These Guys Were Almost Han Solo in Star Wars, Not Harrison Ford

When Lucasfilm announced plans for a standalone Han Solo prequel, there didn’t seem to be an actor in Hollywood who didn’t want a crack at playing the younger version of the character made famous by Harrison Ford. Producer Kathleen Kennedy and the film’s original directing team looked at a slew of actors between the ages of 17 and 34. At one point, the short list reportedly included Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Jack Raynor, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, Emory Cohen, and Blake Jenner, before the role was ultimately given to Alden Aron-Reich. But the search for the original Han Solo was just as wide searching, and possibly a little more difficult to nail down, with quit a few Hollywood icons targeted for the role.

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Since the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977, a slew of names have surfaced as prospective would-be Millennium Falcon piloting smugglers who were nearly cast by George Lucas the first time around. Yes, Harrison Ford actually wasn’t the first choice to play everyone’s favorite scruffy Nerf Herder. He wasn’t even the 15th choice, by all accounts. So today, we look at some of the actors who almost pulled on those shiny black space boots to play one of the most iconic smugglers in all of sci-fi history. Here we take a look at 10 of the Actors who could have been Han Solo.

Robert Englund

Harrison Ford is so dreamy, right? But Han Solo could have been a real nightmare. In a 2014 interview, Yahoo! Movies and a 2015 follow-up with the Hollywood Reporter, the man we all came to know as Freddy Krueger revealed he’d auditioned to play Han Solo. Robert Englund says he went to the Warner Bros. lot to read for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. They told him he was too old to play the surfer in the movie but they sent him across the hall to read for a project helmed by one of Coppola’s buddies, George Lucas. He was too young for Solo, but he did bring home some sides for Luke Skywalker, which he handed to the guy on his couch: Mark Hamill. Yes, the future Freddy Krueger was the guy who tipped off Mark Hamill about Star Wars. Incidentally, Englund also said he’d heard that Tom Selleck turned down the Han Solo role. Selleck was later offered the role of Indiana Jones, but had to turn it down after CBS picked up the pilot for the show Magnum P.I., a career defining character that earned Selleck an Emmy and made his mustache famous.

Nick Nolte

Nick Nolte is another guy who tried but failed to join the cast of Apocalypse Now and like Robert Englund, was reportedly considered for Solo. Rumor has it he turned down Indiana Jones, too! In a 2011 interview with MTV, Nolte admitted he would have made a quite-goofy Star Wars person. Nevertheless, the idea of Nolte as Solo did provide a great comedic premise for avowed Star Wars geek Patton Oswalt, who turned the premise into one of his best jokes.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford teamed up for a few scenes in The Expendables 3, but back when Harrison Ford was still working as a carpenter, Sly went in to see about donning the now iconic black vest and blaster that ultimately wound up with Ford. In a 2014 appearance on The Tonight Show, Stallone told Jimmy Fallon that he’d actually met with George Lucas and his producers, though he was pretty sure Lucas didn’t like him for the part from the start. “Let me just make it easy for you,” he told them, before the audition even began. “I would look like crap in spandex leotards and a ray gun. Guys in space don’t have this face, I get it.” Stallone did okay with the Rocky franchise, so all is good.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino says he was offered everything after his star making turns in The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Godfather Part II. Included in that list of everything, as he discussed with MTV at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, was Star Wars. The only problem was that the future Scarface didn’t understand the script they gave him or why he should play Han Solo. “I was in The Godfather,” he said. “They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act.”

James Caan

Pacino wasn’t the only actor from The Godfather who was considered for Han Solo. Howard Stern once asked James Caan why he turned down the role when it was offered to him and he said bluntly, “They didn’t want an actor. That’s why they got Harrison Ford.” Damn, Sonny Corleone! James Caan can be pretty hilarious during interviews, particularly when he’s sitting with someone like Stern. He described Ford as “absolutely mediocre” and said he’d since become “arrogant” as well. Caan likes to poke fun, so it’s hard to say whether the beef is real. So… Badabing!

