When promoting a movie, most actors and actresses talk about how extensively they researched their roles. But Zac Efron admits he didn’t have to work too hard in preparation for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. That is, even though he was portraying notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.
“I didn’t watch a lot of tapes of him because I didn’t want to get too close to an impersonation,” he told the audience after the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, January 26. “I was pleased we had similar mannerisms.”
Indeed, Efron, 31, is startlingly convincing as the suave sociopath in the absorbing and well-received real-life drama. As depicted in the film, Bundy — who died in the electric chair in 1989 after being found guilty of multiple murders — got by with his clean-cut good looks and his earnest charm to convince everyone around him that he was innocent of his crimes. That included his longtime live-in girlfriend, Liz (Lily Collins). Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, also starring Jim Parsons and Haley Joel Osment, is based on her book, The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy.
Efron recently shared that he lost 13 pounds by riding on a stationary bike for an hour in the mornings and limiting his meals. He also dons a series of wigs in the movie. (On the stage, a blond-haired Efron was dressed down in a jacket, white T-shirt, torn jeans and sneakers.) But even Collins mentioned that Bundy and her costar both share an innate “charisma.”
Still, the former singing and dancing High School Musical star as a cold-blooded serial killer? “He’s being very brave because he’s a teen heartthrob for a whole lot of women,” said director Joe Berlinger, noting that Efron was his top choice when he was casting his film. “I knew he had the chops to pull this off. This was an opportunity for him to stretch.”
And for Efron, the goal was to not glamorize a man who admitted to brutally killing 30 women over the span of more than a decade. “What he did was really horrific,” he said. “The most intriguing part [in the film] was at the end when he’s looking at Liz and says ‘I’m not a bad guy.’ He wants to believe that. But he is.”
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will be in theaters later this year.
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