Did Michael and Sophie Break Up in Real Life? Did He Really Not Go to Paris?

Image Credit: The Staircase/Netflix

HBO Max’s crime series ‘The Staircase’ revolves around the true story of Kathleen Peterson’s death and the subsequent murder trial of her husband Michael Peterson. Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, a French documentary filmmaker, directed a docuseries titled ‘The Staircase,’ chronicling Michael’s life after Kathleen’s death and his trial. He eventually got into a relationship with Sophie Brunet, the editor of the docuseries. The couple nurtured their relationship even when Michael was imprisoned upon getting sentenced to life for Kathleen’s murder. In the finale of the HBO Max series, Michael and Sophie get into a heated discussion concerning their future together. Naturally, one must be wondering whether the couple broke up in real life. Let’s find out!

Did Michael and Sophie Break Up in Real Life?

Yes, Michael and Sophie did break up in real life. The couple started dating when Michael was imprisoned after the trial. What started as regular correspondence through letters eventually became a strong relationship. Sophie frequently visited North Carolina from France to see Michael and try to prove his innocence in whatever ways she can. They even decided to move to Paris once Michael becomes a free man after entering an Alford plea. However, their relationship came to an end soon after Michael entered the plea.

Image Credit: The Staircase/Netflix

According to Michael, his relationship with Sophie came to an end because he wasn’t ready to move to Paris with her. “We made plans to live in Paris. Then I went and realized, no, I can’t. I can’t live in Paris. I don’t speak French. I’m too old. I couldn’t afford to live in Paris and my children, and grandchildren were in America,” Michael told The News & Observer. “And she [Sophie] said, well, if you can’t commit to love with me all the time, let’s end it and it was a great blow to both of us. […] I could not give her what she really needed and deserved,” he added.

In ‘Behind the Staircase,’ a book Michael wrote about his trial, prison life, and more, he indicated that he wasn’t ready to make any sacrifices. “I could not love Sophie like I had loved [his first wife] Patty and Kathleen, not enough to give up my country, my children, and my grandchildren,” he wrote in the book. “I wanted to live the rest of my life on my own terms. I didn’t need a lover. At seventy-four I didn’t have energy or interest to pursue that passion. Being Dad and Gramps was enough,” he added.

Image Credit: L’aire d’u

In an interview given to Vanity Fair, Sophie explained her side. “Michael was not the man he had pretended he wanted to be. Or he changed too much during the long justice process. […] Maybe getting out of my life was eventually the best gift Michael could give me,” she said in the interview. However, she doesn’t consider her relationship as a bitter chapter of her life. “I had great times. I took care of someone. I learned many things about myself and about others. I made friends, I became familiar with many wonderful aspects of the U.S.,” she added.

Michael also wrote that the end of his relationship with Sophie wasn’t tumultuous. “We didn’t part bitterly: the long relationship—13 years—had a dignified death, a sheet discreetly pulled over its corpse,” he wrote in ‘Behind the Staircase.’

Did Michael Really Not Go to Paris?

In HBO Max’s ‘The Staircase,’ Michael and Sophie break up soon after the former entered an Alford plea. Michael also decides against leaving for Paris even temporarily. However, in reality, Michael did visit Sophie in Paris. In ‘Behind the Staircase,’ he had detailed his Paris visit. Since he was sick when he arrived in Paris, he met Sophie only after three days. The couple then went to Normandy together from Paris. During this visit, Michael became assured that he cannot stay in the French capital permanently.

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“Sophie booked a house in Normandy for three nights. We [Sophie and Michael] stayed two. That’s all it took to realize our relationship was over. I said I could not live in Paris in her house; she said she did not want to be with me if I wouldn’t,” Michael wrote in ‘Behind the Staircase.’

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