When Elijah Wood first met with director Amber Sealey about No Man of God, the pair hit on a very clear vision for the drama they had in mind.
“Early on, just sort of anecdotally to each other, we’d talk about it as like the serial killer Frost/Nixon,” says Wood, who starred in and produced the Tribeca feature. “You know, it is two people in a room, engaged in this discourse, sort of having a chess match with each other—but also, in that, connecting as human beings.”
The chamber piece, scripted by C. Robert Cargill, examines the complicated relationship between serial killer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby) and Bill Hagmaier (Wood), the famed FBI analyst who was sent to profile him, during his final years on death row.
While the project was developed by Woods’ companies SpectreVision and Company X, it really began to come together when Sealey entered the picture. The director’s stated mission for the film, early on, was for it to be “the period at the end of the sentence”—the final film ever made about a man who has already drawn more than enough attention for his crimes.
“Of course, I think there are already a few more [Bundy projects already] in production, and we’re like, ‘Ah, darn it. We failed,’” the director deadpans. “But it was really important to me. I was like, ‘All right, if I’m going to add to the canon of Bundy films, I don’t want this to just be another Bundy film. I want this to be saying something larger about us as a society, and our interest in Bundy.’”
At the end of the day, the director notes that No Man of God is not the typical Bundy film, but rather a film about Hagmaier, who participated in the production as an executive producer. (The script for the film was based on transcripts and recordings from his meetings with Bundy, as well as his recollections of their time together.)
Wood told Deadline, in conversation with Sealey and Kirby at our Tribeca Studio, that Hagmaier was “so, so generous with his time,” and that indeed, unlike Bundy, the retired analyst is a man worth celebrating. “He’s…made it his life’s work to help, you know? That’s what he does,” the actor said. “He’s retired, but he’s still helping on cases unofficially because he cares. He’s just that kind of person.”
Of course, even if Hagmaier helped drive the production and served as its moral compass, it was crucial for the purposes of the film to get the casting of Bundy right, as well. In the case of this challenging role, Sealey turned to Kirby, the actor most commonly associated at this point in time with his take on another historical figure—that being The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Lenny Bruce.
Certainly, the experience of portraying Bundy was a world away, for Kirby, from that of Mrs. Maisel. As he put it, the projects examine two “very different” trajectories, mythologies and legacies. “One is a legacy that I think is worth upholding,” the actor said. “Another is just a path of destruction that is confounding, nauseating and very disruptive.”
At the start, Kirby was highly ambivalent about the idea of portraying Bundy, thereby contributing to the man’s cinematic legacy. Ultimately, though, he decided to take on the part when he realized that Sealey shared his “concerns and feelings,” and he’s glad to have taken on the film.
“It turned out to be an exciting endeavor,” Kirby said. “I also got to sit alongside darling Elijah for a number of weeks and just have a ball.”
The Deadline Studio is presented by Verimatrix. No Man of God was acquired by RLJE Films in May, and is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival today at 8 p.m. EST. For more from our conversation with the film’s directors and stars, click on the video above.