Dramatizations of real-life events never could please their real-life subjects. It’s called dramatization for a reason — the drama. This is the case with HBO Max’s fictionalized adaptation of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 docuseries, The Staircase, which dives into the case of Michael Peterson (a novelist charged with murdering his second wife, Kathleen) and the documentarians who followed the story. The first offended party was de Lestrade, who took issue with his depiction and believed that Antonio Campos, the filmmaker behind the new show, “attacked the credibility” of the original docuseries. And now Peterson, the subject of whole thing, believes he had been “pimped out” by de Lestrade, according to emails he sent to Variety. “We feel that Jean pimped us out — sold OUR story to Campos for money — what word other than pimped describes what he did?” Peterson writes. “He released his archive to Campos who then created a fictional account of events, most of which trashed me (which I really don’t care about) and my children — which I really do care about. There are egregious fabrications and distortions of the truth in the HBO series, well beyond what may be considered ‘artistic’ license.”
Although the colorfully explicit and dramatic emails also take aim at Campos, it appears that Peterson feels far more betrayed by de Lestrade. “Jean should have known that when you sell your ass/property, you assume the risk of getting fucked/betrayed,” he continues. “Every hooker knows this. So he got betrayed/fucked. Why should he be surprised? He was compensated — paid off … I have no sympathy for him, any more than I would for a hooker who contracted an STD after peddling her ass.” Peterson goes on to allege that the documentarian never informed him of the sale of his footage from the docuseries to Campos and that Campos failed to compensate Peterson for the stories he’d lifted from Peterson’s 2019 book, Behind the Staircase. De Lestrade maintained that he’d sold his footage to Campos to protect the story, although he admitted that he entered nary a writer’s room and left total creative freedom to Campos. De Lestrade couldn’t remember if he’d told Peterson about the HBO Max show. “If I didn’t, I should have,” the documentarian told Variety. Hmm, if he had told Peterson, maybe he could’ve avoided all this.