Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Welcome to you can't make this up a companion podcast from net. Flicks. I'm revolver, and I'm hosting this week's episode here. And you can't make this up. We go behind the scenes of Netflix original true crime stories with special guests this week. We're bringing you extremely wicked shockingly evil, and vile this much anticipated film premiered at the Sundance film festival, and it starts Zach Ephron as the serial killer. Ted Bundy today, we're speaking with the film's director, Joe Berlinger. Not only did Joe direct. This feature film about Ted Bundy he also directed. The Netflix original four part docu series conversations with a killer. The Ted Bundy tapes back in February we interviewed the author of the book that series is based on. But don't worry Joe gets into both the series and the film in this month's episode. And here to chat was Joe is Aaron Lamour one of the host of the podcast long form. And now here's Aaron Joe. Do you? Remember, the events of this Bundy case like do you remember reading about it in real time in newspapers and that kind of stuff I remember being captivated by the trial itself. And in fact, you know, one of the reasons that I wanted to do both of these projects, you know, conversations with a killer, and then the scripted movie, extremely wicked is that trial really made an impression on me because it was the first time that cameras were allowed in a courtroom. And I remember back then being fascinated by the coverage and twenty five years into my filmmaking career as someone who has spent a lot of time doing crime. I kind of look at the Bundy trial as the big bang of our current obsession, our current fascination with true crime because that was the first time cameras wherever lead in the courtroom. And to me, that's a very watershed of. Vent in the history of the American legal system as well as very important moment in the history of true crime. Because for the first time ever Americans could sit in their living room like me when I was a teenager and watch serial murderer and serial rape as live entertainment. And I think that was the it's not the only event I mean Truman Capote writing in cold blood was, you know, obviously a big event in the history true crime. But I think our current obsession with true crime really can be traced back to a few key moments. And I think Bundy was one of them that that Bundy trial is there like a conflicted feeling you have as documentarian where you're like, this is kind of horrific there's cameras in the car room. But, wow, this footage is going to be great. When someone makes a movie about this in twenty years. I do have very conflicted feelings about the whole. And I don't think there's an easy answer to the whole issue of Cam. Mera's in the courtroom. For example. You know, I think I'm best known for the paradise lost trilogy that Bruce and offs gain. I made. And I mean, I don't want this to sound boastful. I don't, but you asked me the question I mean, but clearly Damien Echols would be dead. If cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom, and if we hadn't made paradise loss, I think that was a good use of cameras in the courtroom, a good use of filmmakers covering a story. I mean, that's the thing. You know? I I've been called a true crime pioneer, whatever that means. I like the pioneer part the true crime part kind of makes me wince a little bit because true crime that phrase true crime has, you know, I think for many people it conjures up the image that we're all wallowing in the misery of others for purely entertainment purposes, and were exploiting victims and the worst moment of their life for pure, entertainment purposes. And some of that stuff does there's some shows. Some stuff out there. That's just pure, you know, exercise in exploitation. I would like to think the work. I do you know, it has some element of social Justice to it. Whether it's shining a light on wrongful conviction advocating for criminal Justice reform, which number of my television shows have done and what I do personally when I'm not making films. I I'm involved in these issues. You know, I think that I choose subjects that allow me to make some kind of social commentary and even with this. You know, my focus on Bundy, you know, I made this movie and the docu series really for a younger generation who does not know Bundy, and for whom the lessons of Bundy can't be overstated which is just because somebody looks and access certain way. It doesn't mean you should trust them. And I think that's an important message for people. So for me, the attraction of Bundy was to provide some kind of social commentary about our obsession with true crime social commentary about, you know, the nature of evil, those kinds of things, you know, the first thing I did before I did either of these projects I called my daughter's up I have two college age daughters. Very bright young women. And I asked them, do, you know who Ted Bundy is and they did not, and they asked some friends, and they came back to me and said, you know, well, a few people knew he was a killer serial killer, but none of us really know much about him. And that to me suggested now is the time to tell the story. Again for that demographic for that audience. Which is why casting Zach Ephron for me was the perfect choice. I mean, he was my first choice. And luckily said yes, but for a certain demographic of mainly young women, but men women for certain demographics. Zach is a guy who has just beloved because of his image who can do no wrong who people just blindly trust and to take that teen heartthrob image and turn it on its head. And have that be a vehicle for the audience to experience what goes on when you're being seduced by somebody who is capable of evil to me, it just gave a real physical way to allow that to happen were portraying the experience of how Bundy was able to gaslight people and who better than somebody who a is terrific actor and can do the role and be somebody who means so much to. Certain demographic. So that they can have the experience of liking