It is not his Silence of the Lambs, Elijah Wood will humbly tell you, but it is quite literally his Bill & Ted movie.
In the new drama No Man of God, the 40-year-old Lord of the Rings alum plays Bill Hagmaier, one of the FBI’s original profilers assigned to analyze the psychology of violent crime offenders. For Hagmaier, that included the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy (played in the film by The Marvelous Ms. Maisel’s Luke Kirby), who raped and murdered numerous young women — upwards of 30 — in the 1970s before being apprehended in 1978 and executed in 1989.
Bill, then, meets Ted in this true-life depiction of a series of intense face-offs between Hagmaier and Bundy as the latter is on death row — and in which, in a rare feat, the cagey and confrontational Bundy opened up to Hagmaier about his crimes.
Americans have long harbored a deep fascination with Bundy, who is often portrayed in pop culture — most recently by Zac Efron in Netflix’s controversial Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. All the coverage has allowed for misconceptions and mistruths about Bundy to arise, which Wood says the film confronts head on.
“Ted in the film talks about the mythologizing that’s been done as a result of the media,” Wood tells Yahoo Entertainment in an interview ahead of Friday’s world premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival. “I think at the end of the day, he was very good at projecting an image of himself. But I don’t know that he was as intelligent as he made himself seem out to be. A lot of his charisma was also artifice. And he had a lot to do with his own mythologizing as well.”
The film may only “stand adjacent” to The Silence of the Lambs — the 1991 classic in which Jodie Foster’s FBI agent had to lean on the intel of Anthony Hopkin’s incarcerated cannibal — as Wood puts it, but the Amber Sealey-directed project aligns with Wood’s output of late. The actor has recently been attracted to horror films and thus provides good insight on what continues to entrall us about sadistic killers like Bundy.
“It’s so outside the realm of our understanding for the vast majority of us, thankfully,” says Wood, who is also a producer on the film, “that it’s fascinating to understand what psychologically is taking place to allow for one to engage in that kind of behavior.
“I think by and large, most serial killers tend to be on the fringes of society or they’re shut-ins, or they’re anti-social. And the thing about Ted is, he led a very successful double-life. And I think that’s why people are constantly fascinated by Ted Bundy. Because it doesn’t make sense with what we kind of understand someone like him to be. He was involved in local politics, he studied law, he could’ve been a lawyer. He probably could’ve worked for the FBI. He really fooled a lot of people and I think that’s why there’s sort of an endless fascination about him.”
Man of No God will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11 and will be in theaters, on demand and digital Aug. 27.