Michael Pitt and Jacob Reynolds will star in “West Memphis Three,” a feature based on the Arkansas murder case that inspired Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s 1996 documentary “Paradise Lost.”
Writer-producer Curt Johnson is in discussions with William H. Macy, Edie Falco and Jason Lee to take roles in the pic, which Berlinger and Sinofsky will exec produce.
Budgeted under $10 million, “West Memphis Three” is backed by private equity. Johnson is lining up a director for a fall shoot in Texas and Arkansas.
In 1993, three young boys from West Memphis, Ark., were brutally murdered. Local teens Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were subsequently arrested and controversially tried for the crime; their fascination with heavy-metal music and Goth fashion was viewed by some observers as prima facie evidence of guilt.
Echols, who will be portrayed by Pitt, received the death sentence. Misskelley, to be portrayed by Reynolds, is serving a life sentence plus 40 years. Baldwin is serving a life sentence without parole. All three cases are under appeal.
Musician and author Henry Rollins originally brought the story to the attention of Johnson, who produced this year’s Oscar-winning documentary short, “Thoth.”
Pitt starred in the Sandra Bullock drama “Murder by Numbers” and the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” “Hedwig’s” composer, Stephen Trask, is also on board for “West Memphis Three.”
Reynolds starred in Harmony Korine’s controversial 1997 pic “Gummo.”
Johnson also has written for TV series “Titus” and “The X-Files,” among others. He was an associate producer on the feature doc “Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt,” which won the Oscar in that category in 1990.
“Paradise Lost,” which strongly suggested the teenage boys were not guilty of the crimes, won an Emmy in 1997 for informational programming.