Reese Witherspoon is set to play the mother of a slain boy in the new film "Devil's Knot," which is based on the true story of the "West Memphis Three."
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. spent 18 years in prison for the murder of three boys in the Arkansas area in 1993. The three were freed in August after lobbying by celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" director Peter Jackson, who also helped fund their defense team's investigation.
Witherspoon, 35, will play Pam Hobbs, the mother of Stevie Branch, one of the three boys whose naked, mutilated and hog-tied bodies were found in a drainage canal near West Memphis in May 1993, the actress' spokesperson confirmed to OnTheRedCarpet.com following a report by the trade publication Variety on Monday, December 19.
Echols, who was 18 at the time and a fan of heavy metal and the Wiccan religion, was the focus of the local police department's investigation into the deaths.
Misskelley, then 17, had confessed to killing the boys and implicated Echols and Baldwin. He later recanted. Witnesses would testified at their trial that they heard the three teenagers talking about the murders, while prosecutors said the killings were part of a satanic cult ritual, according to the New York Times.
She attended the August 2011 hearing that saw a judge vacate the murder convictions of the three teenagers. Under a plea deal, they pleaded guilty to murder while still maintaining their innocence and were sentenced to 18 years and 78 days in prison. They were then released for time served.
"Once I come to the forgiving part of grieving, I started looking into everything myself just as other people did and had questions myself," Hobbs told Memphis' FOX affiliate WHBQ Television in 2010. "Now, with the DNA evidence and things, that doesn't point to the three men convicted, that lets me know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they didn't lay a hand on my son."
"Devil's Knot" is set for release in 2012 and will be directed by Egyptian-born Atom Egoyan, who has helmed films such as "Where the Truth Lies," an R-rated Hollywood business-themed thriller starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, as well as the 2009 movie "Chloe," a sex thriller with Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson.
The real Hobbs also appeared in documentaries about the murders, including "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" in 1996 and "West of Memphis" in a new one called "West of Memphis" that is also set for release in 2012.