Ben Stiller’s Escape at Dannemora miniseries greenlit by Showtime
Showtime has given a production order to Escape at Dannemora, a new eight-hour limited series starring Academy Award winners Benicio del Toro (Traffic) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), and Golden Globe nominee Paul Dano (Love & Mercy, There Will Be Blood). Emmy winner Ben Stiller will executive produce and direct all eight episodes.
The limited series is based on the stranger-than-fiction account of a prison break in upstate New York in the summer of 2015, which spawned a massive manhunt for two convicted murderers who were aided in their escape by a married female prison employee with whom they both became sexually entangled. Production will begin later this year at the actual locations in upstate New York. Escape at Dannemora is the network’s next high-profile limited series, on the heels of the launch of the new Twin Peaks, which generated a record number of streaming service signups for Showtime. The announcement was made today by David Nevins, President and CEO, Showtime Networks Inc.
Del Toro will play convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. Arquette will play Tilly Mitchell, a working class, married woman who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both convicts, inducing her to assist them with their escape. Dano will play David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who uses his good looks to seduce Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard Matt’s plot.
Produced by Showtime, Escape at Dannemora will be written and executive produced by Brett Johnson (Mad Men) and Oscar nominee Michael Tolkin (The Player) who met while working as writers on the Showtime original series Ray Donovan. In addition to Stiller, Johnson and Tolkin, the executive producers will be Bryan Zuriff (Steve Jobs, Ray Donovan), three-time Academy Award nominee Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, The Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey) via Michael De Luca Productions, and Nicky Weinstock for Red Hour Productions.
“We are all very intent on trying to tell this singular story in a way that shows the reality and humanity of the people involved,” said Stiller. “While the genre is a prison escape story, at its core it is a story about real people, some criminals and some not, who make some bad choices that have huge consequences. I think that’s what’s so compelling about this.”
“I’m very excited about ‘Escape at Dannemora’ and about working with Ben, Benicio, Michael, Brett and Showtime on this fascinating and dark American love story rooted in real and self-deceptive incarceration,” said Arquette.
In 2008, Richard Matt received a 25-years-to-life sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility without possibility of parole for the 1997 murder and dismemberment of his boss, William Rickerson. After that killing, Matt fled to Mexico, where he killed a man outside a bar and served nine years in jail before being extradited to the U.S. in 2007. In prison, he met Sweat, who was sentenced to life without parole in 2003 for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy. In June 2015, abetted by Mitchell and corrections officer Gene Palmer, the pair became the first escapees in the 170-year history of Clinton Correctional, the state of New York’s third-oldest prison and largest maximum security facility. They were at large for 20 days, until Matt was killed in a confrontation after being spotted by law enforcement, 50 miles from Clinton and less than 20 miles south of Canada. Two days later, Sweat was wounded and then apprehended, less than two miles from the Canadian border. Mitchell and Sweat pled guilty to multiple charges related to the prison break. Mitchell received a sentence of 28 months to seven years in prison, serving her sentence at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County, New York, approximately 300 miles from Clinton. Sweat was officially sentenced to an additional 3½ to 7 years. In June 2016, a report from the Office of the Inspector General in New York declared that a total of 20 uniformed and civilian employees enabled the escape in some fashion.
Benicio del Toro won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Traffic, as well as Screen Actors Guild honors for Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role. He also received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for 21 Grams. His additional credits include The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Guardians of the Galaxy, Basquiat, Che and Sicario, as well as the upcoming films Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Patricia Arquette’s performance in Boyhood was honored with Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Film Independent Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Actress. Arquette first became an awards mainstay for her starring role in the television series Medium, for which she received two Emmy Award nominations (winning in 2005), as well as three Golden Globe and SAG nominations. Her additional credits include Ed Wood, True Romance, Flirting With Disaster and Lost Highway in film, and Boardwalk Empire and CSI: Cyber on television.
Golden Globe nominee Paul Dano is best known to audiences for his critically-acclaimed performances in Love & Mercy, Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood. His film credits include 12 Years a Slave, Youth, Swiss Army Man, Prisoners, Looper, Fast Food Nation, Ruby Sparks, and the upcoming film Okja. His past television credits include The Sopranos and War & Peace. Dano will make his directorial debut with the upcoming feature Wildlife, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.
Ben Stiller’s directing credits include Tropic Thunder, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Zoolander and Zoolander 2, The Cable Guy and Reality Bites. As an actor, director, writer and producer, Ben Stiller’s global box office stands at nearly $3 billion making him one of the highest grossing stars of all time. This year, Stiller will star in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, which recently premiered in competition at the 70th Cannes International Film Festival, and in Mike White’s Brad’s Status. His additional film credits include While We’re Young, The Night at the Museum franchise and Meet The Parents series, The Royal Tenenbaums, Flirting with Disaster, Empire of the Sun, There’s Something About Mary and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. On the producing side, since taking their company independent, Red Hour partners Ben Stiller and Nicky Weinstock have set up a wide range of comedies and dramas at TV studios and networks as well as feature films through their financing partnership with Bold Films and other buyers.