LONDON (REUTERS) - Zac Efron, who won legions of female fans in the High School Musical films, takes on a more sinister role in crime drama Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, And Vile, playing American serial killer Ted Bundy.
The film, released on Netflix in the United States and Sky Cinema in Britain on Friday, follows the 1979 trial of Bundy, who was executed in Florida in 1989, through the eyes of his girlfriend Liz, played by Mirror Mirror actress Lily Collins.
Before his death, Bundy admitted to killing more than 30 young women across several US states in the 1970s.
For Efron, the role is very different to his past work, with recent credits including musical The Greatest Showman and comedy Baywatch.
"This was a way into a genre that I thought was a little bit more cerebral than your standard hack and slash movie," he told Reuters in an interview, adding he liked versatility.
"This is an in-depth look into one of the worst mass manipulators of the public and mass murderers of young girls and women probably ever and it's a hard story to tell."
The film takes its title from the words of judge Edward D. Cowart - played by John Malkovich - when he sentenced the 32-year-old Bundy to death, calling his crimes "extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile".
The televised Miami trial saw charismatic former law student Bundy, who escaped police custody twice, represent himself in a courtroom attended by fans.
"Nobody believed Bundy was capable of these horrible crimes because of how he looked, how he acted," director Joe Berlinger said.
"We live in an era of... people putting out false imagery of who they are, and so the lessons of Bundy today, I think are even more relevant than ever before."