Zac Efron will always be known for breaking into song as teen heartthrob Troy Bolton in the High School Musical movies, Link Larkin in Hairspray, or alongside Hugh Jackman and Zendaya in The Greatest Showman, among his other acting projects. Getting the catchy showtunes of his past out of his head was nothing compared to playing his darkest role yet, serial killer Ted Bundy.
During the recent London premiere of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, And Vile, the actor opened up about how portraying Bundy became a challenge due to its sinister subject. In his words:
I’ve never played a role in which I really have to separate myself from [him] when I go home at night, and it was almost impossible. I’d like to say that I did it successfully, but I couldn’t.
It’s no surprise that getting into the frame of mind to play a serial killer would mess with one’s head a bit, and Zac Efron experienced this firsthand while working on his upcoming Netflix project. The drama chronicles the crimes of the infamously attractive Bundy, who later confessed to 30 homicides he committed across the United States in the ‘70s.
In Zac Efron’s interview with Daily Mail at the premiere, he talked about his initial concern with taking on the dark role and why he ultimately decided to sign on to play Ted Bundy:
I really wasn’t interested in playing a serial killer, I’m not in the business of glamorizing a horrendous person or his acts, but there is something unique about the way we went 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, did it.
Looks like Zac Efron was intrigued by the Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, And Vile script and how it tells the story from the perspective of Ted Bundy’s girlfriend Liz (played by Lily Collins). The film has been criticized for glamorizing the criminal with the casting of the former Disney teen idol, but the actor has previously explained the responsibility he feels to not celebrate the killer through the role. It’s instead meant to serve as a cautionary tale to the young generation who often mistakenly trust attractive men.
The film’s director Joe Berlinger (who also recently helmed Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes) said he felt casting Zac Efron was an intentional choice geared toward the demographic crushing on actors such as Efron who may feel like he could do no wrong due to his good looks. Ted Bundy manipulated and lured women with his charm, so the film seeks to show this firsthand with Efron’s performance.