Paul Bettany (‘Manhunt: Unabomber’) on playing terrorist Ted Kaczynski: ‘You can feel empathy’ for a ‘damaged person’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Paul Bettany has been interested in long-form television for a while, and “Manhunt: Unabomber” seemed like the perfect place to start. If you tried to tell the story of Ted Kaczynski in a two-hour movie, it “would necessarily become dogged-detective-hunts-monster,” Bettany explains, but an eight-hour limited series allowed viewers to explore “the domestic life of the bomber” so that he “stops being just a monster and becomes something more complex and damaged.” This Discovery Channel original tells the true story of how Detective Jim Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) tracked down Kaczynski (Bettany), who terrorized the country with a string of bombings spanning almost two decades. Watch our exclusive video interview with Bettany above.

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Kaczynski was a mathematics prodigy, but he left academia to retreat to the woods in 1971 in an attempt to live off the grid. Distraught with the destruction of the wilderness around him, he began a bombing campaign that killed 3 people and injured 23 between 1978 and 1995, ending with the publication of his manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future,” in the New York Times and Washington Post. He was arrested in 1996 when his brother, David, recognized his handwriting in the paper.

“One can’t feel sympathy for Ted,” Bettany says, “but one can practice a sort of radical empathy.” During his time at Harvard University Kaczynski was reportedly subjected to the CIA mind-control experiment known as Project MKUltra, which the actor believes “weaponized” him at a young age. “I think you can feel empathy for the person who is damaged, but no sympathy for his methods obviously.”

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Bettany reaped BAFTA and Critics Choice nominations for Best Supporting Actor for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003). He also competed at SAG as a member of the ensemble cast of “A Beautiful Mind” (2001). This year he also starred in the films “Journey’s End,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

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