Bundy biopic stars say film doesn’t li­on­ize the no­to­ri­ous se­rial killer

The Sudbury Star - - YOU - LINDSEY BAHR

Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, and Vile Net­flix

There is hardly any vi­o­lence in the Ted Bundy movie Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, and Vile, star­ring Zac Efron as the no­to­ri­ous se­rial killer. It was a de­lib­er­ate choice on the part of film­maker Joe Ber­linger, now some­thing of a Bundy scholar with this fic­tion­al­ized film and his pop­u­lar Net­flix doc­u­men­tary se­ries, Con­ver­sa­tions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Ber­linger be­lieves recre­ations of crimes have a “numb­ing ef­fect” that de­sen­si­tizes au­di­ences.

Plus, Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, and Vile is told from the point of view of Bundy’s girl­friend, Elizabeth (Liz) Kloepfer, a sin­gle mom who dated Bundy for about six years start­ing in 1969 and through some of his tri­als. He was ex­e­cuted on death row in 1989.

Kloepfer, who orig­i­nally wrote the book un­der the name Elizabeth Ken­dall, be­lieves in his in­no­cence even while ev­ery­thing seems to point to the con­trary. It’s also the name of the char­ac­ter in the movie.

“It’s based on what Liz would have seen, which is noth­ing,” said ac­tress Lily Collins, who por­trays her. “In or­der to make the au­di­ence feel like they’re in the mind­set of Liz at the very end of the movie, you have to earn that. And it al­most height­ens the anx­i­ety be­cause you’re tee­ter­ing on the edge of ‘is he or isn’t he guilty?’”

Collins and Efron de­cided to take the leap into the dark­ness of this story to­gether. The two have been friends for more than a decade, go­ing to back to when Collins was a teenage Nick­elodeon reporter in­ter­view­ing Efron and the cast of High School Mu­si­cal on the or­ange car­pet.

“We had talked about what type of projects we both wanted to do down the line,” Collins said. “It was re­ally ex­cit­ing for me to see him tak­ing that risk, and I thought to be a part of that felt re­ally nat­u­ral and very ex­cit­ing.”

Efron had his hes­i­ta­tions about tak­ing the role.

“I had heavy reser­va­tions about play­ing a se­rial killer, es­pe­cially one so pop­u­lar as Ted Bundy,” Efron said. “I didn’t want to glo­rify or be a part of a project that glo­ri­fies any as­pect of Ted Bundy or what he did. Nor am I in­ter­ested in telling some­thing just be­cause it was true or shock­ing.”

But the script, which Michael Wer­wie adapted from Kloepfer’s 1981 mem­oir, The Phan­tom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, was dif­fer­ent than he ex­pected.

“I liked the idea of bring­ing at­ten­tion to the el­e­ment of Ted Bundy that was so charis­matic, and who was able to win over the world and yet be so evil and du­plic­i­tous,” Efron said. “I got to re­ally take a look and feel it, and it was very un­com­fort­able.”

Collins was able to meet and spend time with Kloepfer and her daugh­ter, who told her sto­ries about their time with Bundy.

“There was so much love and so much trust be­tween the two of them (Bundy and Kloepfer), or so­called trust,” Collins said. “There are these two worlds that I think were re­ally im­por­tant to show in the film be­cause that’s the truth of it. The re­al­ity is that there were happy times. She was lean­ing so far into those happy times that she didn’t see the other side un­til later, in the tri­als.”

Nei­ther Efron nor Collins are fans of the true-crime genre, which is boom­ing on stream­ing ser­vices and in pod­casts, but they un­der­stand why it’s so pop­u­lar. Efron noted that the Bundy case, which was tele­vised na­tion­ally in the United States, may have helped con­trib­ute to the cur­rent ob­ses­sion.

And both are sure they couldn’t have taken some­thing like this on any ear­lier in their lives.

“Hon­estly, if you would have asked me to try and do this a few years ago, I don’t think I would have been ca­pa­ble,” Efron said. “I don’t think I would’ve come out with solid prod­uct.”

It’s an ex­per­i­ment that has been pay­ing off. Since the film’s pre­mière at the Sun­dance Film Festival ear­lier this year, both have re­ceived crit­i­cal praise for their per­for­mances, es­pe­cially Efron’s un­set­tlingly nat­u­ral and trans­fix­ing por­trayal of Bundy.

They’re grate­ful, too, to have each other to share cre­ative as­pi­ra­tions.

“Peo­ple who are our age who are still around in the area and want to do con­struc­tive things?” Efron said. “It’s not a lot of peo­ple.”

I liked the idea of bring­ing at­ten­tion to the el­e­ment of Ted Bundy ... who was able to win over the world and yet be so evil.


Zac Efron, left, and Lily Collins star as se­rial killer Ted Bundy and his girl­friend Elizabeth in Ex­tremely Wicked, Shock­ingly Evil, and Vile.


Ted Bundy, seen in 1979, was ex­e­cuted in 1989.

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