Exclusive Interview: Director Amber Sealey And Stars Elijah Wood And Luke Kirby On NO MAN OF GOD, Part Two

By Michael Gingold · August 27, 2021, 1:23 PM PDT
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NO MAN OF GOD (2021)

Penetrating deep into the psyche of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, No Man of God arrives in select theaters and on VOD platforms this Friday, August 27. Based on actual interviews with the imprisoned Bundy conducted by FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier in the mid-to-late ’80s, it tracks the complex relationship that arises between the two men, exploring our perception of Bundy, played by Luke Kirby. Elijah Wood (who also produced with Daniel Noah, Lisa Whalen and Kim Sherman) plays Hagmaier, and Amber Sealey directed from a script by Kit Lesser (a pseudonym for Sinister and Doctor Strange co-writer C. Robert Cargill). Below is the continuation of FANGORIA’s interview with Sealey, Wood and Kirby that began here.

FANGORIA: How involved was Bill Hagmaier with the production?

AMBER SEALEY: He was really involved—not in the writing or the actual producing, but just as a source of information. I had a lot of conversations with him, and he sent us videos, he sent us all his personal recordings. I would ask him very personal questions, and he would give me this information, and I would say, “That’s great, we’ve got to get that into the script.” And then, as we got closer to production, I would call him and ask, “What color was your belt, Bill? Can you send us pictures?” [Laughs] And he was game; he loved to talk, and he’s very sweet and giving. Also, I believe he thought, “Oh, it’s a female director, and I want to support her,” and he was very generous with his time and energy.

ELIJAH WOOD: An important aspect of the timing of the shoot was that it was right in the middle of the pandemic. Initially, we were going to film in April of last year, and had the aspiration to fly east and sit down with Bill and his family, which would have been lovely. There was certainly a plan to spend a lot more time with him, but I spoke to him on the phone, and he availed himself to all of us as a resource, for anything. Even with the smallest details, he was open to answering any questions for authenticity, and for me, portraying a living, breathing human being was an incredible legacy that I wanted to honor as correctly as possible.

FANGORIA: Luke, how much material on Bundy did you research or consult to play him?

LUKE KIRBY: As much as I could stomach. I don’t remember exactly, but there’s a lot of footage, certainly; I went through the interviews, watched some documentaries and did some reading. But I didn’t feel beholden to a legacy the way Elijah did. I sort of felt, for whatever reason, a bit removed from that responsibility. So long as I found that stuff helpful, I used it, and when the timing was right, I cast it aside.

FANGORIA: You talked before about humanizing Bundy, but were you ever concerned that you ran the risk of making him sympathetic?

KIRBY: It was a concern prior to making the film, and then once the die is cast, you’re always messing with that potential in any form of storytelling. It’s part of the makeup of the job, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything to embolden a mythology around him. But if anybody feels a shred of humanity coursing through him, that would not especially bug me, because we are, after all, people.

SEALEY: I was concerned more over bigger issues like, OK, there have already been so many movies about Bundy, and if we’re going to make another one, there has to be a reason for it. I didn’t want the reason to only be, oh, people are fascinated by him, let’s make more! It was important that the movie stand on its own and have something else to say. We’ve already talked about the Bill part of it, which was probably the most crucial, but what I also felt was important was that I don’t think the other movies about Bundy—I think there have been about twenty, and I’ve seen most of them, but I felt like none, even to some extent the documentaries, showed what I thought he was. I felt he was this incredibly insecure, narcissistic, very needy, kind of dorky guy. My thought was, let’s show those deep insecurities and his neediness, and that pathetic side, because I haven’t seen that before. There is humanity in that, and people might somewhat sympathize with it, but what was important to me was the truth of the relationship between the two men, and the truth of Elijah and Luke’s performances in the moment. They’re both geniuses at that, so we didn’t even have to work toward it.

The other layer of the film is what we did with all the women and the victims, through my eye and the DP’s [Karina Silva] eye. Both of us are women, and we felt like we were giving it this other perspective, and we hope it’s a strong enough voice, and that it speaks for itself. This is not just a “cultural fascination with this evil guy” story. There are other levels and layers to it.

WOOD: The design of this film is not asking you for a sympathetic response. It’s just portraying these people as they are. To Amber’s point, highlighting his weaknesses may be showing his humanity, but it’s revealing the truly flawed human he was. And Bundy would not want to be portrayed this way! Bundy would want to be seen as the most intelligent, the most on top of it, absolutely above and beyond everyone else. That was his desire, and that’s the picture he painted of himself amongst people in law enforcement and otherwise. And the truth of the matter is that he was deeply insecure, and not as intelligent as he made himself out to be, and a deep narcissist. So much of that is showcased in the film, and I think that’s really important.

FANGORIA: Amber, how did you go about bringing visual variety to a film that is largely just two people in a room?

SEALEY: I have a background in theater, so I thought, all right, let’s just approach this as we would a play, a sort of in-the-round kind of approach where we could move the camera, a.k.a. the audience, all the way around the table. In real life, it was just the two people in two chairs and one table in the room, and that was it. I wanted to replicate that as authentically as possible; I wanted it to have that sad, empty, dry feeling. The other thing is that both Elijah and Luke are just stunning to look at, and they both are so expressive, so we were kind of living on them and on their faces. They’re both that kind of actor you can watch forever, and so we lucked out in that sense, and there wasn’t a boring moment.

FANGORIA: What happened to C. Robert Cargill’s scriptwriting credit?

WOOD: It was, I suppose, a classic case of creative differences. He wrote a script that we all loved, and then the vision of the movie was not what he wanted it to be, and that was sort of that. It was relatively simple.

SEALEY: I think it’s often hard for writers when directors come on, and I’m a director with a strong vision. We’re still big fans of Cargill’s, but it was just important to me to put my stamp on the film, and have the voices of the victims in there and up the female characters. It wasn’t a big deal, really; it was just seeing the material in a slightly different way. As a film grows, it sometimes grows away from the original vision of the writer, and that happens; it’s normal.

WOOD: It takes on a life of its own, you know?

FANGORIA: Do the three of you have any plans to collaborate on another film?

WOOD: I would love to make another movie with them! I have to say that, for a movie that deals in difficult subject matter, and what Luke had to go through playing Bundy, going into this, there was a sense that it could have been a dark, dour experience. And it was anything but. We had so much fun, and there was a lot of laughter and lightness on the set, and that is a real credit to Luke, to Amber, to our crew. It would be great to work on something else together, for sure.

SEALEY: My next movie is about teenagers in Texas, and I’m already going, “Well, could Elijah and Luke be teenagers?” [They all laugh]

WOOD: Yes!

KIRBY: Yes, and we can ride horses too, Amber!

No Man Of God is now available on demand, click below to rent or purchase.