×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Ben Stiller, Benicio Del Toro, Paul Dano and Patricia Arquette Talk ‘Escape at Dannemora’

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety’s business editor Cynthia Littleton and executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talk with Ben Stiller, Benicio Del Toro, Paul Dano, and Patricia Arquette about their new Showtime series “Escape at Dannemora.”

The eight-episode series follows the true story of two inmates, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, in 2015, spurring a three-and-a-half-week manhunt.

Director Stiller talks about getting direct permission from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to film in the actual location from which the inmates made their famous escape.

“You go to Clinton Correctional and you see the environment, you see how old the prison is, you see how long people have been working there,” Stiller says. “It’s really a place that was set in its ways, and that’s how the escape was able to happen.”

He recalls filming in the prison’s North Yard, from which inmates Matt and Sweat could actually see the smokestacks of the power plant on the other side of their escape tunnel. “As an inmate, it must feel conflicting to be stuck in there and see all that beauty,” he says. “It almost feels like you could just fly away.”

Arquette plays Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, the civilian worker who had a sexual relationship with both inmates Matt (Del Toro) and Sweat (Dano), and conspired to help them escape by smuggling tools from the prison tailor shop she ran.

“A middle-aged woman, her sexuality, following her desire, being unapologetically a sexual person — these aren’t things we really as actresses get to explore, and we don’t really talk about much in society,” Arquette says.

Exploring a “twisted four-way love story” was what drew Del Toro to the project as well. “I thought that was so unique,” he says.

For Dano, having Stiller’s consistent directorial voice carry throughout all eight episodes was a luxury. “Having one hand behind it is a really important element,” Dano says. “I feel that sense of authorship behind it, which is important to me as a viewer as well. I feel like I’m watching something unique.”

For the actors, the experience of filming in a real-life prison was at times enough to push them to the limits of their comfort zone.

“As somebody who’s not been in prison before…it was very intense,” says Dano.

Arquette agreed. “I couldn’t wait to get out,” she says. “I also felt like, obviously we need to deal with the prison situation. It’s got to be dealt with in a whole new way.”

Del Toro also couldn’t help but notice the systemic problems surrounding the criminal justice system.

“They’re broken souls from the beginning,” he says of the inmates they were able to meet as research, including Sweat himself. “They didn’t have a mother, a father, they didn’t have a home…no sense [that] actions have consequences. Fear and lies and cruelty is the way to survive. So the prison system is off, but the problem goes before the prison system, and that’s also something to address.”

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

More TV

  • Stephen Colbert Louis C.K.

    CBS Sees Primetime, Late-Night Advertising Gains From Upfront (EXCLUSIVE)

    Despite an array of new video options, Madison Avenue is still placing big bets on one of its standbys. CBS expects the volume of advance advertising commitments placed against its next primetime schedule to rise 5% to 6%, according to a person familiar with the matter, and advance commitments placed against its late-night programming to [...]

  • Ramy The Other Two Emmy Contenders

    From 'The Other Two' to 'Ramy,' Freshman Comedies Campaign for Emmys

    The stakes are massive for this year’s freshman class of Emmy contenders, especially the new comedies hoping to break into a race dominated for years by “Veep” and other veterans. That’s because a nomination for a show’s first season has major impact on its future awards chances. “With comedies, it’s important to set the bar [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Running Unopposed for Re-Election as President of Writers Guild East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” is running unopposed for re-election to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. The WGA East announced a total of 24 candidates Thursday for its top officer posts [...]

  • The Last Cowboy

    Paramount Network Orders Unscripted Series 'Last Cowboy' From 'Yellowstone's' Taylor Sheridan

    Paramount Network is doubling down on its relationship with Taylor Sheridan. The cable network has ordered a new unscripted series created by Sheridan, the co-creator of the hit Paramount Network scripted series “Yellowstone.” The series is titled “The Last Cowboy.” It chronicles the lives of eight men and women who compete on the regular reining [...]

  • Demi MooreFriendly House Lunch, Arrivals, Los

    Demi Moore Joins 'Brave New World' Series at USA Network

    Demi Moore is the latest name to jump aboard UCP’s “Brave New World” series. The actress will play the recurring character of Linda, the brash, hard-living mother of Alden Ehrenreich’s character, John. The series, based on the Aldous Huxley novel of the same name, imagines a utopian society that has achieved peace and stability through [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content