You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court …
Anyone who’s watched police procedurals on TV or in the movies knows about a suspect’s Miranda Rights, which must, by law, be read out loud upon arrest.
Opening the Gasparilla Film Festival Thursday night at the Tampa Theatre, Miranda’s Victim turns back the clock 60 years, to the landmark case that begat this now-cornerstone of the American justice system.
“I have been passionate about crime mystery my whole life – to the extent that my family’s always made fun of me,” says the film’s director Michelle Danner. “Dateline, 48 Hours, Forensic Files, you name it, I watch it. So when I was approached to direct this, I thought well, these people must know that this is right up my alley. I’m just fascinated to know what makes people act on their dark side.”
On March 3, 1963 in Phoenix, Arizona, 18-yearold Patricia Weir was abducted from a bus stop near her home, bound and driven to a remote desert location. She was brutally raped, at knifepoint, and subsequently returned alive to the bus stop.
Weir, who’d never been publicly identified, had agreed to tell her story for the first time. “Before there was a MeToo movement, there were women that fought for justice,” Danner points out. “And Patricia Weir was one of them.”
Miranda’s Victim stars Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Weir. Luke Wilson plays her attorney; Andy Garcia and Ryan Phillippe are the attorneys who defend the suspect, Ernesto Miranda.
The cast also includes Donald Sutherland, Kyle McLachlan, Emily VanCamp (Captain America: Civil War, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Enrique Murciano (Without a Trace, Bloodline, The Saint).
Danner, a longtime, well-known acting teacher, is the founder of the Los Angeles Acting Conservatory. She is also an actor, author, producer and director; Miranda’s Victim is her fifth feature film in the latter role.
The project began with writer George Kolber. Watching a TV documentary about Miranda, he began to wonder about the victim: Who was she, and whatever became of her?
He located Weir and learned her life story – how the attack, and the subsequent blaming and shaming (even by members of her own family) had affected the next 60 years of her life.
After signing on, Danner traveled to Phoenix and drove to the actual locations involved: The Paramount Theatre, where “Trish” had worked as a ticket-taker; the bus stop where she was abducted; the desert location. She looked at the Weir family home, and the house where Miranda had lived with his common-law wife.
“I was very, very moved by her story,” Danner explains. “As a matter of fact, when I was standing at the bus stop, I started to cry. I thought if only she had taken an earlier bus …
“But the thing was this: He was out there, he was a predator, he was looking. He would have found someone, and maybe not someone who would’ve stood up to the system.”
Miranda Rights became law after Miranda’s conviction was overturned; his lawyers argued successfully that police had not treated him fairly.
The story of Miranda’s Victim doesn’t end there, however.
Danner, Breslin and Murciano will attend Thursday’s screening, for a followup Q&A.
Danner, who knows good acting when she sees it, firmly believes there will be awards in the future for members of her cast.
“What I find in my life is this: When something is meant to be, it falls into place,” she says. “I had a very strong vision for the kind of cast I wanted. And I went after it, and many of the people who are onscreen ended up being my first choice. And that’s very lucky.
“Donald Sutherland always reminded me of my dad, who’s no longer with us. And when he said yes, I immediately felt there was an angel looking over this movie.
“And I have a very special relationship to Enrique, because I was his first teacher, decades ago. Every movie that I’ve done, I always call to see if Enrique’s available. Because he’s really wonderful. We called his agent, who said he wasn’t available. He was working on a show.
“So I called him directly. He said ‘You know what? I’ll have them kill me off the show to come and do this.’ He really wanted to.”
That’s the kid of commitment that shows, right up there on the screen. “People really wanted to do this,” says Danner. “They wanted to tell this story.”
Miranda’s Victim screening details and tickets here.