BY ANDREW MOODY
The problem as I see it is that you get young psychiatrists and psychologists and social workers who are idealistic, having been taught at their universities that they really can make a difference. Then they come up against these guys in prison, and they want to feel that they’ve changed them……In a short time, the convict will know if the doctor has done his or her homework, and if not, he’ll be able to downplay the crime and its impact on victims.
Have you ever wondered if you could kill? Are you fascinated by FBI Behavioural Science? Chances are you’ve loved the recent Netflix series Mindhunter which ran to 19 episodes before gracefully bowing out in Season 2.
Mindhunter was an immediate hit with me. It’s adapted from the true story of John Douglas, an FBI agent who invented criminal profiling. He was among the first security officials to visit with convicted mass killers in prison and record their stories to compile a profile of serial killers to make the FBI’s job much easier. What became apparent very soon to FBI Behavioural Science, was that there were similarities in the childhoods of the killers they interviewed.
Did you wet the bed? Was your father absent? Was your mother domineering? Did you have a history of violence to animals, did you peep in neighbour’s windows, did you set fires?
Charlize Theron, David Fincher and other notables of Hollywood served as executive producers on the show. Andrew Dominik, who directed some of the episodes of Mindhunter is a veteran of several crime movies, including Chopper, starring Eric Bana who gave one of the most electrifying performances in crime movie history as Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read. It is rumoured in his native Tasmania that Read’s sequence of Chopper memoirs are the most shoplifted in Australian literary history. Read himself was a sorrowful man, who knew his star had faded and the demons were coming. I heard the legend online that Chopper confessed to a series of underworld torture contracts, in order to die behind bars to pay the penalty for murder.
Charlize Theron, herself an Oscar winner for True Crime movie Monster as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, gave the book Mindhunter to Se7en and Zodiac director David Fincher in 2009. Until he directed episodes of House of Cards, Fincher did not feel comfortable directing TV.
In January 2010 the Mindhunter project was set up at Fox 21, which had optioned the book, along with premium cable channel HBO. Theron suggested playwright and screenwriter Joe Penhall as the project’s writer. In December 2015, Mindhunter was moved to streaming service Netflix with Fox 21 dropping out of the project.
Jonathan Groff plays FBI special agent Holden Ford, Holt McCallany his partner Bill Tench, and Anna Torv is Wendy Carr, a psychology professor at Boston who joins the FBI Behavioural Science Unit.
Ford is loosely based on Mindhunter author John Douglas. Tench is based on groundbreaking FBI agent Robert K. Kessler, and Carr is a fictional character inspired by psychiatric forensic nurse researcher Ann Wolbert Burgess.
Recurring characters include Cameron Britton as serial killer Ed Kemper, interviewed by Ford and Tench in prison. The dialogue with the serial killers was taken from genuine transcripts of the original interviews.
Thomas Harris, a crime reporter, met with John Douglas at FBI Quantico to research a novel about an incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter being interviewed to gain insight into an active killer’s slayings. Ever since Red Dragon there has been a great media interest in Behavioural Science. Douglas is rumoured to be the inspiration for FBI boss Jack Crawford, played by Scott Glen in the Jonathan Demme blockbuster The Silence of the Lambs.
Mindhunter is one of the best TV shows ever made, and I recommend you catch the two seasons if you can.
In January2020 Netflix put the show on an indefinite break. It has a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 97%, but Fincher was quoted as saying “It had a very passionate audience, but we never got the numbers that justified the cost.”