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5 Actors Who Played Real-Life Killers So Well, They'll Never Stop Freaking Us Out

Stories of real-life murderers have been brought to our screens for decades, and some actors take on the persona of these killers so well.

Actors get paid to create characters that make us feel so many different emotions. And if they're good at their jobs, we get lost in their roles. But there are some roles we wish didn't exist, and some stories we wish didn't have to be told.

Stories of real-life murderers have been brought to our screens for decades, and some actors take on the persona of these killers so well, it takes some of us a while to watch them in anything else. We watch the crimes unfold on the news, but the made-for-television movies (and even big-screen movies) tend to go behind-the-scenes, giving us more insight in the mind of the killers. To do that, actors have to become the evil they represent.

These five actors embodied the sick individuals who had no regard for human lives, and, to this day, these movies are at the top of my "can't be rewatched" list.

1. Brian Dennehy (John Wayne Gacy) in 'To Catch A Killer'

This 1992 movie tells the story of Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 boys and young men. Brian Dennehy captured the essence of this murderer so well that 18 years later, fans still come up to him quoting lines from the movie. Even the killer himself saw the movie, but he wasn't as happy with Dennehy's performance, as noted in a letter he penned to the actor.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1992, Dennehy said he chose to play the killer because he decided to explore the dark side, and he immersed himself in the role so well that the reporter for the Tribune said it best when he wrote, "Gacy's evil legacy has left its mark in nightmares for the actors and chills on the set." Thanks to Dennehy's acting, this movie remains as one of the most chilling reenactments ever.

2. Jeremy Renner (Jeffrey Dahmer) in 'Dahmer'

Before he took on the character of #Hawkeye in the #Avengers movies, Jeremy Renner portrayed the man known as "the Milwaukee cannibal," Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner went full on in this role, capturing the similarities of the serial killer so well it was almost like watching the crimes unfold in real life.

Though the film didn't offer as much gore as one might imagine with a cannibal, Renner became Dahmer to the point where you feel like you are looking straight into the killer's eyes. It takes a lot of effort to cross over from sanity to become the living embodiment of evil, but Renner made it happen.

3. Dominic West (Fred West) in 'Appropriate Adult'

Dominic West, Fred West's doppelganger, portrayed the British serial killer in an ITV television film, Appropriate Adult. West embodied the killer to the point that Mae West, Fred West's daughter, said that he "captured the evil essence of him — his character, his mannerisms, even his gait."

Dominic carried this film with a unique blend of teetering-on-the-edge insanity and blatant cruelty. It's difficult to watch this film without seeing the demons that must have been writhing inside Fred West.

4. Dean Cain (Scott Peterson) in 'The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story'

Known for his portrayal of the affable Clark Kent on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, #DeanCain gave his personality a complete overhaul when he took on this role. Though Cain said he portrayed Peterson as innocent (as, at the time, Peterson's trial had not started), it's difficult to hide guilt. The claims of innocence became hollow when his story unraveled, but Cain kept up the slick face of a man wrongly accused of the horrific murder of his wife and child. He, in essence, recreated Scott Peterson for the viewing public, and to this day, his fans cannot watch this movie because they don't want to see this cold, calculating killer.

5. Mark Harmon (Ted Bundy) in 'Deliberate Stranger'

No one wants to imagine Gibbs (from #NCIS) as a serial killer, but that's the role #MarkHarmon played when he became Ted Bundy for the movie The Deliberate Stranger in 1986. Harmon was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the likable murderer and was praised for his portrayal by Ted Bundy's attorney, who noted that "he reproduced Bundy's rigid posture and suspicious expression."

Harmon also had the sheer creepiness down to an art in this movie. His smile alone sent shivers down my spine, and even though he was playing a role, for a long time, I could not watch Mark Harmon in anything else, because I only saw Ted Bundy's face.

These five actors, for whatever reason, chose to recreate these killers on-screen, taking a chance that their fans would see it as nothing more than a role. It makes sense that an actor would want to push themselves and to grow in different areas, and they all did succeed in stepping outside their boundaries. They also stepped into the darkness these killers represented and made sure we viewers were that much more careful of strangers.

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