Chevy Chase

Speaking of “funny,” Irwin Fletcher may have convincingly passed himself off as a surgeon and as a friend of the Underhills, but could Chevy Chase have made a convincing Han Solo? He’s one of many names often tossed around as guys reportedly considered for the role back in the day. He did end up costarring with the late great Carrie Fisher, in a movie about the little people actors cast as extras in The Wizard of Oz, called Under the Rainbow, which was released between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Chase also lent his voice to the classic Family Guy sendup of Star Wars, Blue Harvest.

Bill Murray

Chevy Chase isn’t the only Saturday Night Live veteran whose name is mentioned in nearly every almost-Han Solo conversation. The rumor that Murray turned down the part followed him for years. During a San Diego Comic-Con panel in 2015, Murray was asked whether the rumors were true. He was also asked if he’d consider playing Solo in the forthcoming spin-off. “I don’t know if I was up for it,” he answered. “I can’t tell you for sure. But I am working out in hopes of getting this new thing,” he joked. “I’m doing a lot of swimming and pilates.” Murray’s greatest contribution to the Star Wars universe, of course, came in January 1978, when his Nick the Lounge Singer graciously added lyrics to John Williams classic theme.

Christopher Walken

Speaking of SNL, remember Kevin Spacey as Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo? It’s a classic sketch and it’s apparently grounded in some piece of reality and we aren’t just talking about Walken’s own legendary appearances on Saturday Night Live. Supposedly, the Han Solo role in the original Star Wars was his for the taking, with some saying he was high on the list for George Lucas. Of course, Walken did end up with a part in another 1977 cinema classic: Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

Kurt Russell

We haven’t seen a real Christopher Walken screen test floating around, but there is real footage of Kurt Russell auditioning for the role. In the decade before Escape from New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China, Russell read for both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, at one point reading alongside Luke hopeful William Katt, who would go on to star as television’s The Greatest American Hero in the 1980s. While doing press for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Russell admitted that during his Star Wars audition, he didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. “Something about a Death Star and a Millennium Falcon.” Watching Russell as John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken a few years later, it wasn’t hard to imagine him as Han.

Glynn Turman

Glynn Turman, who went on to land roles in Gremlins and HBO’s The Wire, recently spoke to Empire about going in to read for Star Wars. “In those days it said ‘black actor,’ ‘white actor,’ ‘Hispanic actor’ for every role, but it didn’t say either for the Han Solo part,” he explained. “It didn’t specify ‘black actor.’ I was rather pleased because I was just being called in as a talent.” According to the book Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, Lucas said the idea of Han Solo and Princess Leia as an interracial couple was just too risky at the time. Billie Dee Williams, who joined the franchise with Empire Strikes Back, certainly brought his own swagger to the Han Solo esque character of Lando Calrissian, a role taken over by Donald Glover in the Han Solo standalone film, about the smuggler duo’s early adventures. There have certainly been more names tossed around as possible Han Solo’s back in the day and in more recent years with the spinoff prequel.


Bill Maher: What If “Madman” Trump’s Crazy Nuke Threats Work? Nah…

Playing someone’s advocate, Real Time’s Bill Maher wondered aloud tonight whether President Donald Trump’s nuke-threatening bluster against North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might, well, work.

“If by working,” answered CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, “you mean North Korea de-nuclearizing, I would give him the Nobel Prize. But I think that is highly, highly, highly unlikely.”

The HBO host didn’t press his original point.

“He’s incentivizing their hawkishness,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham, sharing the Real Time With Bill Maher roundtable with Zakaria and suggesting North Korea has an “elemental primal drive” to have the “same amount of respect on the world stage” as the world’s nine nuclear states. Trump’s threats only reinforce the regime’s desire for nukes, Meacham said.

Zakaria suggested even discussing Trump’s motivations on cable TV could be dangerous, given the president might be watching and thinking “I’m going to show Bill Maher and Fareed Zakaria – I’m going to go to war.”

