For director Joe Berlinger to be able to effectively show how a cold-blooded serial killer could go undetected for years—relying on his irresistible charm and good looks to disarm those around him—he knew he’d need an actor as equally charismatic.
That’s why Berlinger said it was “essential” to cast Zac Efron in the role of Bundy in the biopic “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” which began streaming on Netflix Friday.
“I am always looking for authentic things to bring into the movie and the fact that he has this real life persona as a teen heart throb, as somebody who just people are just beguiled by because of how he looks and acts, you know, (that) was a piece of reality that really would help in the story telling,” Berlinger told Oxygen.com.
Efron, he said, was his first choice and luckily agreed to participate in the movie, which takes a dramatized look Bundy and his conviction.
Berlinger set out to tell the film from the perspective of Bundy’s long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, who is played in the movie by Lily Collins.
“I want people to suspend the knowledge that they intellectually have that…Zac is playing a serial killer and to invest in the relationship,” he said. “You can’t help to start to kind of feel like ‘Oh, he’s not such a bad guy.’ There’s a conflict going on as you watch the movie.”
While Bundy is remembered for slaughtering more than 30 women, Berlinger’s film shows another side to the notorious killer as he cooks breakfast for Kloepfer and her daughter, cuddles with her in bed and takes a trip to a local animal shelter to look for a family dog.
Berlinger wants viewers to take the same emotional ride that Kloepfer once took and she came to terms with the reality that her doting law school boyfriend was also secretly a dangerous predator.
And as Bundy finds himself in the cross hairs of the legal system after getting arrested for attempting to kidnap Carol DaRonch in 1975, Berlinger hopes that viewers may find a part of themselves “hoping against all odds, especially if you don’t know the Bundy story that love will succeed,” just as Kloepfer once did.
“I want the audience to be with Liz emotionally, like ‘oh my God, I was liking Zac through part of this movie. I can’t believe I actually liked a guy who has done these horrible things, but I know understand how you can become seduced by a psychopath,’” Berlinger said.
Even as Bundy is being sentenced to death for the murders of two Florida sorority girls, Judge Edward D. Cowart appears to take a convivial approach.
“You’re a bright young man,” Cowart said, according to a clip in the docu-series “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” also made by Berlinger. “You’d have made a good lawyer, I’d have loved to have you practice in front of me. But you went another way, partner.”
Berlinger contends other inmates accused of similar crimes would likely receive a much harsher admonition.
"That’s the power Bundy had and casting somebody like Zac and telling this story through that point of view, to me, that is the whole goal,” he said.
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