In chronological order.
Mark Harmon’s Ted Bundy IMDb credit might surprise you too, now that I think about it. Readers younger than I may not have seen The Deliberate Stranger, Harmon’s chilling 1986 turn as Bundy, and if you’ve grown accustomed to thinking of Harmon as gruff good guy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS: Mothership, the idea that his portrayal of Bundy is the definitive one might sound insane.
But probably not as insane as some of these…
John Waters, Serial Mom (1994). Okay, this isn’t a huge shock — it’s John Waters — but this is me easing you into it. Wondering how he pulled it off physically? He didn’t; he’s a voice on the phone.
Billy Campbell, Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me (2003) (TV). Campbell is in fact flawless casting here, the handsome guy with a frisson of dissipation who turns out to be a big-time baddie (see also: Enough; his guest shot as a skeezo art prof on Law & Order: SVU). But I’ve recently watched him in Killing Lincoln, where he’s playing an American saint, and quite well, so it’s more whiplash than weird. But: it’s still weird. (The kid who plays “Young Ted Bundy,” one Trent Wittal, has that and only that role on his résumé. Ouch.)
Cary Elwes, The Riverman (2004) (TV). The movie’s about the search for the Green River Killer, and the interviews conducted with Bundy that law enforcement hoped would help them catch the other murderer. Robert Keppel (Bruce Greenwood), a professor and profiler, questioned Bundy; the relationship and interviews are sometimes cited as a template for the Starling/Lecter relationship in The Silence of the Lambs. Thanks to The Princess Bride, Elwes as Bundy is a mind-scrambler, and while he’s handsome, he’s not the same type of handsome. He’s also struggled with accents in the past.
Corin Nemec, Bundy: An American Icon (2008) (V). Looks like Parker Lewis can lose. The casting of Nemec is boggling, but he’s by far the biggest “star” in the cast, all of which presumably explains why it went straight to DVD. The box art does make Nemec look properly forbidding, but I can’t imagine that he pulls it off. And I can’t imagine that I could track down a copy and find out, either.
James Marsters, The Capture of the Green River Killer (2008) (TV). Lifetime’s version of The Riverman, listed as an episodic show but apparently a miniseries. Either way, this is probably the most misguided casting on the list — we know he can do menace thanks to Buffy, but he’s on the slight side for the role — but Marsters isn’t the weirdest casting in the film. That’s Tom Cavanagh, whom I love, as lead detective Dave Reichert, which I can’t envision at all.
Sarah D. Bunting is editor-in-chief and publisher of The Blotter.