In 1993, Harrison Ford famously declared that “I didn’t kill my wife” in The Fugitive, and was ultimately able to prove that he was telling the truth. In real life, the murder charge against Michael Peterson is much more complicated.
On December 9, 2001, the Durham, North Carolina author/wannabe politician called police to report that his wife, Kathleen, had fallen down the stairs and was unconscious, but still breathing. That call ignited a legal roller coaster that still has people intrigued to this day, in part because of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 docuseries, The Staircase, which told the story of the many twists and turns in Peterson’s case. New episodes of the series were released in 2013 and 2018. And now, HBO Max has turned Peterson’s world-famous murder trial into a fictional series starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette as the possibly-not-so-happily-married couple?
What does any of this have to do with Ford or The Fugitive? According to Entertainment Weekly, while Ford typically goes for the nice guy roles, he was in fact the original actor attached to play Peterson in the new HBO Max series.
Again, given Ford’s penchant for nice guys—and how closely his legacy is tied to the archaeology professor/adventurer—sticking with the familiar was definitely the safer, and probably better, choice. Though it did leave Campos and his co-showrunner Maggie Cohn scrambling to cast the role.
Given how much media attention Peterson’s case has received over the years, and the amount of footage there is of the author in the courtroom, at home with his kids, and even in jail, they felt that casting the right actor was even more critical because of how familiar people are with the real Peterson. Enter Colin Firth, the ultimate Mr. Darcy, and perhaps not the first actor who you’d think of to portray a possible murderer.
“He had never done a role like this, but we had gone through the Firth filmography and were just constantly struck by how dynamic he was,” Campos said. “I remember watching Where the Truth Lies and there’s this scene where Colin is defending his partner in the movie, played by Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon gets insulted and Colin goes and beats the crap out of this guy behind the club that they’re playing at. And it’s so vicious and it’s so ferocious. It was this reminder of the danger that he could also play.”
The first four episodes of The Staircase are available to watch on HBO Max now, with new episodes dropping until June 9.
(Via Entertainment Weekly)