Yesterday came the news from Variety (paywall website) that Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone,” “Changeling”) is in talks to play the ex-wife of Ron Lax (Colin Firth), the private investigator whose discovery of fresh DNA evidence in 2007 led to the release last year of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. after they entered an Alford plea.
Dane DeHaan (“In Treatment,” “Chronicle”) is meanwhile negotiating to play a teenager who knew the eight-year-old boys, Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, whom the Three, then teenagers, were convicted of murdering in West Memphis, Arkansas, in May 1993.
On Monday, Deadline reported that Alessandro Nivola had been cast as Stevie Branch’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs. It was Lax’s discovery of a hair “not inconsistent” with Hobbs’s DNA found in the ligature used to bind Michael Moore that cast doubt on the convictions. A friend of Hobbs may have been the source of another hair found at the crime scene. Hobbs has never been charged.
Stevie’s mother and Hobbs’s ex-wife Pam Hobbs, who changed her mind about the Three’s guilt, will be played by Reese Witherspoon, the film’s female lead.
Deadline subsequently announced on Tuesday that Kristoffer Polaha (“Ringer”) and Collette Wolfe (“Young Adult”) had joined the film. Polaha will play public defender Val Price; Wolfe has been cast as Lax’s assistant Glori Shettles. Justin Castor (“Glee”) is meanwhile up for the part of Baldwin. Kristopher Higgins (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) was earlier cast as Misskelley. There is no word yet who will play Echols.
The pivotal role of Vicky Hutcheson will be played by Mireille Enos (a Golden Globe and Emmy nominee for “The Killing”). Hutcheson, the mother of a friend of the murdered boys, claimed she was coerced by the West Memphis Police into fabricating evidence that led to the conviction of Misskelley and Echols.
The convictions of Baldwin, Echols, and Misskelley have generated enormous outrage in the entertainment community. Egoyan’s film, which was adapted from investigative journalist Mara Leveritt’s 2002 best-seller by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, follows three celebrated documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Joe Sinofsky – “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996), “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” (2000), and “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (2011) – as well as Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis” (2012), which screened at Sundance (trailer below).
The latter, which was co-produced by “The Lord of the Rings” duo of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, longtime financial supporters of the West Memphis Three, makes a damning case against Terry Hobbs as a prime suspect.
Filming on “Devil’s Knot” begins in Georgia on June 25.
Image: Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth / Getty Images