Dark Waters follows Robert Bilott's (Mark Ruffalo) real-life legal battle against DuPont over the release of a toxic chemical into Parkersburg, West Virginia's water supply, affecting 70,000 townspeople and hundreds of livestock.
As a corporate defense attorney on the environmental team at Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati, Bilott spent most of his time defending companies like DuPont. But when a farmer from his grandmother's hometown approached Bilott about his dead cattle, Bilott decided to look into it as a favor to his grandmother. "It just felt like the right thing to do," Bilott said in the 2016 New York Times Magazine article that served as a basis for the film. "I felt a connection to those folks."
Wilbur Tennant, played by Bill Camp in the film, showed Bilott videos and pictures he had taken of his cows foaming at the mouth and staggering in ways they hadn't before, with lesions covering their hides. Bilott immediately took on the case. Soon after, he found evidence that DuPont had been dumping toxic chemical waste into the town's water supply, near a creek where Tennant raised his cows, which resulted in a legal fight against the company that lasted more than a decade.
Focus Features' Dark Waters, directed by Todd Haynes, also stars Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and Bill Pullman.
Read on to find out more about the real-life inspirations behind the characters these actors portray.