In the lead up to the premiere of Boston Strangler on Hulu this weekend, we were lucky enough to attend a virtual press conference which was attended by Keira Knightley (“Loretta McLaughlin”), Carrie Coon (“Jean Cole”), Chris Cooper (“Jack MacLaine”), Alessandro Nivola (“Detective Conley”), and Matt Ruskin (Director) that was moderated by Joyce Kulhawik.
Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited for length and clarity.
What was your prior knowledge of the Boston Strangler case?
Matt Ruskin: I had always heard about the Boston Strangler, but I really didn’t know anything about the case. And then, several years ago, I started reading all that I could and discovered this incredibly layered murder mystery that was full of twists and turns. In many ways, it was as much a story about the city at the time. And so, I was just completely gripped by the case. When I discovered these reporters, Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole, I found out that they were one of the first reporters to connect the murders.
Keira Knightly: I had heard of the Boston Strangler. I really didn’t know anything about it. So, I really came to it from Matt’s wonderful script. 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 kind of 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.
Keira and Carrie, when you first read the script, what was it about these real women that appealed to you?
Keira Knightly: Well, I think for me, this whole film is really a love song to female investigative journalists. And it really highlights how important it is to have women in position of power in storytelling because it was these two women that really went, “This is an important story. This is information that needs to be in the public in order to keep women of Boston safe.” I think, largely, it was a story that had been, at that point, ignored by the male establishment.
Chris, you play this sort of hard-bitten, journalistic, you know, the boss of the newsroom and a stumbling block initially for these women. How did you approach that character?
Chris Cooper: I was lucky enough to rub shoulders with Eileen McNamara, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who worked on the Boston Globe in the 70s and 80s. Loretta was a mentor to Eileen, and Eileen directed me to exactly what I needed. Jack was never too interested in these murders, you know? They didn’t seem to be pursuing it that much. But Eileen directed me to source material that was so specifically for the 60s newsroom, what happens politically, just terminology. I wanted to know about, hierarchy within the paper. That’s where my interest, and that’s where my research led me.
Carrie Coon: There’s a great story about Jean, you know, she wanted to get a raise because she was making $30 a week and her childcare was costing $25. She went in to appeal for a raise, and all of the men in the newsroom went in with her to back her up and suggest that she needed a raise. And it kind of highlights the importance of having male allies in a space like that.
Alessandro, your relationship with Loretta in this film, as the detective Jim, what was that like? How would you describe that relationship?
Alessandro Nivola: I think the character is pissed off that the police department isn’t dealing with sort of more modern techniques of forensic psychology and that they’re not interested, seemingly, in connecting these murders. So, he does what’s kind of a desperate move in reaching out to her or, you know, agreeing to talk to her, because he’s probably the son of a cop. He’s probably the grandson of a cop. And so, you know, he’s facing, potentially betraying the department and casting the department in a bad light by having it be perceived that the media is driving the case forward instead of the police department.
Boston Strangler is currently streaming on Hulu.
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.