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Yes, HBO Max’s ‘The Staircase’ Will Examine the Owl Theory

”We took it as seriously as any other theory,“ showrunner Antonio Campos told TheWrap

HBO Max’s upcoming murder-mystery series “The Staircase” will indeed examine the so-called “Owl Theory” as a potential explanation for the death of Kathleen Peterson, co-showrunner, writer and director Antonio Campos said Tuesday.

“We will address the Owl Theory,” Campos said in a Television Critics Association call with media.

“We took it as seriously as any other theory,” he added. “So you’ll get a deep dive.”

The Owl Theory episode will be “down the road,” Campos said.

Colin Firth stars on the show as Michael Peterson, a North Carolina novelist who was convicted in 2003 of murdering his wife Kathleen. Michael Peterson spent eight years in prison. Toni Collette plays Peterson’s wife, Kathleen, on the HBO Max series.

Essentially, the Owl Theory speculates that a barred owl could have attacked Kathleen outside of sprawling Peterson home, causing multiple, deep lacerations to the back and top of her head.

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Owls have been known to attack and even kill people and the unexplained lacerations on Kathleen’s head might have come from an owl’s vicious talons, as testified to by three owl experts in 2010.

The predators are nocturnal, so the theory is that Kathleen was outside when the attack began, then ran inside. Supporting that premise is that drops of blood were found on the front steps and microscopic feathers found on her hands.

In addition to Firth and Collette, the scripted show also stars Michael Stuhlbarg as Michael Peterson’s defense attorney David Rudolph; Patrick Schwarzenegger as Michael’s son Todd Peterson; Dane DeHaan as Michael’s other son Clayton Peterson; Olivia DeJonge as Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen’s biological daughter; Sophie Turner as Margaret Ratliff, one of Michael Peterson’s adopted daughters; and Odessa Young as Martha Ratliff, Michael’s other adopted daughter.

Plus, there’s: Rosemarie DeWitt as Kathleen’s sister Candace Zamperini; Tim Guinee as Michael’s brother Bill Peterson; Vincent Vermignon as Lestrade, the documentarian; and Parker Posey as prosecutor Freda Black. Juliette Binoche also stars in the series, but in an undisclosed role.

HBO Max’s “The Staircase” is written and executive produced by showrunners Campos and Maggie Cohn. Campos also directs six of the eight episodes. The limited series is co-produced by Annapurna Television.

De Lestrade’s hit docuseries “The Staircase” was first released in 2004 and featured interviews with Peterson’s family, attorneys, as well as courtroom footage. The series updated with new information in 2013 and again in 2018, when it was released as a Netflix documentary.

Peterson was granted a new trial in 2011, but before the second trial could start, he submitted to an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time served and released.

“The Staircase” premieres in Spring 2022.

Sharon Knolle contributed to this report.

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