‘The Staircase’: Juliette Binoche Is Sophie Brunet, the French Editor Who Fell in Love With Michael Peterson

Aside from the owl theory, one of the biggest twists in Netflix’s true crime docu-series The Staircase was the relationship that formed between Michael Peterson and French editor Sophie Brunet. Peterson’s case is the basis of HBO Max‘s The Staircase, a mini-series that doesn’t ignore Peterson and Brunet’s romance. Learn more about Brunet’s relationship with Peterson and where she is today.

Juliette Binoche as Sophie Brunet in 'The Staircase' on HBO Max; The real Sophie Brunet
Juliette Binoche as Sophie Brunet, HBO Max | Sophie Brunet, L’aire d’u

Juliette Binoche plays the fictional Sophie Brunet in ‘The Staircase’ on HBO Max 

The first time we see Binoche is a flash-forward scene of the HBO Max series. However, her likeness isn’t revealed until episode four, “Common Sense.” 

“Dear Michael — you don’t know me but I know you,” Brunet says in a voiceover at the end of the episode, reading from one of her many letters to Peterson during his imprisonment. “I’ve followed your story with bated breath, hoping for the exoneration you so deserve. I know you’re innocent and that you and your family have been failed by a broken justice system.” 

“Rest assured while you wait for freedom, your story will be told,” her letter concludes in the HBO series. Working with documentarian Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Binoche edited the docu-series that would become a hit on Netflix.

Sophie Brunet fell in love with Michael Peterson working on Netflix’s ‘The Staircase’ 

Netflix’s The Staircase tells the story of Kathleen Peterson’s death. On Dec. 9, 2001, Kathleen reportedly fell down the stairs. Many presumed her husband was responsible for her death. The docu-series followed the case, which ended with Peterson being sentenced to life in prison.

A photo of Kathleen and Michael Peterson from Netflix's 'The Staircase'
Kathleen Peterson, Michael Peterson | Netflix

“[Michael and Sophie’s relationship] is one of the incredible things that happened during those 15 years,” director Lestrade told L’Express. “Life is really full of surprises. They had a real story.” He said Brunet’s work on the docu-series was never impacted by her developing relationship with the subject. 

Maggie Cohn, co-showrunner of the HBO Max series, explains Brunet and Peterson’s eventual relationship began with the letters they would write each other while he was in prison. Brunet also sent him books, which became the starting point of their relationship.

Michael Peterson and Sophie Brunet broke up in 2017

At publication, Peterson and Brunet are no longer together. As Peterson explained to News Observer:

“We made plans to live in Paris. Then I went and realized, no, I can’t. I can’t live in Paris. I don’t speak French. I’m too old. I couldn’t afford to live in Paris and my children, and grandchildren were in America.” 

Peterson continued: “[Sophie] said, well, if you can’t commit to love with me all the time, let’s end it and it was a great blow to both of us … I could not give her what she really needed and deserved.” 

Sophie Brunet is still an editor today

According to The Cinemaholic, Brunet is currently furthering her career as an editor. On top of The Staircase, Brunet also edited Lestrade’s HBO original Laetitia. Other projects Brunet has worked on include Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne, The Real Thing, The Blessed, Manon, and 20 Years. More recently, Brunet worked with Lestrade again on The Inside Game

There are still more episodes of The Staircase left. Watch new episodes on HBO Max every Thursday through June 9. 

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