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George Clooney buys screen rights to The Innocent Man

George Clooney buys screen rights to The Innocent Man

Warner Independent Pictures and Smoke House partners George Clooney and Grant Heslov bought in December 2006 screen rights to John Grisham’s nonfiction book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

In an unusual alliance of star power George Clooney, the Hollywood actor and producer, is joining forces with John Grisham, the bestselling author, to create films dedicated to exposing miscarriages of justice.

Details are still being worked out in the Grisham deal, but Clooney and Heslov are solely producing at this point.

Grisham, who has blocked attempts to turn some of his novels into films, has agreed to let Clooney make one based on his first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man. Sources close to the 51-year-old author say that other films, television dramas and documentaries may follow.

Even before studios stopped paying outrageous sums for books, Grisham and his longtime editor-dealmaker David Gernert changed the way they sold his titles. After a self-imposed hiatus on deals, Grisham returned but became more interested in quality control and less interested in big paydays.

Published in October by Doubleday, The Innocent Man is the true story of a gross miscarriage of justice that sent Ron Williamson to Oklahoma’s death row for 11 years for a murder he did not commit. Among the flimsy evidence: eyewitness testimony from the man ultimately convicted of the murder.

Grisham ultimately will be paid a seven-figure against gross participation deal if movie gets made. His approval of the deal came only after several conversations with Clooney and Heslov and after sparking to their Oscar-nominated film Good Night, and Good Luck.


  • March 5, 2008 at 6:03 AM John Brown

    Having just finished reading “The Innocent Man”, which I found compelling, I was left with a sense of disbelief at the seemingly incompetent and corrupt local law enforcement and legal system. I was surprised that nobody seemed to have lost their job and that District Attorney Bill Peterson still held that position today.
    My interest piqued I sought out more information about the case and found a website set up by Mr Peterson addressing John Grishams book. His section on “Exposing The Truth” is a must read for those who wish to be able to take a balanced view of the investigation and prosecution of Ron Williams and Dennis Fritz. He is clearly bitter towards Grisham, and I don’t accept several of his ascertains and their significance, but I do think he makes some very valid points regarding “The Innocent Man” and how the facts are spun for dramatic effect. The bottom line is that 2 men were undoubtedly wrongly convicted so there had to be problems with the system, but while John Grisham would leave you with ideas of incompetence, corruption and a vendetta against the 2 defendants, I now believe this to be far from reality.
    The Innocent Man puts the Ada law enforcement and legal system itself on trial and puts the case for the prosecution; it’s only fair that you should also hear the case for the defence before making up your mind.

  • February 15, 2010 at 7:55 AM RICHARD GIACALONE

    the system failed. there were more than 2

    men they convicted. these officials should be gone, not all of the officals.

    read what the judge said when he dismissed charges and what judge said abou the libel

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