'Dark Waters': Director Todd Haynes says real-world legal impact of film is 'an amazing beginning' (exclusive)

Tom Beasley

Rob Bilott believes that telling his story in the movie Dark Waters will help in his ongoing legal battle against chemical giants DuPont.

The environmental lawyer, played by Mark Ruffalo in the movie, told Yahoo Movies UK the prominence of the film will “really help” to incite action around contamination of water supplies.

Bilott has been pursuing ongoing action through the courts against DuPont after he uncovered evidence the company was responsible for spewing a chemical compound known as PFOA into the area surrounding its West Virginia factory.

PFOA has subsequently been linked to at least half a dozen illnesses in humans and is believed to exist in the blood of 99% of life on Earth.

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“There is science that shows this chemical is linked with serious health effects, including cancer,” Bilott told Yahoo Movies UK.

He added: “[The film] is going to really help, I think, with the education process for people that are learning about the chemical in their water, learning about it being in their blood and for legislators and policy makers that are trying to really sift through all the information to understand: what does the science really tell us about these chemicals?

Mark Ruffalo as lawyer Rob Bilott in 'Dark Waters'. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Focus Features/eOne)

“I think they'll see that it tells us these are things we need to be concerned about and to take action on now.”

DuPont’s stock dropped by seven points after Dark Waters was released into American cinemas in November 2019 and the company’s executive chairman Ed Breen confirmed its “legal folks” were looking closely at the movie.

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The film’s director, Todd Haynes, said he was thrilled at the impact the movie has already had in the real world.

“It's something one rarely expects or anticipates and you can't really predict what those changes are going to be,” he said.

Mark Ruffalo and director Todd Haynes on the set of 'Dark Waters'. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Focus Features/eOne)

The 59-year-old Carol filmmaker added: “This story would never even have come out were it not for Rob Bilott, or if circumstances hadn't been the way they played out to bring the story to his doorstep.

“That's the reason why we made the film and now we're seeing that there's actually legislation in the House and in the Senate and bills being proposed in the United States right now that are banning PFOA and forever chemicals.

“We'll see how they continue to move, but that's an amazing beginning.”

A DuPont plant silo sits near a residential area in Marmet, W.Va. Monday, Jan. 25, 2010. Federal officials are investigating a series of leaks that shut down the chemical plant and resulted in the death of one worker. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

Bilott has been fighting the battle against DuPont since the late 1990s, despite his previous career as a defence attorney who represented chemical companies.

He chronicled his fight in the book Exposure, which was released in 2019 — just before the movie’s United States release date.

Dark Waters has received favourable reviews from audiences and critics, earning an A- grade from Cinemascore and an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mark Ruffalo as Rob Bilott in the legal drama 'Dark Waters'. (Credit: Mary Cybulski/Focus Features/eOne)

The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads: “Dark Waters powerfully relays a real-life tale of infuriating malfeasance, honouring the victims and laying blame squarely at the feet of the perpetrators.”

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The movie also stars Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Pullman and Bill Camp.

Dark Waters is in UK cinemas from 28 February.