Director talks to the News-Press about ‘Miranda’s Victim,’ which will open the Santa Barbara International Film Festival
“You have the right to remain silent.”
That’s the beginning of Miranda Rights, which have been read to suspects being interrogated by law enforcement since the landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.
But what about Ernesto Miranda’s victim?
Writers George Kolber and J. Craig Stiles explored that question as they wrote the story for “Miranda’s Victim,” a movie that will make its world premiere on the opening night of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The film will screen at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St.
Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Stillwater”) stars as Patricia “Trish” Weir, who was kidnapped and raped by Mr. Miranda in 1963 in Arizona.
The trials in the case went all the way to the Supreme Court and resulted in creation of the Miranda Rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Mr. Miranda should have been informed of his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present before he signed a confession.
The case was retried, with Mr. Miranda’s confession excluded, and he was convicted in 1967 and sentenced to 20 to 30 years. He was paroled in 1972, then was stabbed to death in 1976 during a bar fight in Phoenix.
In addition to Ms. Breslin, the movie stars Sebastian Quinn as Ernesto Miranda, Luke Wilson as county prosecutor Lawrence Turoff; Andy Garcia as public defender Alvin Moore, who represented Mr. Miranda; and Ryan Phillippe as ACLU lawyer John Flynn, who argued the case for Mr. Miranda before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The cast also includes Emily VanCamp as Ann Weir (Patricia Weir’s sister), Mireille Enos as Zeola Weir, Kyle MacLachlan as Chief Justice Earl Warren and Donald Sutherland as Judge Laurance T. Wren, who presided over the trial of Mr. Miranda for the rape of Ms. Weir.
Director Michelle Danner, who’s among the movie’s producers, said Mr. Kolber felt inspired to write the movie after he became curious about Mr. Miranda’s victim.
Ms. Danner praised Ms. Weir for her bravery. It was 1963, a time when it was especially difficult for rape victims to find justice.
“So many people had been raped before her and didn’t say anything,” Ms. Danner told the News-Press by phone from her home in Los Angeles. “She was the one who had the courage to go after him and get justice, which is very much what this movie is about.
“I met with her,” Ms. Danner said. “She was very happy with this movie.”
The director said Ms. Weir has a cameo in “Miranda’s Victim” as one of the guests in a wedding scene.
Ms. Danner, founder of the Creative Center for the Arts and the Los Angeles Acting Conservatory, praised Ms. Breslin for her portrayal of Ms. Weir.
“Abigail has an authenticity that’s engrained in her,” Ms. Danner said. “She is wonderful. There was a moment (between takes) when Donald Sutherland, playing the judge, turned to her. She’s in the witness chair. He complimented her and said, ‘You’re a really good actress.’
“She understands how to work in front of the camera. She can lose herself in a character,” Ms. Danner said. “She really inhabited the skin of Patricia Weir. Every single moment, I was blown away by her work.”
Ms. Danner said she was also impressed by the connection Ms. VanCamp and Ms. Breslin had together as they played sisters.
She added that Mr. Sutherland has always been one of her favorite actors.
“Luke Wilson plays the prosecuting attorney, and very well, I might add,” Ms. Danner said. “He has not seen the movie yet, but is coming up to Santa Barbara. He had a few ad-libbed moments. He said, ‘Are you serious?’ (to the lawyer representing Mr. Miranda). I just love that moment. I kept it in.”
Ms. Danner said Mr. Quinn, who plays Mr. Miranda, resembles him and does a “fantastic job” in the role.
“Sebastian did a lot of research, and we rehearsed quite a bit,” Ms. Danner said.
“Andy Garcia plays the first lawyer that Ernesto Miranda has, the first lawyer who started to defend the rights of people arrested without being read their rights,” Ms. Danner said. “I’ve always loved Andy Gracia.
“Every single actor came with not just their A game but their A-plus-plus game,” Ms. Danner said. “Everyone felt this was an important story that needed to be told.”
“I hope this is a story where they (the audience) sees someone who makes a choice to be brave and thereby inspires other people to keep being brave.”