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Playing Ted Bundy Took A Toll On Zac Efron

In 2019's "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile," Zac Efron completely switched gears in his acting career to portray a person that incarnates the very notion of evil — American serial killer Ted Bundy. The film took an insightful look at the criminal to try and offer viewers a window into understanding the kind of depravity that is mentioned in the movie's title. But it was his performance that resonated long after the end credits rolled. Zac Efron's role in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile" is transformative, but not merely in the ways we often think of when we hear this kind of praise; he mentally inhabits Bundy, which is not a healthy place for any sane individual to occupy.

Actors embodying psychopaths are nothing new when it comes to cinema and television. The horror genre is filled with iconoclastic examples, but there has always been a sinister and uncomfortable feeling when watching real-life monsters come to life through the wonders of performance. But for Efron, the mental anguish he endured in embodying Ted Bundy became a struggle to maintain his own mental health in such a dark headspace (via Women's Health). Here are all the ways playing the serial killer took a toll on the actor.

Zac Efron lost weight and embodied Ted Bundy's physical appearance in the film

One of the most bizarre things about Ted Bundy was his ability to transition into society in the 1970s, and his polished looks have often been cited as one of the tools used to hide his sinister actions. For Zac Efron, he took the part seriously to the point of even changing some aspects of his physical appearance to capture the criminal's look. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor was asked about his process for creating Bundy's look and replied, "We got super-specific with Ted's look, I lost a lot of weight for the role. On all the footage I could see Ted was always, not emaciated, but was kind of a '70s sinewy-buff. I worked to learn how to talk with new teeth in, I completely went on my exercise bike every morning, and would watch kind of heavy stuff."

He then mentioned the toll of playing a character incarcerated for a long span of time by adding, "And we spent a lot of time on set in Kentucky. The movie was definitely down and dirty, and that's just the way that I love it because we got to spend a lot of time on set. Which meant, in this movie, we spent a lot of time in jail. And I officially know that's as much time as I want to spend there. It was only a couple of hours, but it's shocking."

Zac Efron delved into a dark and disturbing mindset to become the serial killer

Zac Efron's commitment to imbuing mental life into Ted Bundy was another obstacle that presented challenges. Speaking to Metro.co.uk at the film's European premiere, he was asked how he limited the mental toll of the part and replied, "That was put to the test for this one. I've never played a role in which I have to separate myself. It was almost impossible. I would like to say I did that successfully, but I couldn't." When asked if the movie and his performance glamorize the psychopath, he stated, "I wasn't interested in playing a serial killer. I'm not in the business of glamorizing such a horrendous person or his acts. 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, cliche, body count gets higher and higher, and 'oh the guy you always knew did it [in the film]. It was what it was like to be there on the day."

While watching Efron's acting in the film, it is both strange and a bit disturbing to notice how a performer can so convincingly recreate a notorious serial killer whose actions still cause so much pain for the families of his numerous victims. It was not a role without pain and discomfort for the talented actor that made a bold decision to move forward with it.