Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. rights to Edward Zwick’s stirring and provocative true crime drama about justice and injustice, Trial by Fire, and will release the film on May 17, 2019, it was announced today by Roadside Attractions co-founders Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff.
Adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious) from David Grann’s article originally published in The New Yorker, Trial by Fire had its world premiere at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival, and is produced by Edward Zwick, Allyn Stewart, Kipp Nelson and Alex Soros. The executive producers are Kathryn Dean and Marshall Herskovitz.
Trial by Fire is the true-life Texas story of the unlikely bond between an imprisoned death row inmate (Jack O’Connell) and a mother of two from Houston (Laura Dern) who, though facing staggering odds, fights mightily for his freedom. Cameron Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak and a criminal record, is convicted of arson-related triple homicide in 1992. During his 12 years on death row, Elizabeth Gilbert, an improbable ally, uncovers questionable methods and illogical conclusions in his case, and battles with the state to expose suppressed evidence that could save him.
“I first read David Grann’s article, Trial by Fire in The New Yorker nearly ten years ago,” said director Zwick. “I couldn’t stop talking about it to friends and soon realized I had to try to make it as a film. I was appalled by the iniquity of Todd Willingham’s trial. I was completely infuriated by the miscarriage of justice that led to his imprisonment. This is ultimately a film about one man wrongly facing the death penalty and the profound preciousness of life.”
Trial by Fire is the first major motion picture financed by Alex Soros, a decision stemming from his passion for criminal justice reform. “I believe it was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch defender of the death penalty, who said, ‘Not a single defendant in America has ever been erroneously executed. If such an event had occurred … the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.’ Cameron Todd Willingham was an innocent man. This film is that shout,” Soros said.
“Ed Zwick delivers an incendiary indictment of our criminal justice system and focuses on the death penalty as it was wrongly applied in this heartbreaking and tragic case. This is an important movie, with knockout performances by Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell, and we are proud to release it,” said Roadside’s Cohen and d’Arbeloff.