True crime is all the rage these days. As Netflix documentaries like Making a Murderer and The Keepers investigate ongoing mysteries, shows like American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson look back on old famous cases with new eyes. The latest entry in the latter category is Menendez: Blood Brothers, the new Lifetime Original Movie about the Menendez brothers. Though it wasn’t quite the zeitgeist-defining event that O.J. was, the story of the Beverly Hills brothers who, in 1989, murdered their parents in cold blood was still one of the first high-profile court cases to get massive media coverage. However, the new Lifetime retelling, directed and executive-produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, offers a different version of the narrative viewers might be used to.
Erik and Lyle Menendez were convicted of first-degree murder, for which they remain in prison today. Their defenses were thus not believed, but the tale they told in court was that they had suffered years of physical and sexual abuse from their father, entertainment mogul Jose Menendez, which was enabled by their mother, Kitty Menendez. Unlike jurors at the time, Bailey and Barbato take the brothers at their word. Menendez: Blood Brothers portrays the brothers suffering horrific abuse at the hands of their parents before turning the tables and murdering them in brutal fashion.
“As if everything that they said in the trial was true, that’s the movie we made,” Nico Tortorella, who plays Lyle Menendez in the film, told EW. “This is one of the first court cases that was ever televised, so there’s no lack of information about everything that went down in this trial. This is a story that’s been told time and time again, so there’s a lot to pull from. We’re just telling a different version of the story.”
Courtney Love also stars as Kitty, a character who appears in two different forms in this story: First, as the mother treating her husband’s abuse with willful ignorance, and later as a ghost alternatively comforting and torturing the guilt-plagued Erik.
“I play an unhappy woman, until I’m murdered, and then I come back as the good mom, the one Erik always wanted,” Love explains.
After minor roles on TV shows like Revenge and Sons of Anarchy, Love jumped at the chance for “a part with something more substantial.” She did have to brush up a bit on the details of the case, however.
“I remember it happening, but wasn’t following it closely,” the former Hole singer says. “I didn’t even have a TV in 1992. I was in Seattle, I was doing other stuff. So I had a lot of research to do.”
Tortorella, by contrast, was barely sentient when the case was happening. But he understands why so many people seem interested these days in revisiting such cases.
“Retelling the O.J. story did so well last year and won so many awards that people are reaching back for other such stories to retell,” the Younger star says. “This is a story that is so rare and ridiculous. It’s the story of two extremely privileged white kids from Beverly Hills that were so victimized, apparently, that it led them to murder their parents in cold blood and extremely violently. This wasn’t just one shot and dead; they completely mutilated their parents. We’re living in one of the craziest times ever in history, and we’re reaching for stories that somewhat normalize what’s going on. This is a story that is more ridiculous than anything else.”
Menendez: Blood Brothers premieres Sunday, June 11 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime. It will be followed by a one-hour docu-special, Beyond the Headlines: Murder in the Family, that will investigate the real life Menendez brothers and four other high-profile cases of children killing their parents.