Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Mysterious Death of Karen Silkwood

The Movie

In 1984, the same year the Supreme Court heard the case, Silkwood, a movie based on Karen Silkwood's life was released. It starred Academy Award winner Meryl Streep as Silkwood, Cher, as a fictional roommate, and Kurt Russell as Drew Stephens. It was nominated for five Academy Awards: Streep for Best Actress, Cher for Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film Editing. The film won positive reviews from the movie critics, but there was still some cynicism over the ending, in which director Mike Leigh alluded to the strong possibility that Silkwood was killed by another car running her off the road. Though it took some liberties—the supervisor in the lab seemed to be a fictional amalgamation of several different Kerr-McGee employees, and her roommate was turned into a fictional character—much of the narrative was accurate, from its depiction of the gloveboxes, to the bleach showers, and the stripping of her apartment.

Karen Silkwood's grave
Karen Silkwood's grave

In 1976, two years after Silkwood died but officially unrelated to the Silkwood scandal, the Cimarron plant was shut down by Kerr-McGee.

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