×

Drama student set as West Memphis 3 defendant

Unknown to play Damien Echols in Atom Egoyan indie

After a nationwide search for the right actor to play Damien Echols — the West Memphis Three defendant who recently got off death row — Atom Egoyan has tapped unknown drama student James Hamrick, who is currently enrolled at Nebraska Wesleyan University, to star in Worldview Entertainment’s true crime drama “Devil’s Knot.”

Hamrick beat out dozens of experienced Hollywood thesps for the role, putting himself on tape after his drama school rival at Coastal Carolina U. saw a casting notice and encouraged him to submit because of his resemblance to Echols. With shooting scheduled to start June 25 in Georgia, filmmakers were under the gun to find their Damien; Hamrick flew to Atlanta on Wednesday morning to audition for Egoyan and won the part by day’s end.

Thesp comes from an acting family, as he’s the nephew of Tony-nominated cabaret singer Sally Mayes.

Based on journalist Mara Leveritt’s bestselling book of the same name, “Devil’s Knot” follows private detective Ron Lax (Colin Firth), who took on the West Memphis Three case pro bono. He found DNA evidence linking Terry Hobbs (Alessandro Nivola), the stepfather of one of the three murdered boys, to material that was used to bind one of the young victims — evidence that helped convince a judge to release Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Echols last year.

Worldview Entertainment is financing and producing the pic, which will be produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Clark Peterson, Richard Saperstein and Worldview’s Christopher Woodrow, as well as Paul Harris Boardman, who co-wrote the script with Scott Derrickson. Worldview’s Molly Conners, Sarah Johnson Redlich, Maria Cestone and Hoyt David Morgan will exec produce with Derrickson and actual defendants Baldwin and Misskelley Jr. CAA is repping North American rights.

In addition to Firth and Nivola, “Devil’s Knot” also stars Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Collette Wolfe and Kris Polaha, while Kristopher Higgins will play Misskelley Jr. Amy Ryan and Dane DeHaan are also in talks to join the cast, as Variety first reported.

More Film

  • BAFTA headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, London

    BAFTA Undertakes Major Renovation of Its London Headquarters

    BAFTA has undertaken a major renovation of its London headquarters that will double the building’s capacity and increase space devoted to the British academy’s programs to promote skills training and new talent. Work has already begun on the $31 million overhaul, which is expected to take two years. In the interim, BAFTA will relocate its [...]

  • Andhadhun

    Booming Digital Lifts Eros Indian Film Distribution Giant

    Eros International, India’s largest and most controversial film distributor, says that its digital revenues now outstrip conventional theatrical and syndication revenues. Its Eros Now streaming platform claims 18.8 million paying subscribers. The New York-listed company reported annual results that were distorted by multiple adjustments to presentation. Reported revenues in the year to end of March [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Second Huayi Brothers Film Is Canceled as Company's Losses Mount

    Still reeling from the cancellation of the theatrical release of its blockbuster “The Eight Hundred,” production studio Huayi Brothers has been hit with another setback: Its comedy “The Last Wish” has also been quietly pulled from China’s summer lineup. Both films have fallen afoul of China’s increasingly heavy-handed censors. The unwelcome development comes as Huayi [...]

  • Sean AstinCritics' Choice Awards, Arrivals, Los

    Film News Roundup: Sean Astin Cast in 'Mayfields Game,' 'Charming the Hearts of Men'

    In today’s film news roundup, Sean Astin gets two roles, two “Peanuts” movies are set for release, “One Last Night” gets distribution and Brian De Palma gets honored. CASTINGS Sean Astin has been cast in a pair of upcoming feature films: “Mayfield’s Game” opposite Mira Sorvino and “Charming The Hearts of Men” opposite Kelsey Grammer. Astin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content