Quipped Meacham, “We could say the PGA Tournament is on the Golf Channel, and it’s really good, sir!”

The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons was Real Time‘s mid-show guest, promoting his Discovery Channel doc series First in Human about the National Institute of Health’s research hospital called Building 10. Parsons, who produces and narrates the series, praised the bravery of patients suffering from incurable illnesses who volunteer for research studies.

Well, said Maher, “they have incurable diseases. That’s not that brave.”

Parsons, executing beautifully timed comic deflation, sighed, “Okay, okay,” before adding, “I don’t like being here, I’ve decided. I’m not watching anymore. Off the DVR.”


Metallica’s Kirk Hammett Unveils His Massive Horror Movie Poster Collection

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett is a huge fan of horror movies, which should come as no surprise for fans of the shredder. Hammett often plays guitars with classic horror icons painted on them including Boris Karloff as The Mummy, Bela Lugosi’s Tales of the Dead, and Dracula to name a few. The guitarist has collected classic horror posters and memorabilia since 1987 and has amassed quite the collection of the past 30 years. Hammett and Salem, Massachusetts’ Peabody Essex Museum have teamed up to display over 100 pieces from the guitarist’s private collection to be put on display from August 12th through November 26th.

Before the museum came to safely take Hammett’s art from his walls, he had the classic posters up in nearly every room of his home. The guitarist said that he would put a guitar and amplifier in each room just in case the images from the posters sparked any creativity to write music and when the museum came to pick up the pieces, they discovered more that they wanted to take. The museum was originally only going to show 100 pieces, but decided on 135 while going through Hammett’s personal collection.

As it turns out, the pieces did inspire a 7-minute piece of music that Hammett wrote for the Peabody Essex Museum to play as a soundtrack for the exhibition. The piece of music is called “The Maiden and the Monster,” which Hammett wrote with his wife and considers it to be “musical horror novel.” The guitarist went on to talk about the way that horror movies and his memorabilia influence him and his music. He explains.

“Hopefully it will answer all the questions on whether this stuff influences me in a musical way or not. The big-ass answer is: ‘F%$k yes, it does, and listen to this track so that I can actually have the proof in the pudding that, yes, I am hugely influenced by this stuff.’ I’m so influenced by this stuff that I’m writing a horror story, but with musical notes.”

Hammett shared 10 of his favorite classic horror posters with Rolling Stone and they are definitely some rare pieces of horror history. The first poster that Hammett chose was a Frankenstein poster from around 1931, which Hammett said may be the only one to exist due to it having two directors printed on it. The next poster that the guitarist shared was The Mummy poster from 1932 and Hammett thinks that it is the ultimate image of Boris Karloff as The Mummy. Next up is a poster for 1935′s Bride of Frankenstein and it’s one of Hammett’s all-time favorite movies.

The next poster shared was for 1931′s Dracula, another favorite of Hammett’s and an image that he has painted on one of his guitars, much like the image of Karloff as The Mummy. 1921′s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is shown, as is 1931′s Nosferatu, which is another image that Hammett had painted on one of his guitars. Next up is a Hamlet poster from 1920 and the more widely known The Mummy Poster with Karloff in his coffin. The final 2 posters are for 1931′s Frankenstein and 1954′s The Creature from the Black Lagoon, both of which have been painted on Hammett’s guitars over the years. Kirk Hammett’s passion for horror is obvious, but his knowledge of the art behind the posters and the facts about the movies is astounding. You can check out 135 pieces from Hammett’s personal collection at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts from August 12th through November 26th and if that’s not enough for you, you can currently see Kirk Hammett and Metallica on the Hard Wired to Self-Destruct tour, which is conquering North America. Check out some of Hammett’s posters below.


Leo Meet Leo: Paramount, Universal Vie For Walter Isaacson Da Vinci Book For DiCaprio

EXCLUSIVE: Legend has it that Leonardo DiCaprio was so named because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in a museum in Italy when the future star kicked for the first time. So it seems like destiny that DiCaprio someday might play his namesake, the artist who painted The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.

