Michael Tolkin, co-writer of Escape at Dannemora, has discussed what attracted Ben Stiller to direct the prison escape miniseries.
When looking for directors for a dark, gritty miniseries based on the true life events of a prison escape, Ben Stiller isn’t the first name that comes to mind. However, the man known for his comedic talents in front of the camera helmed all eight hour episodes of Showtime’s latest critical success.
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Paul Dano, and Patricia Arquette, the series has been written by Michael Tolkin (The Player). Tolkin sat down with /Film recently and he spoke about how Ben Stiller was looking to do something more serious:
“Brett [Johnson] and I wrote the first two chapters on spec. We were looking for a director and Ben read them, was interested and met with us, was intrigued by it. Then backed off because he wanted something more dramatic. Then a year to the day after the breakout, the Inspector General of New York, Catherine Leahy Scott, released her report on how it happened. When we gave that to him, he said, ‘Here’s the template for the script. This is the real story. This is how it happened. These are the players. These are the people involved.’ With that, we were then pointed in the direction of the transcripts of the interviews. He then encouraged us to write this as accurate as possible and truthfully as possible.”
Escape at Dannemora is certainly a change of pace from Ben Stiller’s usual work and those interested can catch the series on Showtime at 10 pm each Sunday.
Escape at Dannemora is based on the stranger-than-fiction prison break in upstate New York in the summer of 2015 which spawned a statewide manhunt for two convicted murderers, aided in their escape by a married female prison employee who carried on months-long affairs with both men. Del Toro plays convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. Arquette plays Tilly Mitchell, a working class wife and mother who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both men, ultimately agreeing to hide hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to help them get out. Dano plays David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who may have genuine feelings for Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard Matt’s plot. The cast also features Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Bonnie Hunt, acclaimed actor Eric Lange and Emmy nominee David Morse. Produced by SHOWTIME, ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA is written and executive produced by Brett Johnson (Mad Men) and Oscar nominee Michael Tolkin (The Player), who met while working as writers on RAY DONOVAN. In addition to Stiller, Johnson and Tolkin, Bryan Zuriff (Steve Jobs, RAY DONOVAN), three-time Academy Award nominee Michael De Luca (The Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey) via Michael De Luca Productions, and Nicky Weinstock for Red Hour Productions serve as executive producers.
Escape at Dannemora premiered on November 18th at Showtime.