No Man of God is the biography | crime | drama film based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) and an incarcerated Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby) in the years leading to Bundy's execution.
In a recent Q&A with Director Amber Sealey, we asked her about her experience working on the movie, “No Man of God” — watch in theaters and On Demand and Digital on August 27.
The film features top-notch acting from both Elijah Wood (Special Agent Bill Hagmaier) and Luke Kirby (Ted Bundy) — how did you find the casting process for No Man of God?
I love casting, I love actors. Often the most painful part of casting is having to say ‘No’ to so many wonderful actors. Casting is always like a puzzle, but one where if you take one piece out all the other pieces change. I feel so lucky that we got Elijah and Luke for No Man of God — they are both so brilliant and such lovely people. It was a dream come true to work with them.
What was it like working with Screenwriter Kit Lesser for No Man of God? How much of the movie is true to life?
I loved the script and had a great time working with him. It was really important to both of us that we portray Bundy as we both saw him — insecure, narcissistic, and self-serving. Much of the conversations between the two of them come from actual verbatim chats they had in real life. Their real conversations were the basis for those scenes, and then, of course, they get crafted and molded to fit into the film’s narrative, but they are very much based on actual things they said to each other.
How did you find collaborating with Cinematographer Karina Silva?
Karina is wonderful and we had a great time. We both love working fast and being creative on the spot and we had a really similar vision for the color palette of the film. It was important to both of us that the film had an authentic period look, it was really fun to create the visual style for each scene.
How do you think your acting experience has benefitted your approach in directing, No Man of God?
I think who I am as a director is very much informed by my experience as an actor and my love for actors. It’s not only about how I understand their experiences, being on that side of the camera but also I feel keenly that performance is the heart of almost all films.
When Bundy said to Caroline, "I told you — this is Bill. He's my best friend" — that was a chilling moment. Can you tell us your favorite scenes from directing the movie?
I think my favorite scene is what we called the ‘under the water monologue’ when Bundy finally confesses everything to Bill. I wanted to shoot that in a way that had a meta-ness to it, where Bill was standing in almost as a surrogate for the victims or the women in the audience listening. I wanted someone to hold those emotions and not have it weigh solely on the shoulders of the women watching, and having Bill feel that for us felt really interesting. It was such a hard scene, just emotionally for Luke and Elijah to both have to go there, but they are such firecrackers of course they knocked it out of the park with every take.
What was the editing process like with Editor Patrick Nelson Barnes? Was there anything that didn't make the final cut?
Patrick is great and someone I work with all the time, he and I have a great shorthand and love working together. We have similar tastes and that makes things really easy. There are always things that don’t make the final cut, things that end up on the editing room floor and that’s okay, it’s a part of the process. I shoot in a way that gives me lots of options in the edit room, so that means that always there will be many beautiful moments that don’t get used.
Which films/directors have influenced you as a filmmaker, including No Man of God?
I’ve been influenced and inspired by so many filmmakers and films, hard to narrow it down.. but they for sure include Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsey, Jane Campion, Kelly Reichardt, Sarah Polley, Chantal Akerman.
What are some of your favorite movies from the past decade?