Well, it had to happen eventually. The murder of Gabby Petito has quickly become one of the most compelling true crime stories of all time. Between Brian Laundrie‘s return and subsequent disappearance, his parents ghosting hers, the nation has been following every shocking twist.
So of course a TV movie was coming.
The real surprise for us is the talent both in front of and behind the camera — because Lifetime have hired a real ’90s icon to direct and star. Thora Birch became beloved growing up in front of our eyes in everything from Hocus Pocus to Now And Then to American Beauty.
It’s a really interesting choice. Thora’s own story is also tied in with a controlling relationship — that of her father. Jack Birch is one of the most infamous toxic stage parents, reportedly becoming harder to deal with as his daughter grew into doing more adult fare. The story goes he physically threatened a co-star, getting her fired from her Broadway debut in the late 2000s.
She’s slowly been working her way back up from the depths her father drove her career into, starring in recent years in some direct-to-video movies and a few episodes of The Walking Dead. She’s also set to play a recurring role in Tim Burton‘s new Addams Family reboot show for Netflix, Wednesday.
And now she’s directing the tentatively titled The Gabby Petito Story, as well as playing the role of Nichole Schmidt, the bereaved but resilient mother of Gabby.
There’s still so much we don’t know about the case, we’re not sure exactly what to think about a movie version so soon. Now that Brian’s notebook confession has been released, there’s a potential version of events to base the script on — though there’s already a lot of disagreement over how accurate that really is. Gabby’s actual mother made it clear she’s not buying his “mercy killing” story with subsequent posts about controlling people trying to “rewrite history.”
However, it seems like the project is too far along to even consider that confession. See, already began filming on Tuesday, which means the script has presumably been in place for a bit. DailyMail.com actually got photos from the Salt Lake City, Utah set — and you can see actress Skyler Samuels as Gabby, with Evan Hall as Brian. There’s even video showing them having a shouting match, presumably the one in Moab. It’s… pretty surreal to see.
Lifetime told Deadline the project, part of their “Stop Violence Against Women” initiative, will “explore Gabby and her fiancé Brian Laundrie’s complicated relationship and what may have gone wrong during their cross-country trip that resulted in Gabby’s tragic murder.”
We can expect to see the film premiere later this year. Will YOU be watching??
[Image via Gabby Petito/Instagram/Warner Bros/YouTube.]