Zac Efron Defends Romanticized Portrayal of Ted Bundy in ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’

True crime fans are anxiously awaiting the release of Zac Efron’s new Netflix movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The film, which originally premiered at Sundance 2019, offers a unique portrayal of Ted Bundy through the eyes of his long-time girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins), is slated for release on Friday, May 3, 2019. But, not everyone is happy about the Ted Bundy biopic.

Zac Efron
Zac Efron | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Some critics are angered at how the movie portrays the serial killer responsible for the murders of at least 30 women in the 1970s. That, in part, has to do with the inspiration behind the Netflix movie, which is based on Kloepfer’s memoir, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Kloepfer famously had a hard time believing that the man she was in a long-time relationship with could commit such crimes, which results in — what some feel — a more romanticized version of Ted Bundy. However, Efron says that is simply not the case.

Zac Efron defends his portrayal of Ted Bundy in ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’

While promoting the film at the London premiere, the actor came to Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’s defense. “I wasn’t interested in playing a serial killer. I’m not in the business of glamorizing such a horrendous person or his acts,” he told Metro. “But there is something unique about the way going into the psyche of Ted and his longtime girlfriend, Liz. It’s a different perspective and not your run-of-the-mill serial killer, cliché, body count gets higher and higher and ‘oh the guy you always knew did it’ [film]. It was what it was like to be there on the day.”

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Efron’s Ted Bundy is an exploration into the mind of a serial killer versus a display of his heinous actions. While many now perceive him as a monster, his character was much more confusing during his trial. Before his execution in 1989, Ted Bundy was often considered charming and known to use said personality trait to earn trust and manipulate those around him.

Director, Joe Berlinger also comes to the Netflix movie’s defense

Although he has received quite a bit of praise for his acting, critics weren’t as approving of how the screenplay portrayed the infamous murderer. So much so that the movie’s director, Joe Berlinger (who is also the director behind The Ted Bundy Tapes) also came to the film’s defense in a statement to Buzzfeed News. “I am of course very troubled that the trailer may be giving some people the false impression that our movie in any way  romanticizes the actions of this horrendous serial killer, so I want to assure those concerned that our film in no way glorifies Bundy or his atrocious acts, not was the trailer intended to give that impression,” he said.

What the critics say

Despite their thoughts on this version of Ted Bundy, some are still bothered by the way the serial killer was portrayed. “Berlinger’s aim, it seems, is to cast doubt on whether or not Bundy actually murdered anybody until the very end of the movie to maintain suspense,” wrote one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer. “Despite Zac Efron’s performance, the film’s humorous take on a serial killer as a rock star doesn’t really work,” wrote another.

Not everyone thought poorly of the film though. “More sad than salacious, it’s the rare film about a criminal that offers human details without humanizing a man who so many agree was a monster,” another Rotten Tomatoes reviewer commented.


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