the character throughout much of the movie, and then when the movie gets dark, and by the end of the movie when Liz played by lily Collins, confronts him at the end in that very dramatic final seen on death row. Don't wanna give too much away. But when Liz confronts Ted and holds him accountable, which is important in this era of accountability. We had to have the character hold Ted responsible. Admit to what he's done. Obviously, Liz finally emotionally realizes the horrible person. She's been living with and she feels disgusted and betrayed. I want the audience to feel that same, you know, to have an empathetic experience a feeling that same level of disgust and betrayal. I literally want the audience to say that themselves. Oh, man. I was liking this character. Even though intellectually I news is Ted Bundy, I was liking this character and routing. For their relationship. And now, I'm disgusted with myself for even feeling that way because this is a guy who does terrible evil. But now I understand how one can become seduced by a psychopath. I. A now you need to do the same for me suffocating all these years. I've had your hands around lighting neck release me. Anyone? How did you think about all of the Bundy world that existed before your projects that other people at created this media, which had created some of these appearances that you were addressing in the film? I wanted to use real archival footage in the movie for a couple of reasons. One is it is a self reflexive comment on how Bundy because he was a white male of in in the patriarchal seventies. And you know, kind of white privileged guy who was allowed to literally get away with murder people thought that you know, he could do no wrong because of how he looked and acted. He was given privileges in the courtroom that are unimaginable. The end of the movie John Malkovich. Plays judge Edward coward is quoting from actual court footage, your bright young, man. You too made a good lawyer. I would love to have you practice in front of me. But you went to different way partner. This is a convicted serial rapist and murderer who's getting the death sentence. And he's taking time to make Bundy feel good about his life. And and to say, you know, I have no animosity towards you. If that was a person of color he'd be in an orange jumpsuit, you know, wrapped in chains. And the judge would not be I think so kind there has been a perhaps misperception that the movies just the POV of lily Collins or the Liz character. The the movie is intended to give the experience of what everybody not just Elizabeth club for experienced because Bundy held such was so able to fool everyone around him, including the American media the American media kind of made him into a folk hero. And we're commenting on that Bundy fooled the judicial system. I mean, he's a guy who should have been had much more. More strict security, and because of the lack security he he escaped twice. I think he made a mockery out of that courtroom by how he conducted himself in and he was given tremendous latitude to make a mockery out of the proceedings by the judge he represented himself, which is I think a questionable decision. He was allowed to cross examine victims who survived. It was allowed to cross examine witnesses. Could you imagine being somebody who escaped the clutches like Kathy Kleiner than having to suffer the indignity of being cross examined by your murderer? I mean, again, if this was a person of color at this never would have happened in that way. So the use of real footage was very important to kind of make a self reflexive comment about all of this. You know, pointing the finger at people like me as well. Because I'm making a film about it. So it's it's very Assam very aware that you know, we are we. We are continuing to, you know, tell the story of somebody who did terrible things. But I hope that by doing it through this point of view, we understand how people who are psychopaths seduce us because I think you know, you. You know, we want to think that serial killers are these. Social misfits. These weird looking people who exist on the periphery of society because I think that somehow implies that we can easily identify them and therefore avoid the fate of becoming a victim of a psychopath. But that's not how the how evil works in my experience in covering crime for twenty five years. It's the people we least expect in most often trust who do the terrible things. It's not the two dimensional monster out there. So I wanted to create a three dimensional portrait of a human being not to give him a pass. Just the opposite to understand that these aren't people that live on the edges of society. These are, you know, people who as Bundy himself says, you know, like the killers don't come out of the shadows with long fangs and saliva dripping off their chin, there, your brother, your father, your, you know, you're somebody. You worked with somebody who admired these are the people who do evil in the world. And you know, that's the that's the focus of the film is when the killer is integrating himself into society as opposed to making a film about. When the killer kills we've seen a million movies great ones about when the killer kills with the escalating body count. You know, and the police procedural of them tracking down the killer by the end of the movie they've caught the killer. But you know, that's been done a ton. What hasn't been done to seeing seeing how somebody like Bundy can gaslight not just his girlfriend of seven years who thought he was a terrific guy. Not just her daughter from a previous relationship who looked at Bundy as a father figure, but the American media that just kind of made him into a perverse hero. And the judicial system who he basically conned when you were adapting I mean as a primarily. Documentary. Yeah. How did you treat truth in this narrative film, like how far will you willing to bend? The actual Bundy story in terms of what's coming out of people's mouths port and things that are documented like how did you like, you know, there's almost laws to it and nonfiction about