BOSTON STRANGLER: Check Out Our Exclusive Interview With Star David Dastmalchian

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania star David Dastmalchian takes on perhaps his darkest role to date in Hulu's Boston Strangler, and the actor breaks down his approach to Albert DeSalvo in this interview.

From 20th Century Studios and writer/director Matt Ruskin comes Boston Strangler, a must-see new true-crime thriller about the trailblazing reporters who broke the story of the notorious Boston Strangler murders of the 1960s. 

Starring Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), Carrie Coon (Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Alessandro Nivola (Amsterdam), David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania), and Chris Cooper (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), the movie is now streaming exclusively on Hulu (and on Disney+ in the UK and other international territories). 

In Boston Strangler, Dastmalchian is tasked with playing the titular killer in a spine-tingling, downright terrifying, performance that takes The Suicide Squad star to some incredibly dark places as an actor. 

This week, we were fortunate enough to chat with him over Zoom to discuss what it was like stepping into two shoes of Albert DeSalvo. Revealing how he prepared for the role and what it was like to get into the real-life character's mindset, Dastmalchian shared heaps of insightful and fascinating details about the work that went into this role. 

He also breaks down a couple of key moments in the movie (so, be warned of possible spoilers) and shares his take on whether Albert was indeed the killer that menaced an entire city decades ago. 

Oh, and consider us intrigued by that mention of a Veb Cinematic Universe...


The last time we spoke was for Batman: The Long Halloween, and while Albert is a very different character to Calendar Man, is it fair to say you enjoy these darker, more sinister roles as much as you do playing Veb or Polka Dot Man, for example? 

I will say that, a role like Albert was very unique for me because the fear I had in stepping into the shoes of an individual who actually walked the Earth was quite overwhelming for me. The reality that there are still victims of this individual living on this Earth who have the potential of seeing this film…the fact there are Albert DeSalvo relatives still living and the many victims he either killed or wounded are still living…there are grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces. All of that adds this layer of really strong obligation and responsibility to make sure you’re telling the story in a way that can honour the past while still informing people about what happened. 

In those projects, you’ve had comic books to turn to for inspiration, but how does your preparation differ when it comes to playing a real-life figure like Albert and did you have any recordings or footage you could use as a basis for where you’d take him? 

I did. I thought it was important for me in my creation of the performance to find as much actual data as I could get my hands on. There were audio recordings that had been corrupted over time by just the degradation of the nature of the tapes, but they are still somewhat intact enough that I could hear large chunks of them. Listening to the tenor of his voice, he had a very specific high-pitched manner of speech that was almost childlike and haunting in that quality. His physical stature, the shape of his face and his nose, and even the way he combed his hair…all of that, I found to be really informative and important ways for me to get inside the character. I got an opportunity to work with our incredible makeup artist on the film in crafting the nose. Julie LeShane is so talented and we really wanted to try and evoke Albert’s specific-looking face and recreate that with my face. I think she did an excellent job. 

As we’ve discussed, this is a role that takes you, as an actor, to some very dark places - is someone like Albert easy to shake off at the end of a shoot like this one or is it not that easy with a character like this?

It took a moment. It was not necessarily difficult to get out of Albert or step out of his shoes. What was tricky, was shaking off the sense of unease and the kind of general dread that you feel when you’re thinking about what it takes for someone to be so driven to harm innocent people or anyone for that matter. That was hard. You know, I’m a person living in society just like you and just like everyone reading this interview. I’m often troubled by the reality that there are people who view women as targets of their anger and frustration or as the subjects of their fixations due to any number of things from mental illness to childhood abuse, psychic trauma, etc. That haunts me and it’s a question that has plagued humanity for its entirety as the film states. It’s something we can’t stop wrestling with and trying to improve upon because it’s just scary. It’s heavy.

It would be nice getting to play Veb all the time [Laughs]. If there was a Veb Cinematic Universe, I would be the first to sign up to get to go to work everyday and play that character. Even though he did have some heart-pulling strings inside and yearning for reconnection with the family and all of that, that was pure joy. Portraying Albert, I would never describe as pure joy, but I’m grateful I had the opportunity and I was in such great hands with Matt Ruskin. He made me feel safe every step of the way and made me feel very free as an artist to do what we needed to do to tell his story.

I love seeing you get to sink your teeth into these darker roles and really enjoyed the way Matt shot Albert’s confession scene. What was that experience like for you on set? It’s a small moment in the film, but one that’s so important to this story. 

It was really tricky. That stuff came from some of the real transcripts of Albert’s interviews and I felt like it was really important to me to make sure that, in this moment, what we don’t get as an audience is the moustache-twirling Lectar-like villain. Those are marvellous and I love them. I loved playing, as you said, Calendar Man. That would be a different version of this type of role. What I thought was more haunting maybe is just being a guy sitting at a table talking to another guy about these things in an almost disarmingly matter-of-fact way. There was something deeply broken in Albert DeSalvo; was it broken when he came out of the womb? Was it broken during all the years of abject physical and sexual abuse he suffered as a child? Was it broken at some point during his adolescence? I don’t know, but there was something broken in there and it was important for me to try and convey without ever gilding the lily. 

Of course, we see that Albert meets a very quick and violent end robbing Loretta and us of the answers we might have expected or hoped for - it’s obviously true to life, but how did you feel about how his story ended?

The way Albert left the Earth was as nearly troubling, disturbing, and devastating for everyone else as the way his life played out. All of a sudden, he was robbed from this world in a way that meant he couldn’t give the answers that would have brought so much closure and so much peace and so many answers to so many people. His death…as horrible and violent and tragic as it was, was just one more wound upon all of the victims and their families who were robbed of the opportunity to hopefully, at some point, get some kind of truth. Although, we also have to acknowledge the fact that, at that point, the state prosecutors and criminal justice system in the state of Massachusetts absolutely were to blame as well for the reason we were never able to get more data and facts about this. Their handling of the case was criminal in and of itself.  

As we know, true crime is a genre that spawns countless theories, but having spent time in Albert’s shoes, do you believe he was the Boston Strangler?

I believe, in my opinion, Albert absolutely harmed hundreds of women in his life and killed a number of women as well. I’ll never be able to hypothesise the exact number of women Albert killed. I think it’s quite possible that, of the know Boston Strangler killings, he didn’t commit all of them. I do believe he was absolutely the source of most of that trauma, death, and loss. 

Boston Strangler is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.

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