LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Family members of a murder victim portrayed in the new movie “Conviction” lashed out on Thursday at star Hilary Swank and the film’s producers, questioning their morals for not consulting the family on the movie’s depiction of their dead mother.
But the producers sought to placate their concerns the same afternoon, issuing a statement expressing their sympathy for the daughter and son of victim Katharina Brow and noting that Swank, an executive producer on the movie, was brought aboard “after the script was written and the film was greenlit.”
The complaint comes only one day before “Conviction” makes its debut in U.S. movie theaters, telling the story of how working mom Betty Anne Waters (played by Swank) put herself through law school, then utilized DNA testing to get her brother, Kenneth Waters, freed from jail.
The tale is based on the real-life story of Waters and her brother, who was convicted of the 1980 murder of Katharina Brow. The mother of two had been found in her mobile home with more than 30 stab wounds. Kenneth Waters was convicted of her murder in 1983 and released 18 years later.
Through their attorney Gloria Allred, Melrose Brow and Charlie Brow, the real-life daughter and son, said Swank and the film’s producers had a moral duty to meet them before or during the film’s production.
“Our family is being forced to relive the memory of a heinous crime,” Melrose Brow told reporters at a press conference in Allred’s Los Angeles office.
Brow said she and her brother wanted to know whether their mom would be presented as the loving mother and grandmother she was, and if a reenactment of the murder would be shown on screen to millions of moviegoers.
“The film’s producers, including Ms. Swank, have never bothered to contact” the family, Allred said. “We believe a proper respect for Ms. Brow’s family could’ve been shown.”
“Do they have a legal duty to do it? We can argue about that. Do they have a moral duty? We say yes,” Allred added.
The Brows said they had not seen the film, and Allred requested a “private screening” for the family.
Late Thursday, three producers issued a joint statement saying, “we have the deepest compassion and sympathy for the family of Katharina Brow” and adding they would arrange a screening for Melrose and Charlie.
“This will no doubt answer many of their questions surrounding the unthinkable and horrific tragedy that befell their mother,” the producers said.
“Conviction” does not show a reenactment of the murder and focuses mostly on Swank’s efforts to become a qualified lawyer, her devotion to her brother, and her work with the Innocence Project that aims to free wrongly convicted prisoners.
At a screening in New York on Wednesday, Betty Anne Waters spoke to an audience along with Goldwyn and the producers, and said there was nothing inconsistent with real-life events.
Goldwyn said the film’s makers consulted with Waters extensively.
As an executive producer, Swank would have been little involved in day-to-day production. That credit is typically reserved for top actors, studio executives, financiers and others who are instrumental in getting a film made, but not a major part in the months of planning or production.
Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Jill Serjeant