how it works. And then it's a free for all. How how did you treat them? Well, obviously as a documentarian, you know, there are certain aspects of truth you always want to adhere to. But look all filmmaking is inherently subjective. So for me, what's most important is the emotional truth. And so the emotional truth of this story was something I, you know, constantly wanted to make sure we were staying on track four, you know, the beauty of documentary is that you can cover a lot of storytelling in a relatively short amount of time. You know, there's a lot of storytelling you can do a two hour documentary, but narrative has to fall in. To certain rules of narrative structure, and you know, so you actually a strange as may sand you have less storytelling time, I think in a scripted movie than you do in an unscripted movie. There's less information you can convey. So you prove that because it tick for episodes to get through the story, and and how long the movie, right, exactly. So there's this other certain certain decisions you have to make for example, Liz's other love interest in the movie Jerry played by Haley, Joel Osmond is a composite of certain characters in real life. But that was the personal life stuff. Joanna her friend is a composite of certain characters, but the trial stuff. Really? I try to adhere to the truth as much as possible. You know, you have to condense nihilo, but we were condensing dialogue that came from transcripts, and and keeping the meaning intact. You know, obviously, if something goes on for a page and a half in a courtroom, you want to condense it to like five sentences, you know, in a movie, but I think one of the reasons the adherence to the truth is so important in the scripted movie. Is that it's such an unbelievable story that you want to remind people, it's truthful. That's why I used archival footage a lot. I mean, the I mean, I can't think of in the annals of American criminal history. Another example, where the basic beats of the story are just so wild. Here's a guy who escaped from prison. Not once but twice. There's just so many aspects of the story that are so almost unbelievable that I wanted to infuse it with archival footage and stick to the truth because I want people to understand that this really happened. Given you know a significant period of years remove you describe this as a move. For people who might have only seen the Wikipedia page. If that when you personally reopen the archive when you started going through all this firsthand material. What was surprising to you about what you found inside this huge trove of court cases video I think listening to the Bundy tapes that the docu series is based on was just a window inside the mind of somebody who could appear even in those interviews to be charming and self aware, and yet was capable of such horrific evil. So for me, it's kind of an unanswerable question. Why did he do what he did? It's more about you know, the fact that this kind of evil exists in a three dimensional human being which is so important for people to get because Bundy shattered all of our expectations of what a serial killer. Is we want to think a serial killer is somebody who just functions outside of? Society. But so often the people who do bad as I said before people who fit right into society. And I think listening to those tapes in opening in the opening up the archives and just seeing the, you know, the the the effect he had on people is chilling because I because I think this can happen today. We live in an era of internet catfish. In fact, I think you can happen even more Bundy eluded capture for so long because of how law enforcement operated in those days, you know, there was a lack of sharing of information. So I don't know if a Bundy could exist exactly the way Bundy did it today because of DNA technology at cetera et cetera. But using different tools, I think the existence of a Bundy the dangers are even greater because we just live in an era where truth is much more elusive we live in an era where there's internet cat fishing. We live in an era where people. Can walk into the, you know, step into the wrong Uber and be with somebody who's pretending to be an over driver when they're a killer. So the dangers of abundancy I think are greater than ever. I mean, look the FBI thinks that any given time there's twenty five to fifty serial killers operating. That's shocking. You know, we live in a euro where there's been twenty seven hundred documented serial killers since they started keeping records and sixty seven percent of them have been in the United States. Why is it that were country that produces so many mass shooters, so many serial killers? I think listening to Bundy and going into those archives and seeing how he held sway over so many people just made me feel like telling his story again through this perspective. This is your second narrative film. Yes, one was Blair witch to actually I've interviewed the. Director of Blair witch one. So I may be the only person who's run the entire gamut Blair witch to others probably more than to actually. But this is your first one that's based on a factual. Yeah. Yeah. It's only recently. I mean, literally, I mean, it's it's actually how this movie it's like, I have not been pursuing a lot of scripted stuff. This movie just kind of came together in a very strange way. Which suggests that the universe was tapping me on the shoulder saying, you're the guy who has to tell the Bundy stories in two thousand nineteen it was not some grand plan. I mean, actually the fact that the extremely wicked came together so quickly and his out now is actually just so coincidental. Basically, you know in January of twenty seven teens the author of conversations with a killer. A guy named Stephen me show who wrote this book a couple of decades ago based on hundreds of hours of audio recordings. He made with Bundy on death row. He wrote a book, you know, a while ago, and he reached out to me because he had just found the tapes and wanted to know did I think there was a TV show or documentary to be made. Because of this growing