Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) is set to star opposite Benicio del Toro and Patricia Arquette in Showtime’s limited series Escape At Dannemora (fka Clinton Correctional), directed and executive produced by Ben Stiller. Having all three leads in place, the eight-hour limited series has received a formal green light by the premium cable network, with Stiller directing all eight episodes.
Escape At Dannemora is based on the headline-making true story of a 2015 prison break in upstate New York, which spawned a massive manhunt for two convicted murderers who were aided in their escape by a married female prison employee with whom they both became sexually entangled.
Del Toro will play convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. Arquette will play Tilly Mitchell, a working class, married woman who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both convicts, inducing her to assist them with their escape. Dano will play David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who uses his good looks to seduce Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard Matt’s plot.
Escape At Dannemora is written and executive produced by Brett Johnson (Mad Men) and Michael Tolkin (The Player) who met while working as writers on the Showtime drama series Ray Donovan. In addition to Stiller, Johnson and Tolkin, executive producing are Ray Donovan‘s Bryan Zuriff, Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips) via Michael De Luca Productions, and Nicky Weinstock for Stiller’s Red Hour Productions. Production will begin later this year at the actual locations in upstate New York.
“We are all very intent on trying to tell this singular story in a way that shows the reality and humanity of the people involved,” said Stiller. “While the genre is a prison escape story, at its core it is a story about real people, some criminals and some not, who make some bad choices that have huge consequences. I think that’s what’s so compelling about this.”
Arquette called Escape At Dannemora a “fascinating and dark American love story rooted in real and self-deceptive incarceration.”
In 2008, Richard Matt received a 25-years-to-life sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility without possibility of parole for the 1997 murder and dismemberment of his boss, William Rickerson. After that killing, Matt fled to Mexico, where he killed a man outside a bar and served nine years in jail before being extradited to the U.S. in 2007. In prison, he met Sweat, who was sentenced to life without parole in 2003 for the murder of a sheriff’s deputy. In June 2015, abetted by Mitchell and corrections officer Gene Palmer, the pair became the first escapees in the 170-year history of Clinton Correctional, the state of New York’s third-oldest prison and largest maximum security facility. They were at large for 20 days, until Matt was killed in a confrontation after being spotted by law enforcement, 50 miles from Clinton and less than 20 miles south of Canada. Two days later, Sweat was wounded and then apprehended, less than two miles from the Canadian border. Mitchell and Sweat pled guilty to multiple charges related to the prison break. Mitchell received a sentence of 28 months to seven years in prison, serving her sentence at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County, New York, approximately 300 miles from Clinton. Sweat was officially sentenced to an additional 3½ to 7 years. In June 2016, a report from the Office of the Inspector General in New York declared that a total of 20 uniformed and civilian employees enabled the escape in some fashion.
Del Toro won an Oscar for Traffic, Arquette for Boyhood. Del Toro will be seen in Avengers: Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Golden Globe nominee Dano stars in Okja, which just premiered at Cannes. His upcoming directorial debut, Wildlife, which he also co-wrote with Zoe Kazan, stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Dano is repped by Anonymous Content and WME.
Showtime’s limited series slate includes John Ridley’s Guerrilla, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and the upcoming Patrick Melrose, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and Purity, starring Daniel Craig.