Ben Stiller has defended his TV series portrayal of Joyce ‘Tillie’ Mitchell, the prison tailor who allegedly had sex with with two inmates at a maximum security facility in upstate New York and was convicted of helping them escape.
The show’s director addressed her calling him ‘a son-of-a-b**** liar’ recently because she had a problem with sex scenes in Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora, but Stiller hit back with a lesson in making dramas for entertainment saying: ‘It’s not a documentary.’
‘We did have to create scenes based on us inferring what we believed to be the truth,’ he told Deadline in an interview published Sunday.
Ben Stiller responded after Joyce ‘Tillie’ Mitchell, 54, expressed her fury over the Showtime series Escape at Dannemora – which she says unfairly depicts the events that transpired
Talking about how production did ‘a year’s worth of research’ he added that the tales of intimacy are the story Mitchell ‘has always told’.
‘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,’ Stiller said. ‘We think it is a real representation of what went on…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. There are all sorts of things to indicate there was a relationship going on. That’s where we got that from.’
Despite this, Mitchell claims they did not actually have the kind of sex Stiller’s story alludes to.
Unlike Mitchell’s earlier profanity-filled rant, Stiller tried to keep the peace somewhat and showed empathy for her.
He said he is ‘sorry she feels that way’ about him and the production that first aired last month, detailing how the seamstress hatched a plan for convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt to escape Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015.
‘It can’t be fun to be in prison,’ he sympathized. ‘I don’t have any ill will towards her in particular.’
Though Mitchell has never actually seen Dannemora herself, she claims that the Showtime series is based on ‘lies’ about what occurred between her and Clinton Correctional Facility inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt
Mitchell is the central character in the series and spoke out for the first time in three years in a pair of interviews recently as she serves a seven-year sentence at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester.
‘I never had sex with them,’ the 54-year-old told the New York Post of Sweat and Matt, whose escape resulted in a $20million manhunt that went on for 23 days before the former was recaptured and latter was shot dead.
‘Ben Stiller is a son-of-a-b**** 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.
Mitchell – who has not actually seen Dannemora but has heard about it from her husband and prison guards – says the show’s portrayal of her as a ‘lovesick prison seamstress’ fails to capture the reality of the situation she was in.
She admitted to providing Sweat and Matt with the hacksaw blades and drillbit they used to saw through the walls of Clinton Correctional in Dannemora, New York, but said that she did it out of fear, not love.
‘At that point, I had to do it,’ Mitchell told the Post. ‘I was stupid. They took advantage of my kindness.
‘I wish I could take it all back. If I had to do it over, I would have told somebody.’
Sweat and Matt used tools that Mitchell smuggled into Clinton Correctional to cut through prison walls and make their escape, sparking a 23-day manhunt that resulted in Matt (left) being shot dead and Sweat (right) being recaptured
Mitchell claims that it would not have been possible for her to have sex with anyone in the closet of the tailor shop where she supervised inmates – despite what occurs in the Showtime version. Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, is pictured above
Patricia Arquette declined to meet with the character she is playing because she felt real-life Mitchell would distort the story to make herself look more favorable. Arquette is pictured during a scene with David Sweat (Paul Dano)
In the TV adaptation of the prison break, Mitchell is immortalized by Patricia Arquette – who made the decision not to meet the person whom her character is based on because she thought the mother-of-one would try to spin the story.
Mitchell said of that claim: ‘The truth doesn’t sell. Everyone thinks I’m just a whore who wanted it.’
While the show repeatedly depicts sex between Matt (Benicio Del Toro) and Sweat (Paul Dano) – mirroring claims from prison insiders – Mitchell says that’s not how things actually went down.
She told investigators that she had provided nude photos of herself to Sweat, and that Matt forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Mitchell claims that it would have been ‘impossible’ for her to have sex with the inmates in the real-life closet of the tailor shop where she supervised them.
‘It has an air compressor in it,’ she said. ‘I went back there to turn it on and off, but I was always by myself.’
