Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne’s new Netflix film “Good Nurse” tells the true story of serial killer Charles Cullen, an intensive care nurse who admitted to killing 29 of his patients but allegedly murdered more than 300.
Based on Charles Graeber’s 2013 book, “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder,” the film centers on fellow nurse and friend of Cullen, Amy Loughren (Chastain), who exposes her crimes and put an end to his murderous madness. .
Director Tobias Lindholm and screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns told The Associated Press that they deliberately chose to focus the story on Loughren and the failures of the American healthcare system that allowed Cullen to murder his victims during 16 years old.
“I saw the potential to make a serial killer in a way that we’ve never seen before, where we wouldn’t be seduced by why he’s doing this or how damaged he is as a person, but step back and look at why and how would we let this continue,” Lindholm said.
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“He’s not, in my mind, Hannibal Lecter. He’s not that brilliant mind. He’s a pretty simple guy doing a pretty simple thing, but a system that allows it.
Cullen used his position as a nurse to kill his patients by injecting their intravenous bags with lethal doses of drugs. He was able to evade detection by transferring between hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Both the book and the film suggest that for-profit hospitals covered Cullen to avoid potential liability.
“This case asks us if it’s a good idea for people to make money off the health of others,” Lindholm said. “Is it a good idea for hospitals to be businesses?”
Wilson-Cairns began writing her adaptation of Graeber’s book 10 years ago. She told the AP she began her research by visiting Loughren at her home.
“I arrived at Amy’s real house in upstate New York,” Wilson-Cairns recalled. “I think I was 23 or 24. I was like, ‘I’ve never done this before. This is really important to me. This is your life story. Can you help me ?'”
Additionally, Wilson-Cairns followed nurses for two weeks at a Connecticut hospital. “What I’ve found is that the actual health care providers — the doctors, the nurses, the radiologists, the anesthesiologists — all of these people are amazing and heroic,” she said.
“They put their lives in a box so they can help save other people. I don’t think any of them get paid enough. I think even at 10 times those nurses don’t get paid enough. J learned that the system they are forced to work within is not the best for patient care.”
Chastain drew inspiration for her portrayal of Loughren from her conversations with the actual nurse. In order to portray Loughren’s arrhythmia realistically on screen, Chastain jogged to get his heart rate up before filming. She also wore an earphone with a heartbeat that could speed up while she was shooting a scene.
“She worked nights to make her girls feel like a stay-at-home mom. That’s what she kept saying, that her kids saw her when they were awake,” Chastain said.
“The idea that this woman would risk her health to provide for her children and also risk her comfort by not getting the sleep she needed told me so much about who she was and what she was capable of. .”
Redmayne, who played Cullen, watched real-life footage of Cullen during his court appearances and his 2013 interview on “60 Minutes.” Cullen was sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences in 2006.
“There was something about his physique that interested me,” Redmayne said. “He’s a very calm man. But if you look closely, you’ll see that he always calms down. I don’t know if soothing is the right word, but touching the tissues.
“There’s always something moving. The guy was a horribly damaged human being and this idea of seeking comfort interested me.”
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“Good Nurse” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11 and Loughren received a standing ovation when she took the stage. Wilson-Cairns said she was particularly moved to see Loughren celebrated for her heroism.
“This woman just wasn’t recognized for what she did,” Wilson-Cairn said. “People don’t see ordinary women as those kind of heroes. They’re not on the screens, they’re not in the media, they’re not in the books enough.
Seeing the real Amy finally get credit for what she did – which was to save countless lives – I thought, not a bad way to spend a decade. I would do that again.”
“Good Nurse” will begin streaming on Netflix on October 26.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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