Interview

‘I’VE BEEN SURPRISED BY THE ANGER ABOUT KARLA GETTING OUT’

MICHAEL SELLERS

CHARLIE GILLIS May 30 2005
Interview

‘I’VE BEEN SURPRISED BY THE ANGER ABOUT KARLA GETTING OUT’

MICHAEL SELLERS

CHARLIE GILLIS May 30 2005

‘I’VE BEEN SURPRISED BY THE ANGER ABOUT KARLA GETTING OUT’

Interview

THEMACLEAN'SINTERVIEW

MICHAEL SELLERS

“UNTIL DEATH DO us partake” is the lurid promotional line for Deadly, a movie based on the crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. It won’t be released for another four months, maybe more. And its Los Angeles-based makers have yet to find a North American distributor. But the film is already drawing fire: Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is among those asking viewers to boycott it, arguing it exploits the deaths of the pair’s teenaged victims, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Michael Sellers, the film’s co-producer, addresses the uproar.

We’ve been given some good reasons not to see Deadly. Maybe you can tell us why we should watch it.

The closer you are to the ground zero of this story, the place where these events took place, the harder it is to create a case to go

see it. It’s not the kind of movie that’s for everyone, anyway. But as you get farther away, people who are aware of the case and are not as emotionally connected to it might be interested in knowing more of the why and how, more of the psychological elements involved.

The movie’s promotional website doesn’t suggest a deep psychological exploration. It gives the sense of a thriller, or a slasher.

Your impression is really off. Honest to God, this movie is the same type of movie as Monster [the Aileen Wuornos story, for which Charlize Theron won an Oscar in 2004]. The only murders happen off-screen, and there’s an intense sort of dialectic to it. You have Karla trying to tell her story to a psychiatrist eight years into her sentence, and the psychiatrist trying to peel the layers of the onion back—to force her to acknowledge aspects of it she doesn’t want to address.

How do you respond to those who say you’re cashing in on the misery of the victims?

If we were making a concerted marketing effort to derive income from southern Ontario, I think that argument would have some merit. My answer is that we wouldn’t do so if we released the film in that area. If it becomes impossible to release there, then so be it.

Isn’t fictionalizing the story more nakedly exploitative than, say, covering it as news?

I’ve seen two or three documentaries on the case and they’re infinitely more exploitative than what we’ve done. Their tone is one of scandal rags or tabloids. The notion that, because our movie is fiction, it’s somehow less serious is wrong.

Did you have any idea before you took on this project how touchy we Canadians are about the case?

As this has been happening, I’ve been trying to not only talk but also listen. I’ve been surprised by the anger about Karla getting out of jail this summer, and the emotion that’s triggering. There’s been a chemical reaction, if you like, between the movie, her release from prison and the sense of justice unfulfilled that has hyper-charged the whole situation. I don’t think I quite fathomed those elements beforehand.

CHARLIE GILLIS