“Stillwater” director Tom McCarthy is responding to Amanda Knox’s recent criticism of the film, which she says appears to be “loosely based” on her life.
Knox, who was convicted and then eventually acquitted of the murder of her former roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007, commented on the fact that people “continue to profit” off her “name, face and story” without her consent.
This new film by director Tom McCarthy, starring Matt Damon, is “loosely based” or “directly inspired by” the “Amanda Knox saga,” as Vanity Fair put it in a for-profit article promoting a for-profit film, neither of which I am affiliated with.
— Amanda Knox (@amandaknox) July 29, 2021
A synopsis for the movie, starring Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin, reads: “An American oil-rig roughneck travels to Marseille, France, to visit his estranged daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she didn’t commit. Confronted with language barriers, cultural differences and a complicated legal system, he soon builds a new life for himself as he makes it his personal mission to exonerate her.”
McCarthy said of Knox’s remarks in an interview with Variety, “I deeply empathize with Amanda and what she went through. She was rightfully found innocent and acquitted in the Meredith Kercher case.”
“She has platforms to speak her truth and engage with the media and she is exercising her absolute right to do so. But, by her own account, she has not seen ‘Stillwater’ and what she seems to be raising feels very removed from the film we actually made. ‘Stillwater’ is a work of fiction and not about her life experience,” he went on.
McCarthy added: “It does take from aspects of true life events, like many films, but ‘Stillwater’ is about Bill Baker’s journey, his relationship with his estranged daughter Allison and a French woman and her young daughter he meets along the way.”
“The questions the movie poses about American identity and moral authority are what compelled me to make this film. But I do think good films spark conversation in and around the story and I welcome audiences’ engagement in that.”
McCarthy said when asked if he wishes he’d spoken to Knox prior to making the film or whether it was important to him to keep it fictional: “Years ago, I made a film about real-life events called ‘Spotlight’, and, in that instance, we thoroughly researched and worked closely with the real-life subjects and used real names and events within the film.”
“That was not the case with ‘Stillwater’, since it is a work of fiction. There were a few entry points that sparked the narrative, including aspects of real-life events but the story and characters within my latest film are all invented.”
He shared, “One entry point for the screenwriting, for example, is the relationship that a relative of mine had with her father who was absent and struggled with addiction. I had a series of phone interviews with her as she carefully laid out the painful dynamic and dysfunction of their relationship and those conversations were core to the relationship between Bill and his daughter Allison and the film.”
“Similarly, Abigail Breslin, who plays Allison Baker, spoke with two relatives who were both incarcerated to explore how they coped with their situations and how they leaned on their spirituality to sustain them,” he concluded.