While the appetite for true-crime documentaries appears to have only developed in the streaming age, the demand for the true-crime adaptation has been around since Hollywood’s Golden Age. And real-life serial killers have often been the biggest sources of fascination. From contemporary names such as Evan Peters and Charlize Theron, to silver-screen icons like Tony Curtis and Robert Mitchum, here’s a look at 20 actors who went over to the dark side in the name of entertainment.
1. Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer: Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
Jeremy Renner, Rusty Sneary, and Ross Lynch have all portrayed Jeffrey Dahmer since the notorious serial killer, who murdered and then dismembered no fewer than 17 young men, was finally caught in the early 1990s. But with ten episodes of the Ryan Murphy drama to inhabit the role, Evan Peters’ depiction has undoubtedly been the most well-rounded.
It’s little surprise that the actor picked up an Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe for his leading performance in the controversial Netflix series Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Peters had to play Dahmer in his youth and across his horrific killing spree as a depraved adult, and he nails the murderer’s mannerisms, and emotionless way of communicating, throughout. Peters had been no stranger to playing real-life psychopaths.
In American Horror Story: Cult alone he showed up as Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. But it was as Dahmer that he got the chance to paint his most nuanced picture of a man who became the personification of evil.
2. Oliver Cooper as David Berkowitz: Mindhunter
David Fincher’s ‘canceled before its time’ Netflix drama saw a whole host of real-life monsters get the small-screen treatment. And Oliver Cooper’s performance as ‘Son of Sam’ David Berkowitz was one of the most impressive.
The show sure kept viewers waiting to see what the actor could do. Although the murderer was referenced in the very first episode of Mindhunter’s first season, he didn’t actually show up until the follow-up. Luckily, all the anticipation proved to be worth it.
The acclaimed show explores how Berkowitz managed to dupe officials into thinking that he had a genuine mental illness: the killer famously insisted that he’d embarked on his spree on the orders of the demon-possessed pooch that lived in his neighborhood.
And Cooper is suitably chilling, none more so than when he’s pressured by Holden into admitting that his shaggy-dog tale was all a lie. Yes, even when the truth comes out, Berkowitz shows absolutely no signs of remorse for his wickedness.