How many women have to die before it’s considered a story?
The haunting trailer for Hulu’s “Boston Strangler” begs the question of the cost of a life. Two-time Oscar nominee Kiera Knightley and Emmy nominee Carrie Coon star as two real-life reporters who piece together a series of deaths in the Boston area as being connected to a serial killer.
Between 1962 and 1964, more than a dozen single women in the age range of 19 to 85 were killed in the greater Boston area. The work of two trailblazing reporters led to the story of the notorious Boston Strangler being uncovered.
Per the official synopsis, after the bodies of three elderly women are discovered, Loretta McLaughlin (Knightley), a reporter for the Record-American newspaper, is the first journalist to publish a story connecting the crimes. As the mysterious killer claims more and more victims, Loretta attempts to continue her investigation alongside colleague and confidant Jean Cole (Coon), yet the duo finds themselves stymied by the rampant sexism of the era. Nevertheless, McLaughlin and Cole bravely pursue the story at great personal risk, putting their own lives on the line in their quest to uncover the truth.
Alessandro Nivola, David Dastmalchian, Morgan Spector, Bill Camp, and Chris Cooper also star.
Writer-director Matt Ruskin told IndieWire that the real story of finding the Boston Strangler is not well-known, with even the 1968 Tony Curtis film being too police-centric with “everything going to plan” in apprehending the killer.
“Having grown up in Boston, I had heard about the Boston Strangler my whole life. But it wasn’t until a few years ago when I started reading about it that I realized I knew nothing about the actual case,” Ruskin said. “I discovered this incredibly layered murder mystery with all these unexpected twists and turns that was as much about the city and the period as it was about the identity of this serial killer.”
Ruskin continued, “It’s really different from the telling of the 1968 movie with Tony Curtis which is very much like the cops get their man and everything goes according to plan. So to tell this story from the perspective of a detective didn’t really add up for me. And then I heard an interview with this reporter named Loretta McLaughlin. She was one of the first to connect the murders. She really broke the story and gave the Boston Strangler his name during the course of her reporting. I love journalism stories. I respect and admire good journalism. Some of my favorite movies are journalism films, so I thought this could be a really compelling way to revisit the story of the Boston Strangler.”
Ruskin had an unexpected personal connection to reporter Cole, played by Coon in the film.
“I was trying to do all the research I could about Loretta and the reporters she worked with named Jean Cole. But there was very little information about them available online,” the “Crown Heights” director shared. “I read Jean Cole’s obituary and saw that she had two daughters. I actually looked them up on Facebook, and one of them had a Facebook profile, and she had one photograph. And in the photo, she had her arm around an old friend of mine. So I called [my friend] and said, ‘How do you know this woman?’ and she said that was her mom. She explained that Jean Cole was her grandmother and someone she had revered growing up. So I told her my interest in the story, and she introduced me to both the families, and they really welcomed me with open arms and gave me access to everything. So at that point, I felt like I had to tell their story.”
Ruskin spent over a year researching the Boston Strangler and reporters Cole and McLaughlin before writing the script. He looked to films like “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Zodiac,” and “All the Presidents’ Men,” particularly with how to photograph the newsroom, for inspiration.
Producer Ridley Scott became attached to the project, with Scott Free Productions producer Kevin Walsh also partnering with Ruskin to mentor the filmmaker throughout the production process.
Actresses Knightley and Coon were the dream casting for the respective roles for Ruskin, with the director telling IndieWire that Knightley “really possessed the qualities that I thought were so important in trying to tell Loretta’s story.”
“In so much of her work, you see both this strength and this ability to be vulnerable and convey a really vast interior life. I just felt like no one could do it better,” Ruskin said. “I think that Kiera identified with Loretta on a personal level. She also knows what it’s like to have a really demanding career and balancing that with a family. She just brought so much to the role. I really felt like she transformed in a lot of ways that we don’t typically see her in.”
Ruskin continued of Knightley’s co-star, “Carrie Coon is one of the greatest actors on the planet. I think the world of her. She also very much had a lot of the qualities that I was looking for to play Jena Cole, who was this razor-sharp, funny, scrappy reporter who had been in a newsroom since she was 18 years old. Carrie was the perfect person to bring this character to life. They had a really wonderful chemistry with each other. From there we were just able to pull in an extraordinary group of actors.”
As for the film itself, Ruskin is excited for audiences to “go on the wild ride that I went on reading this story,” especially with the especially poignant importance of modern journalism.
“Telling a story about a journalist who is committed to getting to the truth feels very worthwhile right now,” Ruskin said. “On a personal level, I was really inspired by Loretta and her commitment to living the life that she wanted to live and doing the work that she wanted to do even if it meant challenging the norms of the era. I found that to be very inspiring and in many ways, timeless.”
“Boston Strangler” premieres March 17 on Hulu.
Check out the trailer below.
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