At one point in Amber Sealey’s No Man Of God, serial killer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby, who you may know as Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) is being interviewed about his crimes ahead of his impending execution in Florida. As he’s speaking, the camera turns away from him, panning instead to the face of the one woman in the room. The shot lingers on her as Bundy continues on and on, describing the violence he unleashed on the bodies of dozens of women.
Sealey knows what you’re probably thinking. Another Ted Bundy movie? Didn’t they just make one? (The answer is yes, many times over.) But that one scene encapsulates something she felt was still missing from the multiple narratives around the killer, who has managed to capture the public’s imagination from beyond the grave: women.
“I was not a natural fit for a Bundy movie,” Sealey told Refinery29 over the phone ahead of the film’s June 11 world premiere at the Tribeca Festival. But after she pitched her idea to SpectreVision and Company X, the director left them with one piece of advice. “I said to them at the end of the interview: ‘Listen, if you don’t hire me, it’s completely fine, but you have to hire a woman director. You cannot make another Bundy movie in this day and age about two men sitting in a room, talking about raping and murdering women and not have a [woman] director.”
No Man of God stars Kirby alongside Elijah Wood as FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier, a pioneer in criminal profiling who conducted a series of interviews with Bundy from 1984 to 1989, while he was being held on death row in Florida State Prison.
“It was really important to me that we look at Bundy, and look at Bill even, and their relationship through a female lens,” Sealey said. “We had all [women] heads of departments, except for the production designer, who’s an old friend of mine.”
The result is an interesting character study that both builds on, and pointedly interrogates, our collective obsession with a man who by his own account, murdered at least 30 women in seven states between 1974 and 1978. Still — No Man of God marks the third Bundy-centric project since 2019, after Joe Berlinger’s Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron. While the latter marked an attempt to give a woman's perspective on Bundy by framing the narrative through the perspective of his former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, its sinister fascination with Efron-as-Bundy's charm ultimately stopped short of making him the villain. Both of those films were released on Netflix; No Man of God is available on demand and in theaters on August 27. In May, the announcement that Chad Michael Murray had been cast to play Bundy in yet another biopic, American Boogeyman, sparked backlash online.
What more is there to say about this guy?
“I was certainly daunted by the fact that there had been so many movies made about him,” Sealey said. “ And then I thought, If there’s going to be another one, I’m going to make it stand apart from the rest of the crowd. I don’t personally believe that any of the movies that have already been made up until now have really shown the real Bundy. They always glorify him. They make him out to be a male model — so smart, so charismatic, a master of disguise. I don’t see that. When I look at him and I watch interviews and I listen to the tapes, I see a deeply insecure, needy — almost like an incel — kind of guy who just wants accolades and wants people to tell him how great he is.”
Though Sealey stresses that she had no prior fascination with the convicted serial killer, she did have a personal connection to him. “My mother’s best friend was one of his ‘dry runs,’'' she said. “He was hitchhiking and had his arm in a sling and she picked him up and drove him somewhere. She would describe him as sort of creepy, with a sweaty forehead, awkward, and kind of pathetic.”
What eventually drew Sealey to C. Robert Cargill’s script is the fact that, on the whole, this wasn’t really a movie about Bundy at all. “It’s more about Bill Hagmaier, and the relationship between the two men,” she said. The back and forth between Wood and Kirby is intensely compelling. The latter is manic in his desire to impress the FBI agent he pretends to scorn, while Wood-as-Hagmaier quietly plays the long-game, waiting for a moment to pounce on the information he’s looking for. In their own ways, they are performing for each other, preening and boasting in a twisted game of chicken. Which brings us back to the shot of that young woman’s face.
“What I was trying to represent with that woman is: What is it like to be a woman in society, living in a world where we’re obsessed with these guys? We constantly make movies about them — and we I say ‘we,’ I’m guilty of that too. Why don’t we spend this much time on understanding other people? Why do we always remember Bundy’s name and not his victims? That to me is the most interesting part of it. I’m much more interested in her than I am in Bundy.”
No Man of God will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11th and will be in theaters, on demand and digital August 27, 2021.