Netflix’s ‘The Stranger’ is an Australian crime thriller movie written and directed by Thomas M. Wright. It stars Joel Edgerton as Mark, an undercover cop trying to solve the murder case of a young boy. In the process, he meets Henry, the prime suspect in the case, and forms an intimate friendship with the man to coax a confession. As a result, a gritty tale of ethics unfolds that makes several poignant statements about violence and its nature. Given the sensational murder case that Mark solves in the film and the characters’ ethical dilemmas, viewers must feel that the film’s premise is ripped from newspaper headlines. If you are wondering whether ‘The Stranger’ is based on a true story or a book, we’ve gathered all the information for you right here!
Is The Stranger Based on a True Story or a Book?
Yes, ‘The Stranger’ is loosely based on a true story. The film’s story is inspired by Kate Kyriacou’s book ‘The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer.’ The book itself is based on the murder investigation of Daniel Morcombe’s death. Morcombe was abducted on December 7, 2003. Witness reports hinted to police about the kidnapping, and they launched an investigation across Queensland. Years later, on August 21, 2011, Morcombe’s remains were found near 510 Kings Road, Glass House Mountains in Queensland. Brett Peter Cowan was charged and convicted of killing Morcombe, who was thirteen years old at the time of his death. Cowan was caught through a sting operation and confessed to killing Morcombe.
Producer Joel Edgerton had optioned Kate Kyriacou’s book and wanted to adapt it into a feature film. After seeing Thomas M. Wright’s work on ‘Acute Misfortune,’ another true story-inspired film, Edgerton approached him to helm the project. ‘The Stranger’ is a fictionalized version of the Daniel Morcombe murder case and does not directly deal with the murder itself. The film avoids naming the victim and focuses on the nearly decade-long investigation of a young boy’s murder that resembles Morcombe’s death.
In an interview, writer-director Thomas M. Wright spoke about his approach to the sensational and sensitive real-life case from which the movie draws inspiration. “I felt that it was essential to bring a moral perspective to this film, and for that reason, it’s a fictionalized film that does not represent the victim in any way, which is highly unusual for a film of this type. It does not represent any violence or the family and focuses instead on the operation that took place and the impact that it had on those people,” Wright told Screen Hub.
Wright also explained the reason for not including the victim’s name or details of the murder in an interview with Variety. “One reason I chose not to show the child or family was to make a film with a clear moral perspective. I couldn’t presume to know anything of the experience of that family. But I could see that there was a story about empathy and making meaning in the wake of violence, not violence itself,” Wright stated.
However, Daniel Morcombe’s parents, Bruce and Denise Morcombe, have criticized the makers for using their son’s tragic death to craft the film. They have objected to the film’s resemblance to Morcombe’s death and sought to boycott its release. Bruce and Denise Morcombe are also not involved with the production in any capacity. Although the couple was reportedly approached by makers and were made aware of the film’s content, they declined to be involved with the production.
Ultimately, ‘The Stranger’ is loosely based on the real-life murder of Daniel Morcombe, which is also the subject of Kate Kyriacou’s book ‘The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer.’ However, the film ignores the details about the victim and their death. Instead, it focuses on telling a fictionalized version of the undercover operation for catching the culprit. As a result, the film is grounded in the moral issues faced by the investigators.
Read More: Where Was Netflix’s The Stranger Filmed?