EXCLUSIVE: Johnny Depp and his producing partner Christi Dembrowski and their Infinitum Nihil production shingle have yet another interesting project in development. They’ve optioned film rights to the soon-to-be-published and as-yet-untitled book by Damien Echols which reveals his experiences on death row after his wrongful conviction and subsequent wrongful 18-year imprisonment for the 1993 murder of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The memoir will be published in September 2012 by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Books. The injustice of the West Memphis Three story drew badly needed support from the entertainment community’s Peter Jackson, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Henry Rollins, and of course Depp. The actor and his producing partner have long been wanting and waiting to explore this story and will develop the narrative as a feature film with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis, who will be executive producers. Their collective take is to spotlight the controversial conviction and imprisonment of the then 18-year-old who’s now in his mid-30s and to present his life before conviction as well its twists and turns leading to release.
For those unfamiliar with the case, teenagers Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr, and Jason Baldwin were arrested and convicted in 1994 for the murder of three young Cub Scouts who were the victims of a supposed satanic ritual. Despite faulty DNA evidence presented by prosecutors, Echols was condemned to death and Misskelley Jr and Baldwin sentenced to life in prison. The convictions drew national attention due to the brutality of the crimes, the lack of evidence, and the defendants’ insistence that they were innocent. A documentary film produced in 1996, Paradise Lost, helped to shed light on the wrongful convictions, and an investigation provided critical information that finally helped the West Memphis Three achieve freedom in August 2011. That formed the basis of director Amy Berg’s upcoming 2012 feature documentary West of Memphis produced by filmmaker Jackson & Fran Walsh. Now Depp is cinematically involved with this option deal negotiated by UTA on behalf of Infinitum Nihil, and by Henry Dunow at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Agency and Sylvie Rabineau at RWSG Literary on behalf of the author.
Infinitum Nihil continues to be one of the busiest and biggest banners by any actor. Formed in 2004, it has a first-look deal with Graham King’s GK Films and the two companies produced the Oscar-nominated Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese, as well as The Rum Diary starring Depp and written and directed by Bruce Robinson. Additionally, Infinitum Nihil and GK Films are in post-production on Dark Shadows, with Depp both starring and producing with Tim Burton who is also directing. Infinitum Nihil and GK Films also have a number of projects in development for Warner Bros, including Shantaram based on the book by Gregory David Roberts and adapted by Eric Roth; Attica being adapted by Linda Woolverton with Sam Fell attached to direct; Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters; and Tom Robbins’ classic Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climate, adapted by Eric Aronson. Infinitum Nihil on its own is also currently developing The Thin Man for Warner Bros with Rob Marshall attached to direct, as well as the graphic novel Rex Mundi. Also recently announced are two projects for Disney: The Night Stalker and Paul Revere. Additionall, Infinitum Nihil’s project list includes Nick Tosches’ book In The Hand Of Dante and journalist-author James Meek’s The People’s Act Of Love.