Tobias Lindholm (‘The Good Nurse’ director) on how America’s most prolific serial killer went unnoticed [Exclusive Video Interview]

Charles Cullen is America’s most prolific serial killer, presumed to have murdered over 400 people throughout his 16-year career as a nurse in New Jersey. So why is his name barely recognizable, even to the most die-hard true crime enthusiasts?

“I would be the kind of guy who would know about this,” says “The Good Nurse” director Tobias Lindholm. The Netflix movie stars Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne as Cullen and Jessica Chastain as Amy Loughren, the co-worker who befriended him. “I worked on ‘Mindhunter’ with David Fincher and I thought we had covered and read and did all our research on the American phenomenon with serial killers, yet the most prolific one we had never heard of.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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“Maybe it’s part of the movie’s theme, which is the systems and institutions talent to protect themselves,” he explains. “Maybe there’s been such a strong interest to not get this story out that they have managed to do so. [Charles] Graeber‘s book came out a decade ago. We should have heard about this. It should have been all over the place and changes should have been done. Nevertheless, here we are, surprised that it happened.”

“The Good Nurse” was adapted from Graeber’s book by screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns. While the book focuses primarily on Cullen, Wilson-Cairns decided the film should focus on Loughren, the struggling single mother who befriends a serial killer and ultimately helps expose him. “I was sent Krysty’s first draft and read it,” Lindholm reveals. “She had put out the stepping stones for a hero’s journey where we could follow Amy Loughren, the female nurse who stopped Charlie Cullen, instead of just another serial killer movie with a huge fascination with darkness. I called Krysty right away and talked about it. She agreed that version was the most interesting one and we started to get rid of all the scenes that were references to other serial killer films and instead making references into the reality that we were portraying the life of hospitals, the life of Amy Loughren. Slowly we started to find the truth about the story.”

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Perhaps more shocking than Cullen’s murder spree was the fact that nine hospitals helped cover up the crimes to avoid their own liability. “We see how institutions end up turning against us if we as individuals do not insist on humanity,” the director explains. “What I learned about the American healthcare system was that money had even more power than I thought. When you put money before patients, tragedy will come. Systems seem to turn against us. It’s a very scary thought that somebody knew, and for profit, didn’t stop it.”

Lindholm also discusses working with the film’s stars, the most challenging aspects of creating the movie and how he went from being a graffiti artist to a BAFTA-nominated writer and director at the age of 28. “The Good Nurse” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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