The ‘Staircase’ Filmmakers Feel ‘Betrayed’ by HBO Max’s Adaptation

What separates Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s The Staircase from different crime documentaries is its astonishing entry. While chronicling the protection technique of Michael Peterson, the novelist who was accused of murdering his spouse, Kathleen, in 2001, de Lestrade’s cameras recorded technique conferences inside Peterson’s Durham, North Carolina, residence—the identical residence the place Kathleen was discovered useless on the backside of a flight of stairs. De Lestrade, an Academy Award–successful documentarian, needed to comply with the phrases of Peterson’s protection legal professional, David Rudolf—amongst them, that footage can be despatched to France every night time earlier than it could possibly be subpoenaed by prosecution. But the caveats had been value it: After extraordinary evaluations, The Staircase received a Peabody in 2005 and was anointed into the documentary pantheon.

So a number of years later, when a younger filmmaker named Antonio Campos reached out to de Lestrade to specific admiration for the documentary and his need to adapt it right into a dramatic collection, de Lestrade paid the karmic entry ahead. After talking to Campos and reviewing his earlier work, de Lestrade opened his Staircase archives—sharing footage, notes, and recommendations on notably attention-grabbing unused video. He says Campos even spent a number of days along with his Staircase crew whereas they filmed further episodes in 2011. For years, they remained involved.

This previous December, when Campos and HBO Max’s staff flew to Paris to movie a number of scenes for the long-planned adaptation, The Staircase’s editor, Sophie Brunet, even opened her residence to host among the filmmakers for dinner.

“We gave [Campos] all the access he wanted, and I really trusted the man,” de Lestrade instructed Vanity Fair Tuesday, sounding shell-shocked. “So that’s why today I’m very uncomfortable, because I feel that I’ve been betrayed in a way.”

De Lestrade is credited on the collection as a co-executive-producer, however says that the title was nominal solely; he was paid for the challenge, however says he entrusted Campos with all artistic choices.

“Because I trust Antonio, I didn’t ask him to read the script. I was respecting his liberty as an author, as a creator, as a filmmaker. And I never asked to watch the episodes before they were shown because I was quite confident,” explains de Lestrade.

Campos’s adaptation of The Staircase premiered on HBO Max final week—dramatizing the occasions that unfurled in de Lestrade’s authentic, however with a meta twist. In addition to following Peterson (performed by Colin Firth) and his household, there’s a second story line depicting de Lestrade himself (performed by Vincent Vermignon) and his crew as they movie the documentary. De Lestrade knew about that story line, and was wonderful with it when he says Campos framed it to him as a way to discover “the way we approached truth.”

HBO Max’s model of Jean Lastrade (Vincent Vermignon) filming The Staircase documentary.Courtesy of HBO Max.

But in keeping with de Lestrade and different members of the unique Staircase’s staff—producer Allyson Luchak, editor Scott Stevenson, and Rudolf, who appeared onscreen as Peterson’s protection legal professional—the remake’s fifth episode, “The Beating Heart,” airing subsequent week, recklessly blurs reality and fiction. In it, a number of scenes recommend that the eight authentic Staircase episodes had been edited by Brunet (Juliette Binoche)—the real-life Staircase editor who opened her residence to HBO Max’s manufacturing once they had been taking pictures in Paris—whereas she was entangled in a romantic relationship with Peterson.

In actual life, Brunet did have a relationship with Peterson. De Lestrade has been candid about this previously, and Peterson even wrote concerning the relationship in his 2019 guide, Behind the Staircase. But all 4, and Brunet herself in an electronic mail to Vanity Fair, verify that Brunet and Peterson didn’t start corresponding till after she left the documentary as deliberate to edit one other challenge, 2004’s Holy Lola. De Lestrade hadn’t anticipated The Staircase to yield a lot footage; he wound up enlisting two different editors, Stevenson and Jean-Pierre Bloc, to chop what would find yourself being eight episodes whole. (Years later, de Lestrade filmed an further 5 episodes of The Staircase. Brunet edited all of them—the ultimate three she says she edited after she and Peterson broke up.)

“My relationship with Michael never affected my editing,” Brunet wrote. “I never, ever cut anything out that would be damaging for him. I have too big an opinion of my job to be even remotely tempted to do anything like that. And Jean would never let it happen anyway. It is his film and I respect that greatly. And again: I had absolutely no dog in the fight for the first eight episodes. As for the following ones, I think one can notice a great empathy for Michael’s family in them. But that was Jean’s point of view as well as mine. Whatever you think or believe about Michael, you can’t deny that the situation for his children was terrible and unfair. As for the last three episodes, I could not possibly be suspected of wanting to favor Michael, since we had broken up before I finished editing.”

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