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The Staircase original director criticises TV drama remake

The real-life case has been adapted for a series starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette

thestaircase reaction
Francesca Shillcock
Francesca ShillcockSenior TV & Film Writer
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The Staircase is a familiar title to those who enjoy true-crime documentaries. The original documentary film, which was directed by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, examined Michael Peterson and the murder trial he faced after his wife, Kathleen, was found dead at the bottom of the staircase at their home in Durham, North Carolina, in 2001.

MORE: The Staircase episode four has fans saying the same thing

The film crew were there for the immediate aftermath, witnessing and filming Michael's interaction with his children, his lawyers, forensic scientists and the press as attention surrounded him and the impending trial.

WATCH: Colin Firth leads the cast in gripping new drama, The Staircase

Over twenty years later, the footage and story has been adapted into a TV drama, starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette, but it seems Oscar-winner Jean-Xavier is unhappy with elements of the HBO show.

The director of the factual film opened up to Vanity Fair, stating he felt "betrayed" by what's been played out in the dramatisation. In the series' fifth episode, which will be available on Sky Atlantic and NOW for UK viewers next week, there are a number of plot moments shown which Jean-Xavier says "blur" fact from fiction.

MORE: The Staircase: What really happened to Michael Peterson's first wife?

MORE: The Staircase: the true story behind Colin Firth's new crime drama

staircase colin toni© Photo: Sky

Colin Firth and Toni Collette in the new drama

The first moment on screen the filmmakers were unhappy with was the timing of the relationship between Michael and the  original editor of the documentary, Sophie Brunet. The crew and parties involved confirmed the relationship happened but stated it was during another time frame which is suggested.

Jean-Xavier and his team also allege that the new adaptation suggests heavy editing of original footage took place in order to get across a certain point of view – an implication they strongly deny. "I understand if you dramatize. But when you attack the credibility of my work, that's really not acceptable to me," Jean-Xavier told Vanity Fair.

staircase colin© Photo: Sky

The new series is based on the original documentary film

Meanwhile, the creators behind the 2022 series, Antonio and Maggie Cohn, insist they wanted to examine "perspective, truth and storytelling with a documentary narrative."

The Staircase original documentary is available to watch on Netflix. The 2022 series starring Toni Collette and Colin Firth is available on Sky Atlantic and its streaming service NOW.

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