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Stillwater: Is the movie based on a true story?

matt damon as bill baker in stillwater
Actor Matt Damon plays Oklahoma oil worker, Bill Baker, in Stillwater. Pic credit: Focus Features/YouTube

Matt Damon will return to the big screen this summer with the film Stillwater, an American crime drama named after the city in Oklahoma.

The movie also stars Zombieland and Scream Queens actress Abigail Breslin and French actress Camille Cottin in additional roles central to the movie’s plot.

With the recent arrival of the trailer, many viewers might be wondering if the Stillwater movie is actually based on a true story or is from a fictional work?

Focus Features’ Stillwater movie trailer released

Stillwater features Oscar winner Matt Damon in the role of Bill Baker, a roughneck Oklahoma oil worker. Upon finding out his estranged daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) was arrested in France for murder, he heads to the country to try to help her out.

Unfortunately, with all legal options seemingly off the table, he decides to move to the country and tries to figure out a way to prove her innocence. 

While in the country, he’s up against tough circumstances, including xenophobia and a difficult legal system. There’s resentment towards Baker for working to overturn the court’s decision, and intense pressure continues to mount as he works to clear his daughter’s name.

The official trailer from Focus Features arrived on May 11, giving viewers a look at what to expect when Stillwater arrives in theaters.

The movie feels like a real-life crime story, as it may even remind viewers of a very similar high-profile murder case. That probably has many people wondering if the people and events shown in the movie are based on something that actually happened.

Is Stillwater based on a true story?

The upcoming crime drama is from Academy Award-winning director Tom McCarthy, who directed Spotlight. Portions of Stillwater were filmed on location in Oklahoma as well as France. According to KOCO 5 ABC News, parts of the movie were filmed in Coyle, Guthrie, and Arcadia, among other areas in Oklahoma, in 2019.

Some viewers may have even noticed the Stillwater water tower, airport, and possibly a Sonic drive-thru in the trailer from the state of Oklahoma, among other areas of interest. Other scenes in the trailer spotlight Damon’s character as he works to get his estranged daughter freed from prison in France.

Producer Jonathan King called it the “dream of any filmmaker or producer when you’re making a movie that’s about real people in a real place is to make the movie there,” per The Oklahoman’s report.

The plot involves the murder that occurs when Bill Baker’s daughter Allison takes a year off from Oklahoma State University to study in Marseille, France. Allison ends up having a relationship with a woman in France, who is found dead, eventually leading to Allison’s imprisonment for the murder.

In some instances, it may remind people of a crime that was in the headlines within the past 10 years, when American student Amanda Knox was accused and found guilty of murdering her roommate, another exchange student, in Italy. After Knox spent nearly four years in prison, she was eventually acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation.

Knox was from Seattle, Washington, and attended University of Washington before her move to Italy for an academic year, though.

Matt Damon brought that up during his recent appearance on NBC’s Today. Damon was asked if it was based originally on the Amanda Knox story but “had many iterations” since it was created. He agreed, telling the hosts Stillwater is “based kind of loosely” on the Knox case.

“This is a story based kind of loosely on that, but (McCarthy) worked with some other writers and made up a story around it as if a girl had gone and found herself in this situation where she was in prison for a crime that she says she didn’t do, and her father was a guy from Oklahoma who was a roughneck who worked on oil rigs,” Damon said during his video call on Today.

He added it’s a story about a father trying to reconnect with his daughter and gain her freedom, but he runs into many issues in a foreign country.

So, while the movie involves real locations and a story about real people, the film is only loosely based on the Knox story. Stillwater’s script was written by Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain, and Noe Debre.

The movie was originally intended for a November 6, 2020, release date but was removed from the schedule like many other films due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moviegoers will be able to check out Stillwater on its new release date, July 30, 2021.

Stillwater arrives in theaters on July 30, 2021.

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