Director Atom Egoyan brought his new film, Devil’s Knot, to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Telling the now almost legendary story of the West Memphis Three, the film serves as a dramatization of the events and boasts a star studded cast, with big Hollywood names like Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Stephen Moyer and more all showing up in roles.
For those who are unaware, Devil’s Knot tells the story of the heinous murder of three young boys in Arkansas in 1993 and the subsequent trial and conviction of 17 year old Jessie Misskelley, 16 year old Jason Baldwin and 18 year old Damien Echols, aka the West Memphis Three.
A couple days ago I was lucky enough to catch up with Mr. Egoyan for a lengthy, 1 on 1 discussion about his new film. Though I didn’t love Devil’s Knot, I very much enjoyed speaking with Atom as he had a lot of interesting insights to share on both the true story that inspired these events as well as the filmmaking process.
Check out the interview below, and enjoy!
We Got This Covered: How did the premiere go last night?
Atom Egoyan: It went well! During production, after we were done shooting for the day, we would retire to a bar in Atlanta and just sit around and discuss our theories and what we had learnt that day. Everyone had been in contact with the real people that they were representing and so there was this constant stream of information coming through everyday. So that was great. And then last night, it was like a big reunion and we were all back in that world again and talking about it again. Jason Baldwin was there too, and that was really amazing, and so was Joe Burlinger. It was all pretty crazy.
We Got This Covered: You mentioned Jason was at the premiere, was he on set with you too? And what about Damien and Jessie?
Atom Egoyan: Only Jason was on set. Jessie has sort of gone back to life as it was before and Damien didn’t support the film so he wouldn’t come. He read a draft and felt that the movie was re-victimizing him somehow. I’m not sure if he understood that what we were doing was dramatically necessary to tell our story but I understand his viewpoint completely and I respect it. He has his own story to tell obviously and he’ll tell his version. But Jason was really supportive.
We Got This Covered: Was it not important to you when making this film to get the support of all three boys since it’s their story you’re telling and they are the real victims here?
Atom Egoyan: Well, the real victims are also the three boys who died. But I think that the story of the West Memphis Three is certainly at the core of this. Devil’s Knot is a dramatic re-telling so we’re looking at the events from a number of different perspectives. So we needed to show the community and how this terrible tragedy affects the community. We also wanted to show how the community was able to zero in on these three teenagers. To tell the story entirely from the perspective of the West Memphis Three, it would not allow us to really understand why that particular series of actions was set in place. It would have been great to have the support of Jessie and Damien but I understand that they didn’t want to go back to the particular place. I really understand it. It means a ton to have Jason’s support though, it really does.
We Got This Covered: Did you meet with Damien in person?
Atom Egoyan: Nope, but we had an exchange. He asked me to stop making the film at one point, but I didn’t feel that would be right.