Lifetime movie on Drew Peterson captures his personality but takes some liberties
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 29, 2011 9:06PM
Rob Lowe plays Drew Peterson and Kaley Cuoco plays Stacy Peterson, Drew Peterson's missing fourth wife, in the Lifetime Original Movie "Drew Peterson: Untouchable."
Updated: January 31, 2012 8:21AM
Actor Rob Lowe takes on Drew Peterson in Lifetime’s upcoming movie about the former Bolingbrook cop who’s charged with murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and remains a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy.
So how accurately does “Untouchable” — based on the book “Fatal Vows” by former Joliet Herald-News reporter Joe Hosey — portray actual events in the notorious case?
The film, which airs Jan. 21 on Lifetime, captures Peterson’s cocky attitude and off-the-wall quips, but it definitely takes artistic license with some key points and a few minor details in the still-ongoing drama.
In a scene that gives the movie its title, Lowe as Peterson dramatically opens the garage door of his hostile neighbor, then warns her he’ll never be arrested because he’s “untouchable, b----.”
Peterson apparently opened the door but never uttered the threat.
The neighbor, “Karen,” is clearly based on Sharon Bychowski, a friend of Stacy’s who lived next door, led efforts to find her and became increasingly antagonistic toward Peterson as the weeks passed.
Bychowski has said Peterson used a remote she had loaned Stacy to open her garage door, but there’s no indication Peterson ever made that comment to her. Some, in fact, recall Peterson being tagged with that moniker by those frustrated he hadn’t been charged in Stacy’s 2007 disappearance. Bychowski declined to comment on the scene or the movie.
The squad cars, police uniforms and building signs in the movie all say Bolingbrook. But the sprawling, Mediterranean-style houses, lush greenery and tall concrete walls along the streets scream southern California.
Despite producers’ efforts to recreate the Chicago suburb, it’s clear from the scenery the movie was shot in the Los Angeles area, though at least there aren’t any palm trees popping up.
And producers placed Peterson’s home on a cul-de-sac, just like in real life. But they gave the nearby house he shared with Savio before her 2004 death a set of fictitious, ground-level doors that Lowe as Peterson uses to sneak Stacy into the basement for secret trysts.
As the movie shows, Peterson was driving in Bolingbrook when he was arrested in May 2009 for Savio’s bathtub drowning death, and he did quip that the bust must have been about his unreturned library books.
But Bolingbrook police weren’t involved in the arrest — Illinois State Police investigators grabbed him. And Peterson didn’t make jokes about his handcuffs being “bling” until he made his first court appearance a day later in Joliet.
After being arrested, Lowe as Peterson is taken into custody and ordered to change from his street clothes into a red jail uniform. To taunt the cops, he turns the perfunctory clothing swap into a strip tease, even humming to provide a soundtrack as he pulls off his shirt. That’s Hollywood at work, a law enforcement source said.
“Never happened,” the source said.
The NYPD baseball cap, sunglasses and red-white-and-blue bandanna Lowe wears in the movie while police search his home for evidence are right on target. But there wasn’t any emotional appeal to the TV cameras to give him back his life before he drove off in his SUV. Actually, he quickly fled back inside Bychowski’s house as soon as reporters recognized him under the bizarre disguise and converged on him to ask questions.
“I gotta run,” Peterson said before trotting away.
Police, meanwhile, were towing his SUV and Stacy’s car out of the driveway, though he later got both back.
Search party II
Despite all the hoopla during the search scene in the movie, the actual police raid on Peterson’s house was even more wild and surreal.
News helicopters jockeyed for room overhead, police cadaver-sniffing dogs prowled through his home and yard, while Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren and ex-O.J. Simpson cop Mark Fuhrman narrated the search live as TV cameras rolled.
Grim-faced investigators carried out boxes and other parcels as reporters shouted questions that went unanswered. Neighbors gawked while Peterson stayed undercover — except for his brief foray outside in disguise.
How often does Hollywood underplay such a dramatic scene?
Producers apparently went for safety when it comes to flying — they show Lowe as Peterson working on a small, single-engine aircraft he owned. Peterson’s plane was an open-cockpit, ultra-light that could have passed for a go-cart with wings.
That would have looked neat on TV.
As Stacy Peterson, actress Kaley Cuoco at one point confides to the fatherly, white-haired minister who officiated at her wedding to Drew that she knew more about Savio’s death than she told police.
Stacy allegedly talked to her minister, Rev. Neil Schori, who didn’t perform the wedding ceremony, but was counseling the Petersons about their marital problems. And Schori is about 30 years younger than his movie counterpart — and good-looking enough that Drew contended Stacy had “a big crush” on him.
In real life, defense attorney Joel Brodsky never seemed to be far from Peterson’s side, especially when TV cameras rolled and reporters prowled around.
But there’s no Brodsky or any character like him hanging around Lowe in the movie, despite all the cops looking for evidence and reporters looking for stories. There are no lawyers in the picture at all, not even Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who some think bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Lowe as Peterson.
Maybe producers didn’t want the movie confused with some boring TV legal drama.
No Joe, either
Hosey is a key character in the film, but he’s portrayed as relaxed, polite and, well, Californian.
Hosey, a native New Yorker and die-hard Mets fan, is far more brash, aggressive and intense than his soft-spoken, reel-life counterpart.
Besides, the movie version of the reporter drives a boring, four-door brown sedan; Hosey actually drove a beat-up white pickup that always seemed to be parked in front of Peterson’s house or at the ex-cop’s latest hangout.