Stillwater director and co-writer Tom McCarthy has made it abundantly clear that in no way, shape or form is the film based on Amanda Knox's experience with the Italian judicial system.
In an interview with Variety, published on Friday, Aug. 6, McCarthy reiterated Stillwater was inspired by a number of different stories, and was by no means solely about Knox's wrongful conviction in the murder of Meredith Kercher. As he put it, "It does take from aspects of true life events, like many films, but Stillwater is about Bill Baker's journey, his relationship with his estranged daughter Allison and a French woman and her young daughter he meets along the way."
The director also said, "I deeply empathize with Amanda and what she went through. She was rightfully found innocent and acquitted in the Meredith Kercher case. She has platforms to speak her truth and engage with the media and she is exercising her absolute right to do so."
However, McCarthy brought up the fact that Knox has admitted to not seeing the film, which stars Matt Damon and Abigal Breslin, yet. "What she seems to be raising feels very removed from the film we actually made," he said.
He went on to explain that he understands why Knox wanted to offer her own account of what happened, but explained that since none of the characters are real or based on one specific person, he felt no real need to reach out to her during the writing process. "Years ago, I made a film about real-life events called Spotlight, and, in that instance, we thoroughly researched and worked closely with the real-life subjects and used real names and events within the film," he stated. "That was not the case with Stillwater, since it is a work of fiction."
McCarthy added that even his children are aware of his tendency to take "bits and pieces" from different stories or narratives and weaves them into a movie. This was the case with Stillwater, which received critical acclaim at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Knox previously expressed frustration that the film took inspiration from her connection to the death of her roommate. On July 29, she opined on Twitter that movies like Stillwater "profit off my name, face, & story without my consent," while also doing damage to her reputation. Moreover, she asserted the films often center her in the narrative, rather than the victim and the families.
Her Twitter thread arose from McCarthy's interview with Vanity Fair. At the time, he told the outlet that he and his co-writers were fascinated by Knox's conviction and subsequent acquittals, sharing, "There were just so many layers to that story that kept anyone who was following pretty riveted."
But, he also stated that they decided early on to "leave the Amanda Knox case behind" and create a wholly different story, one which is still centered around "an American woman studying abroad involved in some kind of sensational crime and she ends up in jail."
Though McCarthy has refuted Knox's assertion that the movie is based on her wrongful conviction, her statements sparked a bigger conversation about taking inspiration from real-life events.
One of the film critics who Knox called out even offered an apology to the mom-to-be. "I feel like a big bozo for using the phrase 'Amanda Knox saga' as a shorthand in my review of STILLWATER," the author wrote on Twitter. "Apologies to Amanda, who eloquently lays out why everyone in the media needs to do better with our choices, especially when it comes to real lives."