Just Mercy Is Very Accurate, Because It Had to Be

Just Mercy director Destin Daniel Cretton had no choice but to stay close to the facts of the memoir that inspired the Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx death row drama: Cretton says Bryan Stevenson, who inspired the film, “was constantly keeping us in check in the best way.”

Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy, describes his efforts to save Walter McMillian, a man who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1988. Jordan plays Stevenson, and Foxx plays McMillian.

“We had to stick close to the facts, because Bryan Stevenson was working closely with us every step of the way and making sure that we were telling a story that would resonate not only with an audience, but would resonate with lawyers who are doing this type of work, that would resonate with people on death row who are going through this process, and would resonate with the clients and the people who are in this story, some of which are still alive, or their relatives are still alive,” Cretton says on the new MovieMaker Interviews podcast.

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He explains that they wanted to not only inspire people trying to repair the criminal justice system, but educate people about how hard that is.

“Accuracy was definitely important so that when they watch this movie, people can understand what it really takes,” Cretton added. “This isn’t a made-up version of what it takes to prove somebody’s innocence. This is the long process that is in place right now in our system.”

You can listen to the full interview above, or here:

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Here are highlights of the episode, with timestamps:

1:36: Destin Daniel Cretton interview begins.

2:10: How Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy, affected him

3:10: How Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx got involved

3:44: How working with at-risk kids helped lead to a career in Hollywood

5:40: How he met Ryan Coogler, and Coogler quickly connected him with Michael B. Jordan: “He put me on hold and when he reconnected me, Michael B. Jordan was on the line.”

7:00: How Jamie Foxx joined Just Mercy.

8:30: The moment when he knew the movie was working.

10:30: Why he stuck close to the facts.

We had to stick close to the facts because Bryan Stevenson was working closely with us every step of the way and making sure that we were telling a story that would resonate not only with an audience but would resonate with lawyers who are doing this type of work, that would resonate with people on death row who are going through this process, and would resonate with the clients and the people who are in this story, some of which are still alive, or their relatives are still alive. Bryan cared deeply about all of that, and was constantly keeping us in check in the best way.

Accuracy was definitely important so that when they watch this movie, people can understand what it really takes. This isn’t a made-up version of what it takes to prove somebody’s innocence. This is the long process that is in place right now in our system.”

12:30: What Bryan Stevenson has in common with Mr. Rogers.

13:40: “I can’t deny that we didn’t go far and wide searching for that flaw.”

15:30: Let’s talk about the death penalty.

18:00: How often the government gets it wrong.

18:20: A quick shoutout to Clemency, and how Cretton captured the atmosphere of a Southern prison in the 1980s.

21:54: The advice he got from Brie Larson and Michael B. Jordan about joining the Marvel Universe.

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