Talk about serendipity. The release of the West Memphis Three murder defendants from prison on Friday has added a happy ending to the third ‘Paradise Lost’ documentary by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who were finishing off their film in preparation for unspooling at the Toronto and New York film festivals.
It turns out that — below the radar — Dimension Films, the genre arm of The Weinstein Co., had been preparing a film on the case since 2006, when they bought the rights to Mara Leveritt’s book ‘Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three.’ The studio hired Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman to write the script. But the production was put into turnaround and languished until a few months ago, when director Atom Egoyan came onboard and began rewriting the script with Boardman.
The West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. — were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., in 1993, on circumstantial evidence, and the trial and convictions quickly came in for criticism.
Berlinger and Sinofsky made two documentaries about the case: ‘Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills’ and ‘Paradise Lost 2: Revelations,’ which aired on HBO. The third, ‘Paradise Lost: Purgatory,’ is scheduled to be released on HBO in January.
In addition to the two films and a Web site set up for the three men, several Hollywood celebrities had rallied to the cause, including Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.
‘Devil’s Knot,’ which will be financed independently at a budget of under $ 20 million, begins shooting in the spring — with a happy ending.
Tip o’ the hat to Deadline.