No one would be thrilled to find out Ben Stiller was making a Showtime series about their decision to help two convicted murderers escape incarceration, resulting on a multimillion-dollar manhunt and the death of an escapee. However, Joyce “Tillie” Mitchell, currently serving a potential seven-year sentence at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for her role in the 2015 prison break of David Sweat and Richard Matt, has a more specific gripe with the Escape at Dannemora director. “I never had sex with them,” Mitchell told the New York Post. “Ben Stiller is a son-of-a-bitch liar just like the rest of the world. He doesn’t care about the truth. All he cares about is making millions off me. He’s an idiot.”
While Stiller’s show depicts Mitchell, played by Patricia Arquette, as a bored prison seamstress effectively seduced by both convicts, Mitchell said she aided them only out of fear. “At that point, I had to do it. I was stupid. They took advantage of my kindness,” she says. “I wish I could take it all back. If I had to do it over, I would have told somebody.” Mitchell says she hasn’t seen the series, but has been asked by corrections officers about its more salacious details.
After Mitchell provided hacksaw blades and a drill bit to the men, they were successfully able to dig an escape route out of Dannemora Correctional Institute, leading police on a weeks-long manhunt that ended in the death of Matt. The Post points out that prison insiders told investigators information suggesting Mitchell did have a consensual sexual relationship with the men, but Mitchell contends the one instance of oral sex she had with Matt was coerced. When asked about her statement to police that she became “caught up in the fantasy” of being with the two men, Mitchell denies making it. Says Mitchell, “I don’t remember saying that.”
When contacted by Deadline Sunday about Mitchell’s claim that Escape misrepresented her experience, Stiller said in part, “Look, that’s the story she has always told. We did a year’s worth of research on the project. We talked to a lot of people who were in the tailor shop, and in the Inspector General’s Office. We got as much information as we could from the police reports, the interviews, and then we put together our story. We think it is a real representation of what went on.” The actor-director added, “I’m sorry she feels that way. It can’t be fun to be in prison and I don’t have any ill will towards her in particular.”