This week on theaters, Conviction, the true life story of Betty Anne, a working mother who put herself through law school to save her brother who was wrongfully convicted of murder hit theaters with a bang. Not only is this a drama but it’s a statement on the problems with our system today. Recently we attended a press conference with the director of the film Tony Goldwyn, the writer Pamela Gray, cast members Hilary Swank, Mini Driver, Juliette Lewis and Sam Rockwell and real life hero Betty Anne.

Find out how this massive cast, crew and real life inspiration came together to make Conviction below…

Tony Goldwyn: I’d first heard about the story because my wife saw a piece on the news when Betty Anne succeeded in getting him out of prison. I got fascinated with the story and teamed up with our other producer Andy Carsh, who was securing the rights to Betty Anne’s story, and we met, and agreed that we saw the same film. And agreed that Pamela Grey was the ideal writer for it.

Pamela Gray: When Tony first told me the story I had that experience as a writer where your heart starts racing and I thought, “I MUST write this story”. It was so incredible, and when we met Betty Anne it just reached this level that you couldn’t imagine. She’s such an incredible human being, she’s a normal person who did the most extraordinary thing. There was so much material – the richness, the “this couldn’t happen, you wouldn’t believe this if it was in a movie”. The biggest challenge was to take what was essentially – at least – 4 movies and turn it into one.

This was not just any old film for Goldwyn, he set out to make a story about a real-life person who he knew would see the film and not only did he not want to let her down, he wanted to make sure to tell the truth…

Tony Goldwyn: You have to approach it as a piece of fiction, even though we all have a responsibility to honor the spirit and the truth of what the movie is about, which honors Betty Anne and Kenny’s story – but it’s something larger and needs to stand on its own. It’s not a documentary.

Pamela and I drove up to Road Island and spent a lot of time with Betty Anne, just talking and getting to know her. Just spent hours and hours and hours and hours talking to Betty Anne, Pam taped the conversations, we met all the family, she took us to all the different places involved in the story, and I think for Pamela and I – I remember us coming out of some of these meetings jumping up and down looking at each other going “Oh my god, this is really good – but how do we make a movie out of it?” It was basically 40 years of story. You could make 5 great films out of Betty Anne’s life – there are so many extraordinary characters and experiences. So it was really, for us, an issue of focusing the film.

It seems as if Tony did great job of properly representing the character because the real life Betty Anne of whom the character is based off of was absolutely blown away by the portrayal of her life…

Betty Anne: I started crying one minute into [the film], I don’t remember most of it. So, it as for lack of a better word surreal. It was amazing seeing yourself, your brother, the story come to life. It actually IS the story. It was amazing to watch it – I was amazed at how the real story did come up and was there. It was perfect, I thought.

It’s obvious that not only the script but the location had a lot to do with the actors experience and helping them get into character…

Sam Rockwell: The last day was a really important day because we lost the film and had to go back into the prison to re-shoot. I remember Betty Anne saying, well now you’re really going to know what it’s like to be in prison! It’s not improvising like Ghost Busters – Pam wrote a really tight script like a Mamet play. Our scenes in the prison were mid-conversation. We had to create a reality before and after – so sometimes we had to get that going and warm up.

Hilary Swank: When Sam came on board, he was like “I wanna meet Betty Anne, the family, everybody!” And I thought, “I’m going with you!” Because I thought it’d be a great bonding experience for us playing brother and sister. We all got in a car – Tony and Sam and I and drove to visit Betty Anne and her family. This opportunity for me was so life enriching and a reminder, to me, what is important: family. I grew, I feel, as an actor but Betty Anne has changed my life with who she is and how she chooses to live her life.

Mini Driver: I come from a much smaller country than the US, what I was so astonished by was how federal involvement is actually so minor – the state has jurisdiction. I was astonished that evidence could actually be discovered, that it was sitting in a box in the back of this place for all these years. It didn’t inspire great faith. I felt that the archaic British system was sadly and rather sweetly superior, and it terrifies me to live in America.

For most people, the thing that will make this movie is Juliette Lewis’ final moment where she tapped into the true essence of the character…

Juliette Lewis: For me, it’s a pleasure – because I work in energies. This is a person with a disrupted energy. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a person who shakes up your space, and it’s NICE to have that person leave your space. I want you to feel me, when this scene is done. For you to take a deep breath and know she’s disturbing. She tells one lie, upon a lie, upon a lie – this person who’s believing her own fiction.

So why should you go and see this film? It’s a “real” story and Goldwyn has done everything he can to make it a true experience, honest to the real life person…

Tony Goldwyn: My deep hope is that people will experience this movie and look at those they love and think about “What am I willing to do for the people that I care about most in my life?” Because, what made ME want to tell this story beyond the extraordinary-ness of Betty Anne’s achievement was the bond between these two people. The love that they shared – that, to me, was the thing. Her faith in him and his in her. Betty Anne never doubted for a second – she KNEW he was innocent. Kenny never doubted for a second that Betty Anne was going to become a lawyer, find evidence to get him out – what is that connection about? It’s the thing we all crave in our lives, that human connection.”

Check out Conviction in theaters October 15th.


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