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To mark thirty years since infamous serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in prison for murdering over 30 women across the United States in the ‘70s, Joe Berlinger directed two related films for Netflix: the four-episode docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and a film starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
The latter true crime drama was told from the perspective of Ted Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, who later contributed to his eventual arrest. Lily Collins’ character wrote a memoir back in 1981 called The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy that the Netflix film was based on. It’s been out of print for years, but following the success of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Kendall reissued her memoir.
This included commentary on her involvement and opinion in the Netflix film. Elizabeth Kendall called the experience with Joe Berlinger “a good one,” along with saying these words about her daughter and her own thoughts on the film once they viewed it:
It was well-directed and well-acted. We were left with the feeling that Zac Efron and Lily Collins got it right.
It’s actually quite rare for the subject of a biopic to come out with this kind of response about a movie. Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli refused to see Judy, which features Reneé Zellweger’s Oscar-winning performance, and one relative of a character featured in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman wrote a scathing letter about the film’s inaccuracies.
The difference here is that Elizabeth Kendall got to somewhat take part in the making of the film about her own experiences. She did point out that Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile includes some “dramatization” and omitted moments from real life – but she realizes it is what you’d expect from a movie (via ET).
The film’s director Joe Berlinger has responded to Elizabeth Kendall’s comments with the following:
I was delighted. Molly had reached out to me to tell me. And then they let me know what their reaction was and obviously, I’m very happy that they were satisfied with the portraits, in part, because there’s been some criticism of the movie.
The criticism he refers to is that the Ted Bundy movie glamorized the murderer. Because an attractive heartthrob Zac Efron starred as the serial killer, some audiences took issue with the movie making him “hot.” However, that was all part of the story. Ted Bundy was famously a charmer and that’s exactly who The Greatest Showman star played.
Elizabeth Kendall and more women who can recount experiences with Ted Bundy have spoken out for the first time on Amazon Prime’s new mini-series Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer. The show provides a deeper look into what the serial killer was like and how these victims were affected by him following their interactions. It’s currently available to stream.