Paramount and Universal are in a ferocious seven-figure bidding battle tonight to acquire the Walter Isaacson book Leonardo da Vinci, with Appian Way in the center of this to produce the film as a potential star vehicle for DiCaprio. Paramount, where Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson have their first-look deal, was all over this one quickly, but Universal has come on gangbusters and turned it into a real two-studio race.

Isaacson wrote Steve Jobs, which was turned into the Danny Boyle-directed film that starred Michael Fassbender. The former Time magazine editor also has written bestsellers on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, the latter of which was the basis for the Emmy-nominated NatGeo series Genius that starred Geoffrey Rush. The book will be published in October by Simon & Schuster.

According to info from the publisher, Isaacson used Da Vinci’s notebooks to weave a narrative that connects his art to his science and voracious curiosity and imagination. Aside from his priceless paintings, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy (his iconic drawing of Vitruvian Man), fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology and weaponry. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo’s lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions. According to the book, he also was a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted and at times heretical.

Appian Way moved from Warner Bros to Paramount, making a three-year deal in March 2016 right after DiCaprio won Best Actor for The Revenant. The studio is hoping that DiCaprio will star in its The Devil in the White City, an adaptation of the Erik Larson book that’s got a script by Billy Ray and will reteam DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese. Appian and Paramount separately are percolating several projects including an adaptation of the Kayla Olson novel Sandcastle Empire, about an apocalyptic future with a society on the brink of collapse from climate change; a yet-untitled film based on a book proposal by New York Times journalist Jack Ewing about the recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal; and a limited television series based on A. Scott Berg’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Charles Lindbergh.

Appian Way continues to work on its Warner Bros films that include Akira and a film about Richard Jewell, the security guard whose life unraveled after his heroic efforts to clear Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park before the 1996 bombing led to a press witch hunt that he had planted the device. Jonah Hill is attached to play Jewell and DiCaprio could play his lawyer. The next Appian Way project to hit the screen will be the Otto Bathurst-directed Robin Hood, with Kingsman‘s Taron Egerton playing the title character. Appian Way is producing with Safehouse and Thunder Road. DiCaprio is also circling Killers of the Flower Moon in a Scorsese reteam, based on the David Grann book that Imperative Entertainment bought for $5 million, with Eric Roth adapting.

The Isaacson book is being brokered by ICM Partners; DiCaprio is repped by LBI and attorneys Gretchen Rush and Steve Warren.

We’ll tell you where the book lands as soon as we know.


Talent Manager Apologizes For Sexist Emails: “Completely Inexcusable”

Talent manager Michael Einfeld has written a public apology to “friends, colleagues and clients” after his former assistant posted his misogynistic emails on social media. Among the offensive things the woman said the Michael Einfeld Management owner wrote about her: “Someone should sew her vagina shut” and “I’m never hiring a girl again.”

The case dates back to March, when agency assistant Rosette Laursen wanted to take a day off to join the A Day Without a Woman walkout. Einfeld, who Laursen said was her boss at the time, responded with a vitriolic email spiked with harsh language — one that apparently was not intended to go her inbox. Here is a sampling from her Facebook post:

  • “Are you f*cking kidding me. At the end of pilot season. Someone should sew her vagina shut. I’m never hiring a girl ever again.”
  • Uppity Selfish C*nt.
  • No one is striking in show business we are all against Trump. And women are considered diverse and being shoved in as writer and directors. Zach who is a Jewish male is being pushed out.

Laursen also posted an apology she got from Einfeld soon after he saw the Facebook post; it read, in part (complete with misspellings): “I apologize for venting like a masagonistic faggit. … I’m an asshole. If you come back we can play nazi death camp. You can beat me me and put in me in the oven. … I am truly sorry.”

