Which '90s Child Star Is Directing the Gabby Petito Movie?

You're not gonna guess it

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Then and Now

Wherever there is a woman making headlines for being brutally murdered by her partner, there is a Lifetime exec waiting in the wings to make a cheap movie about her life. The network’s latest mark is Gabby Petito, who was killed last year by her fiancé Brian Laundrie. The case captured national attention because Petito was a small-time #vanlife influencer and Laundrie went on the run, resulting in a long manhunt that culminated in his suicide. Doesn’t seem like a movie that I would want to watch on the network that brought us Dance Moms, but I’m sure that millions of true crime freaks will tune in.

The ethics of this movie existing — did her family sign off? — are not the point of this post. Do you know who is directing this movie? I will give you three clues, but you probably won’t get it.

  1. They are a former child actor.
  2. They were in one of the worst Best Picture winners of the late '90s/early 2000s.
  3. They starred in a classic of Tumblr cinema alongside Scarlett Johansson.

Did you get it? It’s Thora Birch.

Thora Birch is making her feature directorial debut with the Gabby Petito movie. What a sentence. She’s also acting in the film as Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt. Photos were released over the weekend of the shoot, which is how I found out about this whole thing.

According to a Deadline article from when the movie was announced, Lifetime is pulling out all the stops with this one. By that I mean that they’re creating a new PSA that will debut alongside the movie, which is tentatively titled The Gabby Petito Story. This is the work!

Meanwhile, the same day the production photos came out it was revealed that Laundrie admitted to the murder in his journal before killing himself in a Florida swamp. Perhaps this is not the kind of story you want retold by a first-time director for a network that does not have a great track record for having a light touch with their films. But hey, at least Birch seems excited.