Zac Efron as serial killer Ted Bundy, in theaters these days
Serial killers seem to have become the superstars of American cinema and actors compete to play psychopathic characters. Waiting for Quentin Tarantino’s film, which retraces the Charles Manson case, played by Damon Herriman, with a cast of superstars, here is Zac Efron, who, in dance and music, has always been a good guy on the screen and, in past, the teenager from which all the teenagers wanted to be invited and have him as a knight at the “prom”, the high school prom, before going to college.
The original title of the film, presented with exultation for its protagonists at the last Sundance, is Extremely wicked, shocking evil and vilein Italy it is Ted Bundy – Criminal Charm. The director is Joe Berlinger and the story that the script tells is true because Ted Bundy, the role of Zac, was really a notorious serial killer, even if he hid his double life with absolute skill and no one had suspected him for a long time , including the woman with whom he lived: Liz, an unwed mother, masterfully played by Lily Collins, now very successful in Hollywood.
The film is based on the interpretation of a surprising and mimetic Zac Efron and we asked him, as a first question, if he ever had any doubts about accepting a role that overturns his favorite image from the US audience. The answer was clear and sure of the choice: «No, he was absolutely fascinating and engaging for me to try to enter the psychology of Ted Bundy. I did a long job of research, I documented every detail, from his way of dressing to his accent and the intricacies of his nature ».
In your opinion, what are the reasons why the public is fascinated by the figures of serial criminals, especially by those who hide behind a normal appearance and daily lives without suspects?
Serial killers reveal all the mysteries and many aspects of human nature. The question fascinates and frightens: why does a man who, at times, as the news shows, have a lot, actually feel alive and operative when he plans his crimes and then carries them out?
I think human nature is attracted by the sense of sin and crime, that is, by the constant challenge between good and evil. Those who choose the second path are addicted to risk, which turns into a constant challenge. Every gesture, every action of his dual nature reveals the excitement, the taste for murder and sex doesn’t always play a predominant role. I really liked the film because even if I’m the protagonist, the point of view on the fierce Ted Bundy is that of the woman who was beside him, Elizabeth Kloepfer. The film was inspired by the book about life with Ted that Liz wrote and which is a chilling document.
How did working with Lily Collins go?
Lily was worried, scared: it wasn’t easy for her to revive the Pandora’s box of horrors in which the real Liz found herself embroiled at one point. Lily and I talked a lot, we exchanged many opinions. There is nothing smug or morbid or rhetorical or moralistic about the film. Everything is documented, precise, analytical and for this reason the Sundance selection managers wanted to provocatively include the film in the documentary section. However, the producers preferred to place it in the category of world premieres.
The actor with Lily Collins in a scene from the film Ted Bundy – Allure Criminal
Critics in the US wrote that his performance redefines his career. What do you think?
Whenever I venture into territory other than films like High School Musical or 17 Again the critics seem to discover me as an actor. It also happened with The Paperboy alongside Nicole Kidman and recently the film with Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman, gave me satisfaction. I haven’t had a simple life, becoming famous when you’re very young involves many problems and many risks. It throws you off balance. I had a reputation as a decent guy, but at a certain point lying had become difficult. I went to rehab to get rid of addictions, alcohol, drugs, and I came out well, with full confidence in myself. Being sober has become my challenge to not only work at my best, but to give others a stable and better Zac. My family has been close to me, and since 2013 I’ve been fine with others and with myself. But it was hard to get out of the addictions. That’s why, the choice had many reasons, with passion and never superficially I dedicated myself to studying the personality of Ted Bundy.
Were your colleagues close to you? And which actors would you like to work with?
Seth Rogen was a true friend and helped me as well as others, as well as some actresses with whom I had acted and had relationships. Now I feel I have a solid structure, but the road has been long and I will continue, I hope, to divide myself between comedies and dramas.
US critics have written that yours is an exceptional mimetic test. What do you think?
The judgment is true because I chose to mimic Ted Bundy in all respects and the criminal charm with which his personality was imbued and which therefore also reveals the attraction of the audience for films that have the modern Jack as protagonists the ripper. The cast of the film was tight around me, John Malkovich, Judge Edward Cowart; Haley Joel Osment, Ted Bundy’s colleague in the work, spent countless hours with me to focus the tone and pacing of the film. All this has really given me a lot.
What will you do after this film so different from many of your previous ones?
Finally a film awaits me with one of the actors I always want to work with and I’ve already done in the past (in The Paperboy): Matthew McConaughey. The Beach Bum is an ensemble film with Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill and the director is particular because Harmony Corine is also an excellent writer and scriptwriter, and an extraordinary documentary maker. I have a cameo in the film and I’m proud of it. The protagonist, Matthew, is a writer, goes to rehab, it will be another film about trying to be if not happy at least serene in a life that is often difficult and makes you fall into many pitfalls. I like making cameos in movies and I really like the work of dubber in animated films or as narrator of some documentary.
You are Californian, you grew up in the world of Hollywood. Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Yes, but not everyone has the luck and also the skill to have a career like Leonardo DiCaprio’s. I have become the actor par excellence in comedies, even musical ones, for young people and I do not deny anything, but now I am a man, I am different from the even egomaniac young man who got up and Googled what was written about him and calculated the his fans or the clubs that their admirers dedicated to him. I have very different perspectives, one day I will also become a director and then I want to be a shrewd producer and make good TV series. I started out by also being the executive producer of the serial killer movie and that will definitely be my way into the future.
He has gone through many phases and, having been born in 1987, he also experienced the boom in cinema for teenagers in the early 2000s. What advice would you give to kids who are starting to be actors today in a Hollywood that is very different from the past?
I would tell them only one thing: if you really want to act, keep studying, prepare seriously and don’t live feeling reassured by the deceptive glitter of some success. It takes time to build a career, to avoid the stereotypes that often limit your work and turn out to be traps in the long run. It takes constancy, you need to have the courage not to base everything on physical appearance. Today the mingling of cinema and television helps, they offer a type of work that has nothing to do with what is often in an unhealthy way the star system. Kids starting to be actors today have more platforms to move on and that’s a great thing. With a new maturity, after having experienced many aspects of my profession, I too will make use of the new media and will return to television, I hope also as a producer and director. I don’t deny the Zac Efron that I was, but my path today is another and it just makes me smile to think that for years I was considered, even before being judged as an interpreter, the young protagonist whose posters covered the rooms of all the teenagers.
Zac Efron plays serial killer Ted Bundy