So today, Einfeld — whose IMDbPro page says he has managed such clients as Marty Ingels, Tina Louise, Dean Jones and Lee Meriwether — wrote an open apology on Facebook to whomever was listening. The post since has been deleted, but here it is in full, courtesy of Jezebel:


To all my friends, colleagues and clients, I know that many of you have seen the recent Facebook post from my former office assistant Rosette Laursen. I was first informed of the post on Monday, and would have responded sooner except that it has taken me a few days to comprehend my shock and embarrassment. First let me say without reservation – I am sorry. I used language that was tasteless, humorless and completely inexcusable. I believe deeply in workplace diversity regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation, and I am mortified that the things I have said have worked against my commitment to inclusion. As I’ve searched for a response to all this, what I’ve discovered is that words fall woefully short of my extreme remorse – I am so sorry. I will be undertaking some obviously needed introspection, and want to thank those of you who have expressed a willingness to standby me. To those that feel they need space from me – I am heartbroken but understand. If it were possible, I wouldn’t mind space from myself right now. Again, to everyone – I am sorry. If this is something you are willing to hear from me in person please call, or send me a note and I’ll call you. I am devastated, and hope in time you will consider giving me the chance to earn your forgiveness.



New Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars Trailer Unleashes More Killer Bugs

There is a brand new Starship Troopers movie coming out later this month. Would you like to know more? 20-years after the original movie arrived, a proper sequel is coming in the form of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. The movie may be animated, but that doesn’t seem to be taking away from the fact that this looks like something fans of the original should be looking forward to. A brand new trailer for the movie has arrived online and it promises plenty of bug carnage with the original cast on board.

Sony Pictures Entertainment YouTube brings us this new trailer for Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, which gives us a much better look at the sequel than the first trailer did. Casper Van Dien and Dina Meyer return as Federation troopers Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores, respectively. Both of them starred in the original 1997 Starship Troopers, which was a massive flop at the box office, but became a serious cult classic in the years that followed. So this is a reasonably big deal.

The trailer opens up with a great shot of a bunch of alien bugs. Animated or not, this looks like a real Starship Troopers movie. We see that mankind managed to colonize Mars, which is pretty cool, until it isn’t. As we see in the trailer, the bugs managed to overrun the population, both military and civilian alike, but not everything is what it seems. There is some mysterious truth to this attack and one that the powers that be don’t want everyone to know about. Outside of that, there are a ton of glory shots and a whole lot of action. This look like it could be the Starship Troopers sequel that was desired but never delivered.

In Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, Rico is demoted and relocated to a satellite station on Mars, while the Federation moves to attack the home planet of the bugs. But Mars just so happens to be the target of a secret bug attack at the same time, and it falls to Rico and a group of new recruits to keep the planet safe while the Federation’s fleet is far out of reach. By the looks of things, they will have a whole lot of upgraded tech in order to stop the bugs from getting the upper hand, but they are still going to be outlandishly outnumbered.

There will be a one-night-only screening event through Fathom for Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars on August 21 and you can buy tickets now. So if you want to see this on the big screen, get on it. The movie is also going to be made available on DVD/Blu-ray on September 19, in case you’d rather watch it in the comfort of your own home. Be sure to check out the brand new trailer, as well as a new poster and DVD box art, for Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars for yourself below.

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Madballs Will Make Their Big Screen Debut in Ready Player One

Here’s a sentence you probably never thought you would read: Madballs will be included in a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. That’s right, Madballs will make their big screen debut in Ready Player One. The 80s will be coming back in a major way when the movie hits theaters early next year. The nostalgic geek fest of a trailer premiered at San Diego Comic-Con and packed a ton of 80s pop culture references in just over 2 minutes of video. And now the Madballs will be added to the ever-growing list of pop culture references.

The news comes courtesy of the Madballs Facebook page. The page reposted the Ready Player One trailer with a caption that reads: “Dude! We’re so READY! We even make a grossed-out appearance (in the movie)!” It isn’t clear if we’re going to see a giant Madball wreaking havoc in the movie or if it will be a brief flash of an Easter Egg, but we do know that some Madball street art of Screamin’ Meemie popped up in some pictures from the set a while back, so that may be the appearance that the Madball team is referring to.

