The bizarre criminal case of the West Memphis Three, who were falsely convicted for the grisly murder of three children, has fueled numerous documentaries, including West of Memphis, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory which ended with the eventual release of its subjects, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, after 18 years in prison. In the wake of their release, a pair of narrative dramas have rolled into development. One produced by Johnny Depp is to be based on Echols' yet-to-be published memoir; the other helmed by Atom Egoyan, is inspired by Mara Leveritt's true crime novel Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three.

The latter of these is now gearing up for production, having landed Oscar-winners Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth to star. Deadline reports Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off, Laurel Canyon) has recently signed on to play Terry Hobbs, stepfather of one of the murdered children, and husband to Witherspoon's character, Pam. Their relationship is said to be pivotal to Egoyan's exploration of this tragic murder mystery, which gives an intriguing insight to what the filmmaker behind The Sweet Hereafter has in mind for Devil's Knot.

See, Terry Hobbs was initially counted among the grieving parents when three missing 8-year-old boys turned up naked, mutilated, and murdered in the waters of a creek. However, new physical evidence that surfaced a decade after the crime was committed, aimed suspicion at this stepfather who was remembered to be calling out to the boys the night they disappeared. Hobbs was never charged, though to many he is still a suspect.

It sounds like a tricky role for any actor, but I'm not worried for Nivola, as he has shown a dark and dangerous energy in his past works that should be well suited here. He's sure to spark with Witherspoon onscreen, and I look forward to seeing his tense tango with Firth's private detective, as Hobbs skirts popular suspicion. Even through Egoyan's wan lens of drama, this could well be the role that wins Nivola the kind of acclaim he's long labored for.

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