The Staircase Editor Sophie Brunet on Her “Painful” Michael Peterson Years and HBO Max’s Series

Stair Document Editor Sophie Brunet never wanted to be a character in the HBO Max adaptation.

program creator, Antonio Campos, called her in 2020 with questions about the Peabody Prize-winning archives that document the defense strategy of Michael Peterson after he was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen, in 2001.

But Campos didn’t just ask about crafting Stair, which has been heralded as a true-crime movie theater — offers startling access to a gripping trial that unfolds in a series of weirder-than-fictional stories involving secret lovers. secrets and the late discovery of a suspected missing murder weapon. Campos wants to know about a plot change that’s appearing more and more offscreen — when Brunet and Peterson, the subject of Stair, engaged in a multi-year romance that largely overlapped with his time in prison. Brunet confirmed the relationship in a 2008 interview with the French newspaper World, and Peterson wrote about it in their 2019 book, Behind the Stairs.

In an email to Vanity Fair, Brunet recalls her conversation with Campos: “I specifically told him that I could tell him, as a friend, some aspects of my life. [the relationship]but I don’t want to be a character in [project]. ”

Brunet had met Campos a number of times before, the first time in Paris when the filmmaker met Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Academy Award-winning director of Stair documents, and again at Peterson’s 2011 hearing in Durham. A few years after Brunet edited the 2013 Palme d’Or-winning film, Blue is the warmest color, she said she reconnected with Campos on the film festival circuit. By the time Campos called her in 2020, Brunet said she understood that de Lestrade trusted the American filmmaker. De Lestrade shared archives from the iconic crime documentary with him — allowing Campos to sift through hundreds of hours of raw footage for reference and study.

Some time after her conversation with Campos, Brunet received a phone call from de Lestrade with updates on Campos’ miniseries. Not only Brunet is a character, but also the actor who plays her, who is an Oscar winner Juliette Binoche, very excited to meet her. “I was very upset when I heard that I was going to be a character in the Antonio Campos series. I felt betrayed and I was angry with myself that I trusted Antonio,” Brunet wrote. Up to that point, though, she didn’t feel she could stop the momentum of the Hollywood adaptation, which currently doesn’t have one but two Oscar winners. “I don’t feel that I can do anything to avoid being a character in Antonio [project]. ”

“I decided to make the best of it and meet Juliette,” she wrote, explaining that she and Binoche eventually beat it — a silver lining for a roller coaster. Stair story before the adaptive challenge. “I see this new friendship as a belated gift, an unexpected happy ending to my painful story.”

Brunet had been editing films for about a decade when she started working Stair. With the help of the producer Allyson Lucak, Longtime Brunet collaborator de Lestrade secured incredible and unprecedented access to Peterson’s murder trial in Durham, North Carolina. Paris-based Brunet received hundreds of hours of raw footage showing Peterson after his wife’s death, which she began to shape into the troves of documents that would become Stair.

According to Brunet, she finished her work on the original eight episodes of Stair without ever meeting or communicating with Peterson. She said she was inspired to contact Peterson only after he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in October 2003. (Michael was released from prison after being put on trial. new trial and apply for Alford.)

“I never wanted to write to him before,” explains Brunet. “The verdict shocked me. In France, there’s nothing quite like life without amnesty – not to mention the death penalty. To me, it was like putting someone alive in a coffin. I have been affected by cruelty and what I view as a lapse of justice. So I decided to write Michael to offer to send him some books – which I did non-stop while he was in prison. ”

The fifth episode of HBO Max’s Stair, “The Heart Is Beating,” depicts the scene where Brunet edited the original eight episodes while in a romantic relationship with Peterson. But Brunet makes it clear that she will never cross that line before her work on the documentary is over. “Just because I’m no longer a film editor, I feel entitled [reach out to him]. Otherwise, I have found it inappropriate. ” The Staircase Editor Sophie Brunet on Her “Painful” Michael Peterson Years and HBO Max’s Series

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