The Comic-Con trailer features Easter Eggs all over the place, and not all of them are from the 80s. Many have pointed out that a lot of the references contained in the trailer are all from Warner Bros. movies from the past and current times. The Warner Bros. correlation has become a point of contention for many fans who assume that the movie is just going to be one giant, long Warner Bros. commercial. That could be true, but we’re just going off of a brief clip that highlighted some information from the book and brought it to life. Iron Giant and Freddy Krueger appear prominently in the movie, both Warner Bros. properties. The Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine makes a quick appearance. But we also get the Back to the Future DeLorean, which is from Universal Pictures, so its not all WB related.

Spielberg has said that the Iron Giant will play a pretty significant role in Ready Player One, but we won’t know until the movie comes out just how big of a role the giant will have. Spielberg said that the Iron Giant is “a real major player” in Ready Player One, but that’s all of the information we have regarding the role of The Iron Giant in the movie. Perhaps the roll of the Madballs will be larger as well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

In addition to the Madball street art that was seen on the set of Ready Player One, there are also shots of Snarf from the 80s-cartoon series, Thundercats, Gizmo from Gremlins, and Jaws. Even the graffiti in Ready Player One contains Easter Eggs, which will probably lead to repeat viewings of the movie when it hits theaters on March 30th, 2018. In the meantime, you can read Ernest Cline’s bestselling book that the movie is based off of and check out the images of the Easter Egg graffiti from the set of Ready Player One below.

More works added, set dressing for #ReadyPlayerOne in Livery Street

— Michelle Green (@Green_Mush) August 25, 2016

Set dressing Livery Street for #ReadyPlayerOne in @[email protected]@[email protected]

— Michelle Green (@Green_Mush) August 24, 2016

#snarf added, set dressing for #ReadyPlayerOne in Livery Street

— Michelle Green (@Green_Mush) August 25, 2016

Jaws appeared overnight, set dressing for #ReadyPlayerOne in Livery Street

— Michelle Green (@Green_Mush) August 25, 2016


‘The Keepers’ Director Ryan White On A Baltimore Community’s Fight Against Institutional Injustice

When The Keepers debuted on Netflix in May, it was instantly linked to another of the streaming services’ true-crime documentary series: Making a Murderer.

Another haunting story of institutional injustice, director Ryan White’s seven-part series came to him through family connections, investigating the 1969 murder of a Baltimore nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik—a teacher at Archbishop Keough High School who stood up against alleged sexual abuse by priests in her local community and paid the ultimate price.

The primary subjects of the series are a group of women who, like White’s aunt, attended Keough. Hoping for justice while knowing that it may never come, these women knew Cesnik well and loved her dearly, haunted for the rest of their lives by a crime that was buried and remains unresolved.

Below, the Emmy nominee discusses the courage of this community of women who—through his lens—unburied this tragedy and examined their own grief.


The Keepers centers on a crime buried in history—the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969. What was your way into this story?

I actually have a personal connection to the story, in that my aunt went to the high school where it all happened—Archbishop Keough High School. I come from a big Catholic family in Baltimore. My mom was from a big Catholic family, and her sister went to Archbishop Keough and was Sister Cathy’s student.

She was intimately connected to the whole thing. Her favorite teacher went missing and was found dead, and it had haunted her, her entire life. I never heard the story before, and then a few years ago, my aunt and my mom found out who Jane Doe was. They knew that it was a friend of theirs—they had grown up with Jean [Hargadon Wehner]. My aunt was in her class at Archbishop Keough; my mom had dated her brother back in the day.

The two families had grown up side by side. When they found out that Jane Doe was their friend, they connected me with Jean, and that was about three years ago. I flew over to Baltimore and met her for five hours at her dining room table and left that night very compelled, knowing I wanted to be a part of telling her story if she wanted to put it out there.


