Why Joyce Mitchell Doesn't Agree With Ben Stiller's Version Of 'Escape At Dannemora'
Richard Matt and David Sweat are the convicts who escaped Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015, but another person involved is getting a quite a bit of attention too — Joyce "Tilly" Mitchell. In a set of interviews with The New York Post, Mitchell revealed her feelings about Escape of Dannemora. In previous interviews, Mitchell has given a different take on the real-life events featured in Ben Stiller's Showtime miniseries. And considering that Patricia Arquette's portrayal is not particularly flattering, it should come as no surprise that Mitchell does not approve of Escape at Dannemora.
During the actual escape in 2015, The New York Post covered the story extensively and even came up with an insulting nickname for Mitchell. But she decided to give her first public interview since 2015 to the publication because she said she was "curious" if it would have to do with the show. She gave two 45-minute interviews in late December from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where she is imprisoned after being sentenced to up to seven years in jail for her role in the escape. "Ben Stiller is a son-of-a-b*tch liar just like the rest of the world. He doesn't care about the truth. All he cares about is making millions off me. He's an idiot," Mitchell said.
Although Mitchell hasn't seen the show for herself, she told The Post that the Bedford Hills guards and her husband Lyle have told her about it. And her anger seems to come from the depiction of her having sex with both Matt and Sweat. "I never had sex with them," she said. She also claimed that it would have been "impossible" to have sex in the tailor shop closet due to an air compressor that was located in the small space and she said she only went in there by herself.
In an interview with TODAY in before she was sentenced in 2015, Mitchell said that any sexual contact with Matt was nonconsensual and completely denied having any sexual contact with Sweat. Now, she believes that Escape at Dannemora gives a damaging and inaccurate portrayal. "Everyone thinks I'm just a wh*re who wanted it," Mitchell said.
Arquette had said that on TODAY that she chose not to meet the real Mitchell since she has been known to be "litigious." But Mitchell said she thinks no one from the show came to speak to her because "the truth doesn't sell." The only part that Mitchell does say is accurate was Matt's status in the prison and his relationship with former corrections officer Gene Palmer. "Matt and Palmer were like this," she said with The Post noting that she crossed her fingers. "[Matt] could have anything he wanted in that prison."
Similar to what like her husband Lyle had discussed with DailyMail.com in 2017, Mitchell noted to The Post that she believes Palmer received preferential treatment over her. Palmer was released from prison after four months after being convicted for his role in the escape. According to the local NBC affiliate, Palmer had pled guilty to promoting prison contraband and a felony count of official misconduct. NBC News reported that Mitchell had pled guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.
In response to Mitchell's criticism of the truthfulness of the series, Stiller spoke to Deadline. He said:
"We did a year's worth of research on the project. We talked to a lot of people who were in the tailor shop, and in the Inspector General's Office. We got as much information as we could from the police reports, the interviews, and then we put together our story. We think it is a real representation of what went on. It's not a documentary. We did have to create scenes based on us inferring what we believed to be the truth. My guideline was always to try and tell what I thought happened. She can dispute it but the reality is, she was kicked out of the tailor shop for inappropriate conduct, for going in the back room with David Sweat. I think there were 60 or 70 notes passed back and forth between them. She sent him nude pictures of herself."
He also added, "I was just trying to tell the story in as real and hopefully as entertaining a way as possible without exploiting. I'm sorry she feels that way. It can't be fun to be in prison and I don’t have any ill will towards her in particular."
Mitchell told The Post that she plans to write a book so, "Then the truth will come out." But if she does that, she and her family will face perhaps even more media scrutiny than they have already experienced — and that's clearly something that bothers her. "The media doesn't give a damn about my family," she told The Post. "Don't f*ck with my family. You can f*ck with me, but don't f*ck with my family. I put them through enough."
Escape at Dannemora comes to its conclusion on Dec. 30. So Mitchell's story won't be in the headlines as much after that. But Stiller's direction and Arquette's performance have certainly given viewers a fascinating — and memorable — take on this real-life crime.