Former Disney Channel star Zac Efron isn’t the most obvious choice to play a serial killer, which in a strange way, makes him pretty well suited for the role of Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
As the film’s first teaser indicated, Joe Berlinger’s upcoming biopic is focused less on the actual murders committed by Bundy and more on his ability to charm and gaslight people into thinking he may be innocent. The story is even largely told from the perspective of the killer’s girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, played by Lily Collins, who continued to doubt that her boyfriend was capable of such horrific crimes in the face of all evidence.
In an interview with Uproxx, director and documentarian Joe Berlinger explained how he wanted to use this point of view to explore how real life monsters can often come in deceptively friendly forms.
“[T]he one thing I’ve learned in covering real crime over the years is that people want to think that somebody as evil as Ted Bundy is packaged neatly and easily identifiable in society and therefore you avoid him,” Berlinger said “It’s like Bundy’s final comments at the end of the film. He says it himself, ‘Killers don’t come out from the shadows with long fangs and blood dripping from their chins. They are often people that you lived with, admired, worked with. Those are the people who are often the most capable of evil.’”
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The interviewer went on to observe how the film plays up the public perception of Bundy as a handsome figure before turning this image on its head, prompting Berlinger to explain how the contrast between the man’s appearance and his actions was a major reason why he felt Efron was right for the role.
“Exactly. And it’s why the casting of Zac, I think, works so well. Because he bravely agreed, and not only does he have the chops to pull off I think one of his best performances, I think he did an amazing job in the film. But he was willing. He’s a teen heartthrob, and there are an awful lot of women from 15 to 30 who just idolize him. And for him to willingly take that profile and turn it on its head, I thought was incredibly brave of him and I think it pays off in the film.”
Though Efron has managed to find plenty of work since his High School Musical days, you can see why this role would appeal to him as a means of shattering his old pretty boy image once and for all. In any case, no release date has been set yet for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, but with the movie getting its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend, you can expect to see a few reactions to Efron’s Bundy surface online in the next few days.