Bearing in mind this unusual origin story, would you say there’s a through line in the projects you take on a documentary filmmaker?

If there’s any common denominator in my documentaries so far, it’s that they’re all female-centric—women are at the center of each story. I don’t know why that is. I used to laugh about, “One day, I’ll make a movie about a man.”

I don’t know if it’s because I was raised by women—with a single mom and an older sister—but that’s been the through line of my films so far, and actually, my next documentary is about a woman, too.

With The Keepers specifically, it was so personal. It was so close to what I grew up with. Jean and Teresa [Lancaster, a.k.a. Jane Roe] and Donna [Von Den Bosch], all of these survivors are just like my mom and my aunt. When I was talking to Jean that first time, I knew that that could be my mom. That could have happened to my mom just as easily. I think that’s really what drew me in, how relatable she was to me, to my personal life.

Given your personal way into the project, was it easier than it might normally be to gain the trust of your documentary subjects?

Trust is always the biggest hurdle—it’s never easy. Let’s use Jean as an example: I didn’t know her. My aunt and my mom introduced me to her over email, and that’s what got me in the door, for sure. I think a lot of other people wouldn’t have gotten through the door without that personal connection, but I spent many months having to prove myself to her.

She was testing me for many months without a camera ever there, where I would fly back and forth from LA to Baltimore and meet her. She is obviously a very perceptive woman and was spending a lot of time testing me, seeing how I would react to certain things and asking me a lot of questions.


Her trust was won over many months before we ever introduced a camera. The entire three-year process of making The Keepers was meeting new people who you realized played a key part in the story, and having to persuade them to be a part of it.

Gemma [Hoskins] wasn’t difficult because Gemma loved the attention that was going to come to the case if there was a documentary that was going to be made, but a lot of other people, like Sister Cathy’s family, they would pop up into our lives and you’d have a very short amount of time to explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Thankfully, for the most part, everybody participated.

The story of Sister Cathy’s death is so personal to those who knew her—it has haunted many of them for their entire lives. What has it been like to be around that kind of emotion?

It was very emotional. I was on a constant learning curve because I had never made a documentary, obviously, about child sex abuse. I’d never even worked with trauma victims before. My producer Jess [Hargrave] and I were on a steep learning curve, spending all this time with all of these survivors. We really used them as our guide.

They taught us how to navigate those waters and what to say, what not to say; how you handle someone when they break down. All of these situations that happened repeatedly throughout filming The Keepers, we learned how to handle from the survivors themselves. There were many times where I said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing, but it was about being open to learning from those mistakes and not making them again.


In addition to these survivors, you interviewed at least one or two individuals who may have been connected with the crime. How did you approach those interviews, when you were stepping into the unknown?

It’s a tricky thing. As documentary filmmakers, I think we surround ourselves with people who are constantly questioning the ethics of filmmaking. I had a producing team and an editing team who were very self-reflective—we were constantly asking ourselves why we were including certain people or certain things.

Not everyone that we interviewed or was willing to speak on camera made the final cut, either. There were certain instances where we felt like we didn’t have enough to include someone, or enough to include the questioning of someone. The ones that make it into the series were people who acknowledge the things that were said about them.

One example of that is Edgar Davidson. I was so fascinated with his family that had this whole story, going back so many decades—we didn’t know if it was true or urban legend—about how he had come home covered in blood, and the necklace at Christmas, the new tires on the car. It wasn’t until we met Edgar and he corroborated all those things and said, “Yes, my ex-wife is telling the truth about all of this,” that we said, “Okay, we’re going to include this.” Because at the very least, he’s saying that he wants his family to believe this.

People have compared The Keepers to another true-crime Netflix series, Making a Murderer, the filmmakers of which garnered some controversy for their methods.