Mitchell said that the one thing Dannemora gets right is the character of Richard Matt, played by Benicio Del Toro (above), who is seen as an untouchable figure within the prison
Though Mitchell says her own portrayal is deeply flawed, she believes Del Toro’s portrayal of Matt as a prison god is spot on.
‘[Matt] could have anything he wanted in that prison,’ Mitchell said.
She said the show accurately captured Matt’s relationship with Corrections Officer Gene Palmer, who was sentenced to six months in jail for delivering the hamburger meat that Mitchell used to smuggle the escape tools in.
Mitchell was furious when Palmer was released after just four months. She said he got favorable treatment because he was an officer.
Meanwhile, Mitchell has been denied parole twice and is eligible for early release again in June. She could be behind bars through June 2022 if she serves her maximum sentence.
Arquette’s Mitchell is pictured during a scene from Escape at Dannemora
Escape at Dannemora has also been poorly-received in the New York village where the prison break took place, as residents say the show has reopened painful wounds inflicted by Mitchell.
When Mitchell eventually gets released, whether it be next year or in 2022, her former neighbors in Dannemora say she better not try to come home.
A friend longtime friend of Lyle Mitchell, the ex prison tailor’s cuckolded husband, told the Post: ‘I’d tell [Tillie]: ‘You’re no good.’
He added: ‘With any luck, she’ll pass away in prison and never have to come back.’
The friend said that the community, which sits just by the Canadian border, was disgusted by Mitchell’s decision to help her ‘secret storeroom lovers’ escape from the prison – the area’s largest employer.
Following the prison break, all facility employees are not required to carry all of their belongings in transparent bags dubbed ‘Tillie bags’.
Residents in Dannemora, New York, are also frustrated with the Showtime series because it has reopened painful wounds inflicted by Mitchell’s actions and because many say the show portrays locals as ‘hillbillies’. Clinton Correctional (above) is the largest employer in the area
Locals are also disgusted by how their town has been portrayed in the Showtime series.
‘It’s insulting — they have everyone look like a bunch of hillbillies,’ Lyle’s friend said.
The Post reported that another resident was recently asked by an outsider: ‘Is everybody in that town that dumb?’
The friend said that the most insulting portrayal has been of Mitchell’s husband.
‘They have Lyle playing a total idiot on TV. Sh-t, they should have gotten Goofy to play his part if they’re gonna do that,’ he said.
However, the friend said of real-life Lyle: ‘I don’t care what [Tillie] does, but she made my buddy look like a moron.
‘I told him: ‘You’re not the first guy to marry a whore.’ He didn’t like that. People laugh at him. We’ve got a lot of town jokes and he’s one of them.’
Friends of Mitchell’s cuckolded husband Lyle (above during his wife’s 2015 trial) say that he is anxiously awaiting his wife’s release – while Dannemora residents hope she doesn’t come back
Lyle’s friends also said that the Showtime series has been brutal in its portrayal of Lyle as a ‘total idiot’. His character, played by Eric Lange, is pictured above in a scene from the show
Another friend agreed, saying of Lyle: ‘He’s got a lot of shame. I would sell my house and go. I would have gotten rid of her on day one.’
‘I told him to his face: ‘If you love her, shut up about it – don’t tell the whole world. Go see her on the quiet.”
Lyle is said to be anxiously awaiting his wife’s return at the couple’s home in Dickinson Center, about an hour outside of Dannemora, with his ailing 77-year-old mother-in-law.
The former prison tailor – who is depicted in the show as an electrician – even built his wife a backyard gazebo for her to enjoy when she gets home.
One of the neighbors, identified only as Bill, told the Post of Lyle: ‘He’s waiting for her to come home.
‘I think he’s nuts for staying with his wife after she tried to kill him,’ he said, referring to prosecutors’ unsubstantiated claims that Mitchell and the inmates hatched a plan to off Lyle. ‘If my wife wanted me dead, I sure as hell wouldn’t take her back.’
The Post reported that when a journalist stopped by the couple’s home this week, Lyle answered the door and said he’s doing ‘good’ but: ‘I’m not saying nothing to nobody.’