An American Crime (USA 2007)


Tommy O'Haver


Tommy O'Haver, Irene Turner


Executive Producer:

Pamela Koffler, John Wells


Christine Vachon, Henry Winterstern


Kevin Turen, Katie Roumel, Jocelyn Hayes


Hans Christian Ritter




Ellen Page

Sylvia Likens

Catherine Keener

Gertrude Baniszewski

Hannah Leigh Dworkin

Shirley Baniszewski

Ari Graynor

Paula Baniszewski

Channing Nichols

Patty Ryan

Romy Rosemont

Betty Likens

Jeremy Sumpter

Coy Hubbard

Scout Taylor-Compton

Stephanie Baniszewski

Carlie Westerman

Marie Baniszewski

James Franco



(Complete Cast & Crew)

An American Crime

Ellen Page Online Movie Rating:





92 minutes





Filming dates:

3rd June - 1st July 2006

Filming locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA


Rated R for strong and disturbing depiction of child abuse and torture

World premiere:

19th January 2007 (Sundance Film Festival, USA)

Company / Studio:

First Look International, Killer Films, Capelight Pictures and other

Official website: /

IMDb website:

DVD premiere:

16th May 2008 (Germany, Region Code 2, Capelight Pictures) (click here to see more DVD releases)



An American Crime - End credits

(MP3 Audio, 5,18 MB)


An American CrimePlot:

The daughters of traveling carnival workers, Sylvia Liken and her younger sister Jennieare left for an extended stay at the suburban Indiana home of single-mother Gertrude Baniszewski and her seven children. Soon, Sylvia becomes subjected to weeks of unrelenting abuse at the hand of Baniszewski, who encourages a 'Lord of the Flies'-type cult, allowing her own family and neighborhood children to punish the girl in her basement.

Background Information:

Intensively, shocking and cruel - there are many words, which could describe this film based on a true event. This story is still present in the minds of most Americans and thus this movie promises to be interesting for a large audience. Starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, there are two very good actresses, and especially Ellen knows how to depict her role convincingly. Due to contents and the scenes resulting from it this film is rated FSK16 in Germany and rated R in the USA.

On the web site and in the Wikipedia entries from Syliva Likens and Gertrude Baniszewski you can get further information about one of the worst crimes of our time.

There is also a book called “House of Evil” by John Dean, which was published in 2008 and gives more details about the whole crime.


  • Based on a true story that happened in Indiana in 1965.
  • The film is based largely on actual court transcripts from the case.
  • Ellen Page was the only choice to play Sylvia Likens.
  • Ellen Page literally starved herself for her role as Sylvia. When director Tommy O'Haver noticed she was looking thinner, he asked her if she was eating and she replied "No, because Sylvia wasn't being fed."
  • Catherine Keener originally turned down the role of Gertrude Baniszewski, however after she couldn't get the story out of her head she met with director Tommy O'Haver and agreed to do the film.
  • Most of the cast were completely unaware of the real Likens murder until after they read the script.
  • The film was shot in chronological order to give the actors the experience of what Sylvia really went through.
  • There are a few historical inaccuracies in this film, such as Sylvia's body was found in an upstairs bedroom in real life, not the kitchen. Also, Gertrude had seven kids, where in the movie she says she has six.
  • Tommy O'Haver had been fascinated by the Likens killing since he first read about it 19 years after the fact when Gertrude Baniszewski came up for parole
  • Tommy O'Haver wanted actress Catherine Keener to play Gertrude Baniszewski because he had been impressed by her performance as author Nelle Harper Lee in Capote


  • "I start shooting this movie with Catherine Keener really soon. It's called, um...The Basement, well maybe." (Ellen Page’s first statement about the movie at the Fuse Studios in May 2006; Source:
  • "As a mother I said to myself, 'I can't do this.' Later I thought: 'I'm a mother. I kind of should.'" (Catherine Keener on playing the abusive Gertrude Baniszewski; Source:
  • "It would have been easy to take this story over the top. So I purposely pulled back. My mantra was 'restraint, restraint, restraint.'" (director Tommy O'Haver on sensationalizing the film's inevitably shocking material; Source:
  • "I thought her performance was underplayed. That was the sort of sensibility I wanted for the film." (director Tommy O'Haver on casting actress Catherine Keener after seeing her in Capote; Source:
  • "It really is a fictionalized version in some ways. We try to hit all the major points in the trial as to the stories revealed. Then we created an interpretation as to how this could have happened based on that. A lot of it has to do with Gertrude's character and trying to explain how someone who was a human being and not necessarily evil to begin with could tip over the edge and commit such a heinous act." (director Tommy O'Haver on making "An American crime" as an interpretation of the facts; Source:
  • “What she went through is truly and utterly nauseating, inconceivable. It’s far worse than the film. If people want to learn about it, they can find it on the Internet and read up on it. It’s just absolutely atrocious, and if this was even three quarters of that, it would be unwatchable.” (Ellen Page on the movie; Source:
  • “I ran away to Nova Scotia. It was the summer and I swam in lakes everyday and drank really yummy coffee and tried to not keep obsessing, because I’m kind of obsessive and I really needed to separate myself because it’s not a easy thing on the mind and body.” (Ellen Page on recovery after filming the movie; Source:
  • “I was just blown away and could hardly believe it was a true story. I remember literally just going on the computer and staying up all night and reading everything I could. It just, like, splintered my heart.” (Ellen Page on being profoundly affected after reading the script, Source:
  • “I knew of Ellen just because I’m a fan. I had seen “Hard Candy” and like everyone else, was blown away by her. When I heard she was interested, it definitely added to the credibility of the whole thing. For me, I just assumed we were going to be partners and we were. We were in it together and for each other, whichever way we had to go.” (Catherine Keener on co-star Ellen Page; Source:
  • “When I was doing An American Crime, working with Ellen Page – she was really cool, but it was kind of intimidating
    [...] I do like Ellen, she has really unique and has made unique choices in her choices.”
    (Harley McFarland on being starstruck on a film set and her role models in the industry; Source:

Release Dates:



Festival / Event / Location / Comment



19th January 2007

Sundance Film Festival


9th February 2007

European Film Market, Berlinale 2007


24th July-22nd August 2007

Fantasy Filmfest


17th August 2007




6th-8th October 2007

Sitges Film Festival, Barcelona


16th November 2007

Stockholm International Film Festival


7th December 2007




10th May 2008

Showtime (TV premiere)



15th May 2008




16th May 2008

DVD release



31st May 2008

Transilvania International Film Festival


13th June 2008

Theatrical release



19th June 2008

DVD release



18th July 2008




8th August 2008




19th August 2008

DVD release



19th August 2008

DVD release



22nd August 2008




28th October 2008

DVD release



1st June 2011

DVD release


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