What links a 2001 murder to Donovan and Claire Danes?

With cult true-crime story The Staircase returning as a miniseries, take a dive down the rabbit hole with some British folk and an Oscar nod

Remaking a murderer

The seminal 2004 documentary The Staircase has a legitimate claim to have inspired all modern iterations of true-crime storytelling. That series, which had further updates, all on Netflix, followed the case of Kathleen Peterson, found dead on the staircase of her home in North Carolina, and her husband Michael Peterson, who was tried for murder. Out now is a reinterpretation miniseries on Sky Atlantic/Now.

A fine finish

Toni Collette and Colin Firth play the Petersons. Collette released an album in 2006 as Toni Collette & the Finish. On sticks in the Finish was Dave Galafassi, Collette’s husband, who previously played with Aussie pop-rockers Gelbison. More illustrious Australian indie rocker Ben Lee was an occasional collaborator, and he provided backing vocals on their final album, See the World.

Toni Collette
… Peterson’s wife was played by Toni Collette, whose husband was in Aussie pop-rockers Gelbison. An occasional collaborator was Ben Lee … Photograph: Getty Images

Song and dance men

Lee once dated Claire Danes but is now married to Ione Skye, best known for peak 80s teen flick Say Anything. Skye’s father is Donovan, of Donovan. In 1965, he was the next big thing on the British folk scene. You can cringe as Donovan is repeatedly mocked by Bob Dylan in the classic rockumentary Don’t Look Back.

Donovan playing acoustic guitar
… who married Ione Skye, whose father Donovan appears in Don’t Look Back … Photograph: Redferns

True story

Don’t Look Back director DA Pennebaker, who died in 2019, was one of the great documentarians. Another such great is Albert Maysles (and brother David), who worked alongside DA for the 1960 verite film Primary. The Maysles brothers’ masterpiece is Grey Gardens from 1975, but after David’s death in 1987, Albert kept making films. His 2001 documentary LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton was nominated for an Oscar.

Albert Maysles
… directed by DA Pennebaker, who worked with Albert Maysles, whose documentary LaLee’s Kin was nominated for an Oscar … Photograph: Invision/AP

Bow down to him on Sunday

Alas, Maysles and his team didn’t win: on the podium instead that night in 2002 was French film-maker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade for Murder on a Sunday Morning. De Lestrade stayed on the crime beat to direct the series Soupçons, better known outside France as The Staircase, which returns again, fictionalised as The Staircase. The case continues …

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
… won by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, who also directed Soupçons, better known as The Staircase … Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Pairing notes

Watch Documentary Now!, the mockumentary series from Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers lovingly parodies celebrated documentary films and styles.

Drink Summer is almost here, which means negroni season is upon us. Last year, while Colin Firth promoted Supernova with co-star Stanley Tucci, he described the actor-cum-foodie’s signature take on the drink as “exquisite”.