Trial By Fire, the gripping new film from Oscar-winner Edward Zwick (Legends of the Fall, Blood Diamond), is based on the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O’Connell) a Texan man on death row who forms an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern) a playwright who visits him.

The film had its World Premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in 2018 and is released in US cinemas this Friday 17th May. Ahead of its US theatrical release, James Kleinmann spoke to stars Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell as well as the film’s director and producer Edward Zwick exclusively for HeyUGuys.

Jack O’Connell and Laura Dern in Trial by Fire

Before getting on to Trial By Fire, James praised Laura Dern for her British accent in her most recent film release JT LeRoy and the conversation begins with Laura explaining to her Trial By Fire co-star that her British accent wasn’t meant to be a convincing one! Moving on to Trial By Fire the pair revealed to HeyUGuys that they wrote emails to one another, sharing private details with one another, as they prepared to take on their roles as Todd and Elizabeth who initially formed a bond through letter writing. Dern and O’Connell also discuss not spending much time together before shooting their first scene. O’Connell expresses his admiration for Elizabeth Gilbert for her compassion in devoting time to a man convicted of multiple homicide.

Our conversation with Edward Zwick began with mentioning The New Yorker article by David Grann, on which the film is partly based and what had compelled Zwick to adapt it into a feature film, as well as his research into the experience of being on death row. Zwick also discussed the real Elizabeth Gilbert’s involvement in the production. Rather than ending the movie with photographs of the real people involved, as many films based on true events do during the end credits sequence, Zwick instead chooses to end the film on footage from a real televised Republican Presidential debate from 2011. In the footage we see Texas Governor Rick Perry defend his record on capital punishment to rapturous applause from the audience.

Here’s the interview.

Trial by Fire is in US cinemas from Friday May 17th 2019.

Trial By Fire
Trial By Fire

Official Synopsis: Trial by Fire is the true-life Texas story of the unlikely bond between an imprisoned death row inmate (Jack O’Connell) and a mother of two from Houston (Laura Dern) who, though facing staggering odds, fights mightily for his freedom. Cameron Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak and a criminal record, is convicted of arson-related triple homicide in 1992. During his 12 years on death row, Elizabeth Gilbert, an improbable ally, uncovers questionable methods and illogical conclusions in his case, and battles with the state to expose suppressed evidence that could save him. Her efforts ultimately fail, and since Willingham’s execution, the disturbing question remains: Did Texas execute an innocent man?