Destin Cretton Talks "Self Doubt" in Adapting Stories Like 'Just Mercy'

Taika Waititi, Lorene Scafaria, Kasi Lemmons, Anthony McCarten and Charles Randolph joined Cretton for The Hollywood Reporter's annual Writer Roundtable.

"I find that if you don't take liberties in adapting something, you honestly are going to be further from the truth," Just Mercy writer-director Destin Cretton told The Hollywood Reporter's Writer Roundtable. Cretton penned the adaptation for Just Mercy with Andrew Lanham. "You just can't fit something into two hours unless you're piecing it together."

He continued, "We definitely stepped into it with a big weight on our shoulders. A lot of self-doubt as to whether we are the right people to tell the story."

"We had Bryan Stevenson, who's an incredible storyteller," Cretton told the roundtable. "He is a lawyer, but his gift is storytelling. His gift is empathy. He does it in a courtroom, and that's all he does for his clients is he tries to allow a jury or a judge to understand a person and all of their layers." Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, is portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in the film adaptation.

Stevenson "starts with the stereotype, or he starts with the crime or the criminal, and then he starts pulling off the layers so you understand the full person," explained Cretton. "That's what he was able to do with us throughout the process, and he really helped us fill in those blanks."

The full Writer Roundtable is set to air Feb. 2 on SundanceTV. Cretton appears on the roundtable panel along with Charles Randolph (Bombshell), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet), Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes) and Lorene Scafaria  (Hustlers). Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at THR.com/Roundtables.