Dustin Lance Black has rules about bringing true crime stories to life.
The Oscar-winning screenwriter exclusively revealed to E! News that he doesn't "see a whole lot of value in telling stories from the past [just] because you're feeling nostalgic."
This may be surprising to learn, as Black penned the critically-acclaimed 2008 film Milk about the life and death of gay rights activist Harvey Milk and is now the creator of FX true crime miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven. The show is a dramatic retelling of the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter Erica at the hands of two Fundamentalist Mormons.
For Black, these historical projects serve a purpose, with the screenwriter calling them "instructive" stories.
"They might keep us from stepping in a pothole that our ancestors stepped in dozens of times already," he explained. "Why do we have to do that again? Is there a better road forward?"
So, why tell the story of the gruesome Lafferty murders almost 40 years later?
"This is a story about some boys, who are esteemed in their community, who, when they hit hard times started taking steps towards fundamentalism," Black said of the Andrew Garfield-led series. "Started following the rules that were hundreds and thousands of years old in hopes that it would make their lives better again. Well, that's what the world is doing right now. We've all hit the skids. We've all had a tough time in these past many years."
The way Black sees it, this show is meant to be a warning to those turning to "fundamentalist doctrine" following the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This story says loud and clear that that is an unwise journey, that those ideas and those rules are likely outdated," he continued. "And that by continuing to teach those rules and follow those rules, we're probably doing great harm."
Black is especially advocating for the equality of women. "These ancient texts, both the Constitution and the Bible, do not treat women equally," he stated. "I think it is time that we really look our faith in the eye and say, 'Tell me about this God who believes that women are less than men? And tell me why that God deserves my prayer?'"
New episodes of Under the Banner of Heaven arrive Thursdays on FX on Hulu.