interest in true crime. And I said, well, frankly, the the bar for Bundy is pretty high because there's been a lot done about him. But send me the tapes, and let me take a listen, and I listened to the tapes, and I was immediately captivated thought. There was something terrific there. I thought the deep dive into the mind of the killer would be kind of a fascinating way to tell the story, you know, so I was actually kinda deep into the docu series in April. I was having lunch with my agent and in LA just talking about the Bundy series, and that reminded him of a script that was kicking around Hollywood called extremely wicked shockingly evil, and vile, which was on the Hollywood blacklist in the Hollywood blacklist is a list of scripts that executives in Hollywood, really like and for one reason or other the the movies have not been made either people think they read well, but won't translate well into a movie or a lot of them have been made. Now, I feel like the blacklist. Popular, they'll like all the movies and the blacklist get made? That's true. I mean, some of them get may not all of them. But you know, in fact, Jodi foster at one point was attached direct, extremely wicked and a version of it and that fell apart and another director was attached. So I, you know, when my agent suggested I read this. I had no reason to believe oh, great. You know, somebody who made a movie twenty years ago is now going to go to Hollywood blacklisted script made. But somehow it all came together very quickly, you know, within weeks of me reading it and giving my take to the guy who owned the rights, Michael Kosta, who's a producer. I gave him my thoughts and how I would change the script, and you know, to get a job you have to give your take. So I gave him my thoughts on how I would change it which basically involved, you know, the original script relied on you not knowing it was Ted Bundy until the very end of the move. And I that's that's one of several things. I changed. I felt like you can't avoid that. It's Bundy so lean into it and give the audience a much deeper kind of psychological experience, and that's not a dis- and. Anything discourteous to the script. I think Michael were. We did an amazing job in the basic bones of the script are very much the movie, I just wanted to push it into a darker more realistic territory. The original script had more of a catch me if you can tone to it. And I didn't think that tone in this day and age was appropriate for the movie, even even with the existing movie, which I think is dark and does not glamour is some have criticized as having to light of tone. I mean, there's a tonal shift in the movie because I'm taking I'm taking the audience on the same journey that, you know, the people who believed in him had, but I certainly wouldn't say that it's light hearted in tone, and even that even the tone that I arrived at some people are having a problem with the original tone was much lighter. And I felt like you couldn't make a movie about Ted Bundy, that's light. So I mean, those were kind of you know, in nutshell, that's what I pitched to the producer. Who thought I had a good handle on things and my? Variances the true crime filmmaker certainly would bring some authentic to the film. And I think there is a lot of very authentic moments in the film. So anyway, they they all came together. And I was just a big coincidence that I did both at the same time. But actually, it was an incredible experience as a filmmaker to tackle the same subject in both scripted and unscripted forms for people listening with Netflix accounts. How do you recommend digesting this dual project is there? A specific ordering, you know, it's really interesting. I've either between the two. Yeah. Certainly take a breather between the two, you know, there's pros and cons to seeing the doc I or seeing the movie, I if you see the documentary, I I think it makes you appreciate the movie's authenticity, and you won't sit there and say, oh, my God did that really happen because you would have seen it at a documentary, but conversely that robs you of a little bit of the drama. So I. Probably would see the movie first. And then sue the documentary. Do you like sports boss style? Unlike parallel TV's running at once. Well for the hardcore fans, perhaps thank you. Hey, thanks. Great interview appreciative. Don't turn it off. Just yet. It's time for what you're watching it when we find out what the people on this episode are watching on that flex who knows? Maybe their current favorites are your favorites to Joe, yes. What you've been watching on? Netflix. A fire there about the fire. Awesome. Oh, yeah. That was pretty unbelievable been watching Foued, which I love, but I can't Benji because it's a lot of it's a lot of reading of subtitled, but I've been you know, digging that. Yeah, I think I think those are my two most recent how about you. I watched his documentary. Speaking of the true crime, boom has called murder mountain about a mountain called murder mountain in the weed growing region of California, and basically someone disappeared there, and they're trying to sort that out. And discover a few more. Oh, and I also recently rewatch the staircase some you know, one of the docu series. I was going to be my husband be the staircase update was really actually literally the last thing. I watched. Oh, that's funny. I just recently watched that I revere that series. And so watching the updated version was cool. And that's it for this week's episode. You can watch both conversations with a killer and extremely wicked shockingly evil and vile on Netflix right now, we'll be back next month of the new true crime series or film for you to add to your watch list. You can find this show on apple podcasts. Stitcher Google play. Spotify. An wherever else you get your podcast, make sure subscribe rate and review the ship. It helps other people find it. And also makes us feel like he really likes us. You can't make this up as a production of pineapple street media, and Netflix are music is by Han sale SU I'm revolver, and thank you so much for listening.