded drama after spending several years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Bruce Banner/Hulk. One would have to go back to Best Picture winner “Spotlight” in 2015 to find Ruffalo’s last dramatic film. Buzz on Ruffalo’s lead performance is positive ahead of the film’s theatrical release.
Focus Features will release “Dark Waters” in theaters November 22. Watch the official trailer below.