The Creator Of The Original ‘Staircase’ Documentary Feels “Betrayed” By The New HBO Series
"I understand if you dramatise. But when you attack the credibility of my work, that’s really not acceptable to me."
The French creators of the original 2004 documentary The Staircase say that they feel “betrayed” by the new HBO Max series, also called The Staircase.
Let’s take a step back. Back in 2004, the French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade made a documentary that followed Michael Peterson’s prosecution. Peterson was on trial for allegations of murdering his wife, Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of the couple’s staircase in their home. The documentary was met with excellent critical reception, winning a Peabody award in 2005, and arguably set the blueprint for the True Crime obsession that exists today.
Almost two decades on, we now have The Staircase, an adaptation of the original story starring heavy hitters Colin Firth and Toni Collette. The series, created by Antonio Campos, is rather ‘meta’ in nature, as not only does it attempt to tell Michael Peterson’s original story, but it also the story of the French documentary crew, who spent a lot of time recording documentary footage in North Carolina.
Campos reportedly had extensive conversations with Lestrade before embarking on the project, and said that he wanted to include the filmmakers as a means to think about the “way we explore truth”.
However, Lestrade recently revealed that he feels he was hoodwinked by Campos, as the new HBO series infers that the makers of the 2004 documentary rendered Peterson in an overly sympathetic light.
“I understand if you dramatise. But when you attack the credibility of my work, that’s really not acceptable to me,” Lestrade told Vanity Fair last week. “It’s alleged that we cut the documentary series in a way to help Peterson’s appeal, which is not true.” He adds that even after all this time, he still doesn’t know whether or not Peterson killed his wife. “I can’t tell you if he had something to do with the death of Kathleen, because I don’t know.”
“We gave [Antonio Campos] all the access he wanted, and I really trusted the man,” he added. “So that’s why today I’m very uncomfortable, because I feel that I’ve been betrayed in a way.
“A series on HBO like this will get huge attention. And if people think what they’re watching is true, that’s really damaging for us.”