The Staircase, the docuseries about the murder trial of Michael Peterson, is becoming a limited series for HBO Max. At one point it was rumored that Harrison Ford would play Peterson on the show, but it looks like that didn’t pan out. Instead, Colin Firth will play Peterson, a writer who was convicted of the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson. Peterson and his lawyers argued that Kathleen’s death was an accident, and that she had died as a result of falling down a staircase in their home.
The Staircase originally aired as 10 episodes directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade on the French TV channel Canal+ in 2005. In 2013, Lestrade returned to the case with a two-hour special. And then, in 2018, Netflix bought the rights to the docuseries and commissioned three new episodes. Now, the entire story will be covered again in an HBO Max limited series.
The story concerns Michael Peterson, a writer who was convicted of murdering his wife, Katheleen. Kathleen was found dead and drenched in blood at the bottom of a narrow staircase in the couple’s home, and Peterson has always maintained that she died as the result of an accidental fall. (There’s also a theory that an owl could’ve been responsible – yes, really; learn more here). Even though Peterson was convicted of the crime he was later granted a new trial after a judge ruled that one of the prosecution witnesses gave misleading testimony. Rather than go through a full trial again, Peterson agreed to an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. The result: he was sentenced to time already served and freed.
Questions still linger about Peterson’s guilt, and those questions will be raised all over again via this limited series, which is being directed by Antonio Campos (The Devil All the Time). Colin Firth has been cast to play Peterson, and there’s nothing wrong with that casting – Firth is great and he’ll no doubt turn in a good performance. That said, at one point, Harrison Ford was circling the project and I personally would’ve loved to have seen that version. I think Ford could’ve brought something unique to the role. Oh well.
The Max Original will be a co-production between HBO Max and Annapurna Television. Campos will direct 6 of the show’s 8 episodes, and he’ll write the script and serve as showrunner with Maggie Cohn. “This has been a project I have been working on in one way or another since 2008,” Campos said. “It’s been a long and winding road, but well worth the wait to be able to find partners like HBO Max, Annapurna, co-showrunner Maggie Cohn, and the incredible Colin Firth to dramatize such a complex true-life story.”
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