Hilary Swank stars in and executive produced the film “Conviction,” which opens on Friday.
On Thursday she and the team behind the drama were under fire for allegedly not consulting the family of Katharina Brow, who’s murder is the basis of the movie.
Brow's children, Melrose and Charlie, appeared alongside their attorney Gloria Allred in a press conference in Los Angeles to express their “disappointment and anger” toward Swank and her associates for not contacting them throughout the 10-year period it reportedly took to make the film.
“We believe that a proper respect for the murder victim’s family should have been shown… That could have been demonstrated by the film’s representatives contacting the family to learn how they felt about the making of a film which would remind them of the terrible pain and suffering that they endured because of the loss of their mother,” Allred said.
On behalf of the Brow family, Allred sent a letter to Swank’s agent on Thursday requesting that the actress/producer meet with them and hopes for a “positive, thoughtful, and caring response."
The film’s three producers issued a statement late Thursday afternoon in which they agreed to host a private screening for them.
“We have the deepest compassion and sympathy for the family of Katharina Brow,” said the statement. “(The screening) will no doubt answer many of their questions surrounding the unthinkable and horrific tragedy that befell their mother.”
Reps for Swank and distributors Fox Searchlight did not respond to Pop Tarts' request for comment.
The Brows are not publicly asking for any financial compensation.
“We are not Hollywood people like you are. We are just children of a murder victim,” an emotional Melrose Brow said at the press conference. “Nevertheless, we believe that victims matter. My mother was not just a name, and was not and is not a person who should be used as a line in a script or just a way to make a profit for the entertainment industry.”
“Conviction” chronicles the true life story of Kenneth Waters, who was convicted of the brutal 1980 murder of 48-year-old Brow. After serving 18 years behind bars, Waters was released when DNA showed the blood samples used to convict him were not a match.
On movie website IMDB.com, the role of Mrs. Brow is listed far down on the cast list, generally meaning the character’s screen time is very minor. Hollywood producer Nathan Folks does not believe Swank and the team behind “Conviction” had any obligation to meet with the family and should not be cast in a bad light as a result.
“It is obviously a very sensitive, very painful issue when you’re dealing with such a tragic story,” Folks told Pop Tarts. “But ‘Conviction’ is about the Waters family, not the Brow family and the filmmakers obviously met with the people they felt necessary for the film. They were not under any legal or moral responsibility to take things further than that.”
Swank said she met with Betty Anne Waters, an unemployed single mother who spent a decade earning a law degree so she could represent her brother, Kenneth Waters, in court, and eventually see him freed from prison.
“I wanted to really understand Betty Anne’s heart, her drive and her commitment so I listened to her stories,” Swank told Pop Tarts while promoting the film. “We had hours and hours of her speaking to Pamela Gray, the writer, and Tony Goldwyn the director, and listening over and over to her stories inside and out, and reading the script forwards and backwards just to get the heart of her. Then when Sam (Rockwell, who plays Kenneth) came on board he was like, ‘I want to meet Betty Ann, and I want to meet the family!’ And I was like, ‘I'm going with you!’ And I thought that would be a great bonding experience for us to experience that together.”
-- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.