Boston Strangler: How True Crime's Popularity Helped Shape The Story

How the popularity of "true crime" helped shape the story of Boston Strangler, and what drew stars Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon to the film.

People have been fascinated by the concept of killers and serial killers, specifically since the term "serial killer" came to be. People have been writing the worst of the worst who are spending the rest of their lives in prison letters long before the internet came to be and the entire "true crime" community was born. However, the birth of the internet and social media has changed how people interact and even consume content about killers and criminals. From podcasts and YouTubers doing their own research and recording their own perspective from home to major studios greenlighting documentaries, movies, and shows about some of the most infamous people in the world. There is a real conversation to be had about victim advocacy and exploitation and the infantilization of some of these killers within some of this media. The popularity of true crime did play into the production of Boston Strangler. However, as director Matt Ruskin explained during the virtual press conference, he believed that telling the story from the perspective of journalists Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole instead of the killer helped refocus the story and the events.

"Yeah, I mean, I think that's part of why I felt compelled to make the film from the perspective of Loretta and Jean's perspective, rather than, you know, what we've all seen either from the perspective of the killer himself or from, you know, the sort of hard-boiled detective story," Rushkin explained. "I felt like this was a really worthwhile way to revisit this series of horrific events."

First Images, Summary Released For Crime Thriller Boston Strangler
(L-R): Carrie Coon as Jean Cole and Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin in 20th Century Studios' BOSTON STRANGLER, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Claire Folger. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

What Drew Knightley And Coon To This Project

20th Century Studios has been quietly releasing many projects directly onto Hulu, with some hitting the algorithm better than others. Boston Strangler has all the markings of a project that could do well for the streamer and studio, considering the public's obsession with true crime and the impressive cast. The film managed to snag the always amazing Keira Knightley along with Carrie Coon. Even though direct-to-streaming movies don't have a bad reputation, maybe actors aren't always drawn to these projects and will look over them, but as Knightley explained during the global virtual press conference, it was the script that drew her to this film.

"Well, I think for me, I had heard of the Boston Strangler. I really didn't know anything about it," said Knightley. "So I really came to it from Matt's wonderful script. And I just thought it was a really interesting way of telling the story of a serial killer but through the point-of-view of these two female journalists. And the fact that you've kinda got a case where most people didn't know that it was two women who broke the story, that they've largely sort of been erased from the history of this case, I thought was really interesting."

For Coon, it was also the script of Boston Strangler that brought her to this film, but also the fact that these two women are so overlooked by history and the part they played in this infamous story. Coon also had a much more personal connection to Jean's fight to become a journalist and breaking the mold that women of her grandmother's generation were forced into, where the only options they had for jobs were "homemaker" or "secretary."

"Yes, that was the most shocking part of it for me, that these women were so integral to breaking the case and forcing the police departments to share information," explained Coon. And their names are never mentioned in association with it. That was really shocking to me. And then, their stories of how they became journalists, as individuals, they were very compelling, very moving stories—certainly echoed the lives of the women in my world who grew up in the Midwest. My mother was a nurse. One of my grandmothers was a teacher, and the other was a homemaker. And those were the opportunities available to women aside from secretaries.

"So Jean's fight to become a journalist at all was very moving to me," Coon continued. "And then, of course, I had seen Crown Heights, which Matt had made, and I think of him as a really, deeply moral filmmaker. And I knew that his interest in this story was feminist. That he was really interested in revealing that those women had been erased from the story. And, of course, I knew Keira was involved as well, and I was really excited to get the opportunity to work with her."

To this day, the excellent work that female journalists do can still be easily overlooked, but things aren't quite as bad as they were in the 1960s. As far as the violence against women depicted in Boston Strangler? Well, for all of the steps forward we might have taken, there are others where our feet might as well be encased in cement, and this is one of them.

Boston Strangler: Summary, Cast List, Release Date

From 20th Century Studios and award-winning writer-director Matt Ruskin (Crown Heights) comes Boston Strangler, a true-crime thriller about the trailblazing reporters who broke the story of the notorious Boston Strangler murders of the 1960s. Boston Strangler will premiere on March 17, 2023, exclusively on Hulu in the U.S., Star+ in Latin America, and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories. The film follows Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter for the Record-American newspaper, who becomes the first journalist to connect the Boston Strangler murders. As the mysterious killer claims more and more victims, Loretta attempts to continue her investigation alongside colleague and confidante Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), yet the duo finds themselves stymied by the rampant sexism of the era. Nevertheless, McLaughlin and Cole bravely pursue the story at great personal risk, putting their own lives on the line in their quest to uncover the truth.

Boston Strangler stars two-time Oscar® nominee Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game, Pride & Prejudice), Emmy nominee Carrie Coon (Fargo, The Gilded Age), Alessandro Nivola (Amsterdam), David Dastmalchian (Dune), Morgan Spector (Homeland), Bill Camp (Joker) and Academy Award® winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation). Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, the film is produced by Ridley Scott (The Martian), Kevin J. Walsh (House of Gucci), Michael Pruss (American Woman), Josey McNamara (Promising Young Woman), and Tom Ackerley (I, Tonya), with Michael Fottrell (The Fate of the Furious) and Sam Roston serving as executive producers.

Boston Strangler will premiere on March 17, 2023, exclusively on Hulu in the U.S., Star+ in Latin America, and Disney+ under the Star banner in all other territories.

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Kaitlyn BoothAbout Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Film critic and pop culture writer since 2013. Ace. Leftist. Nerd. Feminist. Writer. Replicant Translator. Cinephillic Virtue Signaler. She/Her. UFCA/GALECA Member. 🍅 Approved. Follow her on Twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on Instagram.
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