Oscars 2019: James Bulger’s mother sends plea to Detainment film director

Still from DetainmentImage copyright Vincent Lambe
Image caption Two child actors play James’s young killers in Detainment

James Bulger’s mother has written to the director of a film about the toddler’s murder, appealing to him to withdraw it from the Oscars.

Denise Fergus told Vincent Lambe that clips of Detainment had made her feel like “I’m living that nightmare again”.

She wrote: “You have no right to use what happened to my son as a way to try and make a name for yourself.”

Lambe has previously apologised for upsetting James’s family but has said he will not withdraw the film.

The 30-minute drama uses transcripts of the police interviews with Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were 10 when they killed two-year-old James in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993.

Mrs Fergus travelled to Dublin on Monday and did an interview for RTE’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday night.

Lambe is based in the city but Mrs Fergus didn’t meet him while she was there.

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Media captionDenise Fergus says the Oscar-nominated film about her son’s death in 1993 has left her ‘distraught’

Detainment is nominated for best live action short film at the Academy Awards, which will be held in Hollywood on 24 February.

To date, 227,000 people have signed an online petition calling for it to be withdrawn. Mrs Fergus wrote: “I ask you to please do this for me and my family.”

In her letter, she told the Irish director: “I honestly don’t think you realise just how upset I am feeling.

“I also feel for the young actors who played the parts of T & V [Thompson and Venables], God only knows what was going on in their heads at the time this film was made.”

She was particularly upset by the fact Lambe did not consult James’s family in advance.

“If you had done it, this could have been very different,” she wrote. “I still feel hurt and upset at you going in this direction to make this film.”

She added: “Not only did you not bother to contact us you went ahead and used a young child to play my baby James.

“The re-enactment of that child being led away like the final hours of James’ life has brought it back to me and it hurts so much.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption James Bulger was two when he was abducted and killed

Speaking on Thursday, Lambe told BBC News he didn’t approach the family in advance because he wanted the film to be “entirely fact-based and impartial”, and consulting them would not have changed what was in the transcripts.

“There would have been pressure to tell it the way one side would want it to be told, and then you’re suppressing information and telling a version of the truth, and it would defeat the purpose of the film,” he said.

He has refused to withdraw from the Oscars, adding: “It’s like saying, should we burn every copy of it?”

He has apologised to them for not informing them about the film sooner, but has said he does not regret making it.

The director’s spokeswoman confirmed he received Mrs Fergus’s letter on Tuesday and would reply.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which organises the Oscars, said it would not remove the film from its shortlist because it “does not in any way influence the voting process”.

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