Totally. That’s not something you’re thinking of while you’re making it. What’s interesting is we were making The Keepers before Serial came out, before Making a Murderer came out. There wasn’t really a predecessor that had been told episodically, and that had gained the country and the world’s popularity in the way those did.

We were kind of watching from the sideline as those series and some others paved the way for us to be able to tell The Keepers the way that we did. Making The Keepers was such an intimate process. Oftentimes, it’s just me with a camera with Jean, so it doesn’t feel like something that’s going to take over the world, or that everybody is going to see. As those series gained that popularity, we started understanding that we might be able to tell it episodically, and that we might have a documentary that’s popular, which, as we all know, is so rare. That does up the stakes of ethics.


I have to say, I had the benefit of watching some of the backlash that The Jinx got, and some of the backlash that Making a Murderer got. I was able to consider those backlashes while I was making The Keepers, weighing very heavily if you’re showing all the information on both sides, or weighing very heavily why you’re going to include a certain character. Or, if somebody’s going to turn you down for interviews, finding a way to officially represent that, so that viewers know that actually happened.

In many ways, I had that benefit while making it. I think as documentary filmmakers, we’re constantly navigating ethical waters. In the end, it’s the product of what team you bring to it. I really tried hard with The Keepers to surround myself with people—and mostly women—on my team who were asking those hard questions.

If you watch The Keepers, I think the real reaction to it has been that as far as true-crime stories go, it really concentrates on women, and it really concentrates on the survivor—the actual victimhood, versus the perpetrators. I hope that’s a little bit different for audiences. I know it’s harder to watch, but I’m very pleased that people have stuck it out for the entire series.

What was your approach to covering a story that goes back many decades?

It’s a beast. Not only was it an old story, but I think it had also been deliberately buried by so may people and institutions that it was hard to unbury a lot of the parts of the story that you needed. By far, my biggest challenge in making The Keepers was the fact that everything happened so long ago that a lot of people who could speak to it were dead, and a lot of people who are alive want it to stay buried. It was a constant tension, feeling the visceral sense that people don’t want this story told. The survivors do.


Perhaps this is self-explanatory, but why go to Netflix with this project?

There was a lot of interest in The Keepers, so we had choices. which is rare as a documentary filmmaker. I had this conversation over and over with the survivors in The Keepers—they preferred that the story all be released at once. Seven hours available at 12:01 AM worldwide in every country, versus going a more traditional TV model. They wanted to just rip the band-aid off.

The other reason is the global nature of Netflix, which I don’t think I really understood until The Keepers came out. It felt like it had such a larger impact than if we had divided it up territory by territory.

The mystery at the heart of this series remains unresolved. Do you expect there to be more to this story, and if so, do you intend to pursue it?

I’m not documenting anything right now, and I’m not looking to make a Season 2. I’m really happy with The Keepers as a living, breathing documentary on its own. I’m happy with where it ended, and I know that doesn’t have the final answer to who killed Sister Cathy, but that’s okay. That’s not what I ever set out to do.

We’re seeing so much progress now that the series has come out—people are coming out of the woodwork and there is a lot of information coming to us. We’re trying to keep up with it and then feed it to the correct [authority] as necessary, whether that’s the police or Gemma and Abbie [Fitzgerald Schaub]. I’m not going to say there will never be any follow up, but there’s no plans for Season 2 right now.

Whether there’s a follow-up to The Keepers or not, there will be more answers coming out over the coming years. There’s an artful side to documentaries, and to just dive in to cover a story in a couple of months isn’t my style. I want to dive in for years more.

What do you hope people will take away from the series, in a world where the Catholic Church seems to be a continual problem?

Well, the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. I haven’t seen a lot of change. In fact, the way they responded to The Keepers was pretty appalling. Setting them aside, I feel like the power of what these women have done in The Keepers is that which the Catholic Church continues to do to harm people can be stopped by a community.

That’s the incredible courage of people like Gemma and Abbie and Jean and Teresa and Donna and Lil [Hughes]—they’d been buried, they were all suffering in silence separately, and they were a community that came together.

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