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Ted Bundy Biopic ‘Extremely Wicked’ Promises a Different Kind of Serial Killer Movie

By  · Published on January 24th, 2018

The Zac Efron-led thriller just added another reason to look forward to the latest take on the Bundy story.

Now entering its second week of production, director Joe Berlinger’s Ted Bundy biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile has added Angela Sarafyan to the cast. The actress is best known as a regular on HBO’s Westworld, in which she plays brothel hostess Clementine Pennyfeather. According to Deadline, for Extremely Wicked she will portray Joanna, a close friend of Elizabeth Kloepfer, Bundy’s longtime girlfriend.

Elizabeth (who will be played by Lily Collins), was in a relationship with the notorious serial killer (Zac Efron) from 1969 until 1976, when he was arrested and charged with kidnapping and assault. He was convicted of those crimes and then was later sentenced to death for three murders in Florida. While in prison, Bundy confessed to having actually murdered 30 women, through some estimate the total number of victims was even greater.

Extremely Wicked, which was written by Michael Werwie, will be told from Elizabeth’s perspective as she begins to suspect that her partner may be responsible for the murders that have been occurring in their home state of Utah. Sarafyan’s Joanna will be Elizabeth’s support system, encouraging her friend to question Bundy.

The plot calls to mind last year’s My Friend Dahmer, which portrays Jeffrey Dahmer before he became a serial killer. That film was adapted from a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, who had been friends with Dahmer in high school. Extremely Wicked and My Friend Dahmer are both based on stories from people who were close with two of America’s most infamous murderers for years before learning about the darkness that lurked within their friend and partner, respectively.

What will separate Extremely Wicked from My Friend Dahmer, though, is its address of the actual crimes committed by its central character. John Malkovich has been cast as Edward Cowart, the judge who sentenced Bundy to death in 1979. This indicates the film will follow not only Elizabeth’s suspicions, but also Bundy’s later crimes.

Extremely Wicked will still emphasize Elizabeth’s side of the story and her female support systems, however. Due to the grisly details of Bundy’s crimes, turning the focus to her experiences may help to ensure the movie doesn’t sensationalize the murders or revel in their brutality.

True crime fans looking forward to Extremely Wicked should be familiar with Berlinger’s previous work. With the late Bruce Sinofsky, Berlinger made the Paradise Lost trilogy, three documentaries released between 1996 and 2011 that followed the case of the West Memphis Three. Considering Berlinger’s roots in documentary filmmaking, Extremely Wicked, although a fictional film, is likely to present its story with a great deal of fidelity.

Further cast additions could tell us more about the direction the story will take. Notably, true crime author Ann Rule was friends and co-workers with Bundy while he was an active serial killer, and she never suspected there was something off about him. Rule went on to write her most famous book, 1980’s “The Stranger Beside Me,” about Bundy. Her inclusion as a character in Extremely Wicked would provide the film with another opportunity to demonstrate how Bundy was able to conceal his true nature from those who knew him.

There’s no word yet on when the film will be released, but for those looking to get a glimpse behind the scenes, Zac Efron and Lily Collins have been sharing some photos from the set.

Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.