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The Staircase subject Michael Peterson outraged by 'egregious fabrications' in HBO Max series

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The real-life subject of HBO Max's The Staircase has some blunt words for the team behind the miniseries.

Michael Peterson, who is portrayed by Colin Firth in the drama, has accused producers and showrunner Antonio Campos of "pimping out" his life.

Peterson made headlines in 2001 when his wife Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of the staircase of their North Carolina home. He was convicted of killing Kathleen in 2003, but was released from prison when the charges were reduced to manslaughter during a retrial.

The sensational story was chronicled in a 2004 docuseries, also titled The Staircase, by filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and editor Sophie Brunet. Peterson is also criticizing de Lestrade for his participation in the fictionalized account, which aired its finale episode June 9. De Lestrade is credited as co-executive producer on Campos' version of the mystery.

Michael Peterson in court in 2003; Colin Firth as Peterson in 'The Staircase'
Michael Peterson in court in 2003; Colin Firth as Peterson in 'The Staircase'

Bill Willcox/AP/Shutterstock; HBO Max Michael Peterson in court in 2003; Colin Firth as Peterson in 'The Staircase'

Peterson is lambasting both Campos and de Lestrade for how he and his family are depicted in the HBO Max series, claiming it is filled with "egregious fabrications."

"[De Lestrade] released his archive to Campos who then created a fictional account of events, most of which trashed me (which I really don't care about) and my children — which I really do care about," Peterson said in a series of emails to Variety. "There are egregious fabrications and distortions of the truth in the HBO series, well beyond what may be considered 'artistic' license."

Investigators later revealed that Peterson, who identifies as bisexual, was having relationships with men at the time of his wife's death. Furthermore, links were made to the death of a German woman named Elizabeth Ratliff, who in 1985 was found dead in a similar manner to Kathleen, at the bottom of her staircase. Ratliff had been a family friend of Peterson and his first wife, Patricia, when they lived in Germany in the 1980s. Peterson was later cleared of any involvement with Ratliff's death.

Peterson granted de Lestrade and his camera crew access to him and his family while he awaited trial, but now feels betrayed by the filmmaker, accusing him of earning a hefty payday for selling the rights to his materials to Campos, something which de Lestrade disputes.

"We didn't sell our story to Campos — were never even consulted or informed that Jean had done this," Peterson wrote. "We are the ones who were betrayed, falsely depicted as fighting among ourselves (which NEVER happened), and with made up story lines that denigrate all of us in the eyes of millions."

Peterson continued: "He is the individual responsible for what happened to us, and while I am sorely pissed at Campos for all the liberties he took with the truth (and for stealing from my book 'Behind the Staircase' — the only source for his prison scenes, and for which I of course was not compensated), I am angrier at Jean who should have had our interests in mind when he sold our story. I have no sympathy for him, any more than I would for a hooker who contracted an STD after peddling her ass. Sounds harsh — but look at the result to our family for what he did."

De Lestrade maintains that he informed the Peterson family in 2008 that Campos wanted to make a feature film about the docuseries, but can't remember if he let them know about the HBO Max series. "If I didn't, I should have," de Lestrade told Variety.

This is not the first time the details featured in the new miniseries version of The Staircase have been contested. Campos' depiction of de Lestrade and Brunet led de Lestrade to accuse Campos, as well as co-showrunner Maggie Cohn, of taking their artistic liberties too far.

EW has reached out to representatives at HBO Max for comment.

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