Filmmakers behind The Stranger, inspired by the Daniel Morcombe case, ‘calling disrespectful’, say parents

The parents of the murdered Queensland 13-year-old schoolboy Daniel Morcombe have criticized the producers of a new Australian film, saying it “makes money on a heinous crime” and is “disrespectful” to their son.

The Stranger is a dramatization of the year-long investigation that led to the arrest of the teen’s killer, Brett Peter Cowan.

The producers of the film said it was “a fictional account of the undercover police operation that resulted in a successful murder pursuit”.

The film, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, follows two strangers who meet on a plane and become friends.

“For Henry Teague (actor Sean Harris), who has been worn down by a lifetime of physical work, this is a dream come true,” says the film’s synopsis.

“His new friend Mark (actor Joel Edgerton, who plays the undercover police officer) becomes his savior and ally.

“But it is also not who they appear to be, each carrying on secrets that threaten to destroy them.”

Daniel’s mother Denise tweeted yesterday that the film “is not supported by the Morcombe family”, after discovering that the film would be screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) in August.

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“The actor, the cameraman – they all made money on the movie, but the hurtful thing is that they use Daniel’s name to promote the movie, and that’s what we find really disgusting,” Morcombe told ABC.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe launched the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in 2005 to continue their message on child safety.

Daniel’s father Bruce said yesterday that there had been “no offer of help in promoting the work of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation [or] Daniel’s legacy to ensure the safety of Australian children. “

“We think it’s most distasteful, most hurtful and has no benefit to society at all,” he said.

Hikers in the 10th Annual Walk for Daniel at Woombye on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
People participate in the annual Walk for Daniel at Woombye.(AAP: Dan Peled)

Daniel and the family ‘do not want this story’, say parents

The Morcombes rejected the idea that the film was fictional.

“The actual predator is exactly like Brett Peter Cowan,” said Mrs. Morcombe.

Morcombe added “of course it’s not a fictional story – only an idiot would suggest it”.

“We’re talking to Daniel, and he does not want this story – no one in the family wants this story.

Murdered Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe
Daniel Morcombe disappeared while waiting for a bus at Woombye in 2003. (ABC)

He said the film “does not help” those affected by Daniel’s murder.

“Of course there are Daniel’s school friends, and there are lots of layers, all of which are affected by Daniel’s losses.

“This film does not help, it certainly is. So maybe people should consider the victims – not just their own hip pocket – when considering making a film like this.”

Film Festival recognizes the plight of the Morcombe family

The film’s producers defended the production, saying “out of our deepest respect for the family, the name of the victim is never mentioned in the film”.

“Instead, it tells the story of the unknown police officers who have committed years of their lives and their mental and physical health to solve this case, and others like it.

“Once the film was in development, the producers approached the family to make them aware of the film – they refused to be involved. It’s a decision we continue to respect.”

Main picture of the Australian actor Joel Edgerton
Actor Joel Edgerton plays the undercover police officer, Mark, in the film.(AAP: Brendan Thorne)

A MIFF spokesman said it “respects and acknowledges the grief, pain and suffering that the Morcombe family has expressed about this film”, but stood by its decision to show it.

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