Twentieth Century Fox said Thursday that it’s canceling an upcoming biopic of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, a film based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin that chronicles Hearst’s 1974 kidnapping and eventual conviction for bank robbery.
Although the studio did not explain why the film had been pulled, the announcement came just hours after Hearst released a lengthy statement criticizing Toobin’s book, “American Heiress,” as factually incorrect and for “romanticizing my rape and torture.” Hearst, now 63, also said she was “saddened and appalled” that Fox “agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book.”
Toobin, a New Yorker magazine staff writer who also serves as the senior legal analyst for CNN, has not responded to Hearst’s statements. A CNN documentary, also based on Toobin’s book, is set to air on Feb. 11.
Hearst, the granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a radical group that called itself the Symbionese Liberation Army when she was 19 years old. The group publicly claimed that it radicalized her and she was later photographed participating in a bank robbery while carrying an assault rifle. She served nearly two years of a seven-year prison sentence before President Jimmy Carter commuted the sentence. President Bill Clinton eventually granted her a full pardon.
In releasing her statement critical of Toobin to Deadline on Thursday, she said she was inspired to speak out after hearing the “incredibly moving testimony” of women at Sunday’s Golden Globes, echoing the #MeToo movement.
“It’s no secret that I was abducted, raped, and tortured at 19,” she said. “What followed was a series of events that were the direct result of a child having been destroyed both inside and out.”
She pointed out that she’s given many interviews over the years “to discuss my ordeal” but that “each time I do, it puts me back in the nightmare which, as you might imagine, is deeply painful. This is why for the last several years, I have declined to answer any more questions.”
Toobin is the author of several books that examine high-profile legal cases, such as “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which was adapted by FX into an award-winning television series. He published his book on Hearst last year.
“Nothing’s been written about it for decades,” he told the Los Angeles Times of the Hearst case. “I thought a story as big and dramatic as this one needed a new look after 40 years.”
Hearst said Toobin asked her to work with him on the book, saying it would be in her “best interest” as the book would “be seen as the last word on the subject.” She declined.
“It was offensive to me that a man would have the audacity to tell a woman that he would have the last word on her trauma,” said Hearst, who described her kidnapping experience in a 1981 memoir, which she expanded in 1988.
In his book, Toobin rejects Hearst’s claims that she was brainwashed by her kidnappers into robbing banks with them.
“If you look at her conduct, to me there is no alternative explanation except that she was an enthusiastic participant in an extraordinary number of crimes, any of which could have taken multiple lives, and one bank robbery did take a woman’s life,” Toobin told the Los Angeles Times while promoting the book. “I mean, shooting up a street in Inglewood — it’s just a miracle she didn’t kill a lot of people.”
Hearst, however, said that Toobin presented her story through a “distorted lens.”
“This project is attempting to rewrite history and directly flies in the face of the present #MeToo movement where so much progress is being made in regard to listening, and providing a voice, to those who have suffered abuse,” she said in her statement.
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