OSCAR PISTORIUS: BLADE RUNNER KILLER
by Gerri Miller
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, a Paralympics gold medalist, rose to international fame as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He participated in the 2012 games in London where he carried his country’s flag in the closing ceremony. The following year, Pistorius’ fame turned to infamy when he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death. The story of their relationship and what led to its tragic end are dramatized in the Lifetime movie Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer.
“Lifetime is always looking for stories that are current and relevant to today’s audience and also tackle subjects of issue. The Pistorius story is a terrible, tragic story of a woman being victimized,” says executive producer Leslie Greif, who was approached by the network to tell it. “We tried to be as objective as possible so people can make up their own minds.”
Timeliness was another factor. “We wanted to do something that was timely and current,” and with Pistorius back in the news with a Nov. 3 court date, that box is checked. The athlete was initially convicted of manslaughter and served one year of a five-year sentence, but that conviction was overturned by an appeals court and he was sentenced for six years for murder. That sentence has been appealed but the State.
Screenwriter Amber Benson pored through court transcripts, public accounts, and newspaper articled in researching the case. “You have to be very precise when you’re tackling real-life situations, particularly ongoing situations. You need to portray everyone as accurately as possible and be as specific as possible without taking a position,” notes Greif. The film depicts the story from the point of view of Pistorius, Steenkamp and law enforcement.
South African actor Andreas Damm, who had a double amputee stunt double, was cast as Pistorius and German actress Toni Garrn plays Steenkamp. Unknowns were cast deliberately. “We wanted the audience to get lost in the characters,” Greif says. “I think [the fact that they’re not celebrities] “makes the film feel more gritty, real and raw.”
Some reports say the Steenkamp family isn’t happy about the movie, and Greif acknowledges that “It’s a very sensitive subject and I can imagine that opening up tragic wounds is never comfortable for anyone. My heart goes out to them.”
He’ll let viewers decide for themselves. “It’s really edgy, terrifying, horrifying and it’s sad because you see this beautiful young woman with a bright future and a man who had the world on a string,” Greif says. “He overcame his physical adversity but tragically, emotionally, he got caught in a web and ruined his life as well as hers.”
Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer premieres Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.
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