Zac Efron Will Not Glorify A Monster – So Don't Thirst After Him, OK?
Zac Efron has never taken a role like Ted Bundy before. He might never do so again.
“The very last thing that I wanted – the last thing I was attempting to do with my career, is to hit a homerun in a dramatic biopic of one of the most gruesome serial killers anywhere,” he explains.
Efron is long removed from his Disney musical days, true, but he has never stepped as far away as this. To this point, he has tried to grow in a specific direction – always careful not to take the wrong role. Though he has experimented and challenged himself, there are some lines he does not want to cross.
Playing an infamous monster in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was a challenge he was up to, but it needed the right angle for him to come on board. There were a number of things he had absolutely no interested in. For instance, he didn’t want to play the predator stalking his prey. He didn’t want to film gruesome murders, to revel in the violence of Bundy’s acts. It just didn’t interest him.
“When Joe [Berlinger, director] told me his perspective, we immediately clicked because we realised another value: that this is a subversive, challenging role to play. I’m always looking to up the ante. As long as it wasn’t a glorification but a look inside the psyche, that’s insanely interesting,” says Efron.
Efron’s Bundy isn’t a glorification – it’s a warning. Bundy was able to fool many people around him, and large portions of the American public, into thinking he was innocent by toying with our inherent biases.
“Just because somebody looks and acts a certain way doesn’t mean you should trust them,” says Berlinger. “I think is very important in this day and age. Bundy defies all stereotypes of what we want to think a serial killer is. We want to think of a serial killer as some dark, odd-looking, mean social outcast who could never fit into society because that somehow implies that they’re easily recognisable and identifiable and therefore you can avoid them.”
“Also, [it’s an assumption that] if someone’s the type who is maybe appealing to look at he’s at all good.” says Efron. “He [Bundy] is not good in any way.”
That warning is more relevant now than ever before, according to Berlinger and Efron.
“It’s is shocking to me because I’m aware of these things in the past, but some people don’t know about serial killers,” says Efron.
“When I was thinking about doing the film, I reached out to my two daughters, who are both college-aged very smart women who are in the prototypical Bundy victim age. I said to them, do you know who Ted Bundy was? And they didn’t, and none of their friends knew either,” says Berlinger.
That the world could be ripe for another Bundy is a sobering thought. “The lessons of Bundy can’t be overstated enough for a new generation. We live in an era where there’s internet catfishing, and people pretending to be Uber drivers when they’re not,” says Berlinger.
To tell that story, we the audience see what Bundy’s longtime girlfriend Liz Kloepfer, law enforcement and the American public saw. Much of the film is Bundy professing his innocence, fighting his case, charming and seducing new supporters, engendering sympathy where none should exist. Only in the end, two days before he was finally executed, did Bundy finally admit to his crimes. Until that point, he very consciously, avoided playing the villain.
“Bundy was known for his good looks and winning people over. Not many people had bad things to say about the guy,” says Efron. “They had indifferent things to say, a couple of people that got to know him said bad things, but most people said he was just an alright guy. If that person is, at the same time, one of the most notorious killers of all time, I think there’s definitely a lot to play there as an actor.”
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is in theatres across the Middle East on May 2