True Crime Time
at SBIFF’s Opener
‘Miranda’s Victim’ Director Michelle Danner
Excited to Share a Riveting, Important Story
By Leslie Dinaberg | February 2, 2023
Read all of the stories in our “Locals-Only Sneak Peek at SBIFF” cover here.
“It all comes down to the desire to tell stories,” says Michelle Danner, who will tell the story of a true crime and courtroom drama when her film Miranda’s Victim has its world premiere as the opening night movie for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 8 at the Arlington Theatre.
Based on the 1963 kidnapping and rape case that ultimately established the laws regarding the notifications given by police to criminal suspects in custody that advise them of their right to silence, Danner says she immediately saw the importance of the story of Trish Weir (played by Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, who is now 26 years old), the young woman who was kidnapped and brutally raped by Ernesto Miranda. The subsequent trials went all the way to the Supreme Court and led to creation of the Miranda Rights.
Not only does the film have historical significance, “it’s an important story, especially since it has never been taught,” says Danner, an actress and well regarded acting teacher and founder of the Creative Center for the Arts and the Los Angeles Acting Conservatory, as well as a director. “I’ve had movies where I’ve had the dialogue of the right to remain silent and all of that. And I never questioned it, which is so incredible, all these years that I’ve been on this earth listening to this, and I’ve never questioned the origin of the story.”
A longtime fan of true crime TV shows like Dateline, 48 Hours, and The Forensic Files, even though, she laughs, “I’ve gotten a lot of flak in my life from my sisters and from my kids for watching those shows. I’ve always taken notes because I’ve always wanted to write a great psychological thriller. And so I love these crime stories. Which is what this is: A suspenseful crime story.”
She says she’s fascinated by human behavior and human nature and wants to understand people like Ted Bundy, who can be intelligent and charming and “turn on a switch and go dark. … I’ve always been fascinated by that aspect of nature, and how you activate your dark side.”
Joining her on the “dark side” in exploring the story of Miranda’s Victim is a cast that, along with Breslin, includes Luke Wilson, Ryan Phillippe, Emily VanCamp, Mireille Enos, Enrique Murciano, Brent Sexton, Josh Bowman, Sebastian Quinn, Taryn Manning, Nolan Gould, Dan Lauria, Kyle MacLachlan, Andy Garcia and Donald Sutherland. “I am thrilled, I mean, this cast is incredible,” says Danner, who has worked as a private acting coach with big names like Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Henry Cavill, and James Franco, among others.
“I was so lucky that Donald Sutherland said yes and really wanted to come and do this movie, and he was so generous,” says Danner. “And Andy Garcia, who I spoke with yesterday, loves it, and he was so generous, and Kyle MacLachlan was just lovely. And then you know, the rest of this cast. Abigail Breslin is the lead and she just kills it. She’s just a wonderful actress. And I’m not the only one that said that to her. Donald Sutherland said that to her.”
Not only is Danner excited to show off her movie, she’s also excited to attend the film festival itself. “I’m going to watch a lot of movies. I’m a big movie watcher. … It’s wonderful to be back in the theater with other people watching films.”
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