Just when you thought the Amanda Knox soap opera was finally in the rearview mirror, Hollywood has brought it roaring back into the headlines.

The newly released movie Stillwater, starring Matt Damon, has reignited the controversy over the case, involving the 2007 murder of Knox’s roommate in Italy. Amanda was first convicted of the crime but later fully exonerated by an Italian court. But even that hasn’t quelled global interest in the case.

Knox has complained bitterly about how the movie has borrowed from her life. “Does my name belong to me? Does my face? What about my life? My story?” she recently wrote.

The Sterling Firm’s Justin Sterling, a Los Angeles-based attorney who specializes in representing clients in the movie and creative industries, sees no real basis for legal action on her part.  

While the movie’s director and co-writer has admitted the script was directly inspired by the Knox case, “they took steps to change key elements, like the location and a lot of other things,” Sterling says. “This is a dramatization. It’s almost completely fictionalized.”

Director Tom McCarthy “is known for his other movie inspired by true events, Spotlight (about the Boston Globe’s series about sexual abuse by Catholic priests). He’s savvy about this area and he’s within his rights” to broadly borrow from actual events.

In fact, he argues, if anyone might have a slim basis for legal redress, it’s not Amanda but her father. “The movie is from the point of view of the father, not Amanda. It’s his story. I actually think that he might have reason to evaluate the movie to see if he has a cause of action.”

Knox has publicly complained that she wasn’t consulted about a story based on her life. “Proceeding in good faith might have been to give her some input in the movie. Or maybe they could have made her a producer on it.”

But given the movie’s twist ending (spoiler alert here), that would have been a perilous path for her, Sterling says. “By putting her name behind it, it would have been like admitting she did it.”


John Ettorre is an Emmy-award-winning writer, based in Cleveland. His work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor.