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Serial killer on the big screen

John Cusack and Nicolas Cage sign on for a harrowing true crime pic set in Alaska

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Serial-killer stories permeate our culture, with real-life bogeymen like Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy becoming terrifying touchstones. Yet somehow the chilling story of Robert Hansen — an Alaskan man who killed at least 17 women by flying them out into the wilderness and hunting them down for sport before his arrest in 1983 — has escaped widespread notice. Until now. John Cusack has signed on to play Hansen in the film The Frozen Ground, which starts shooting Oct. 11, opposite Nicolas Cage as a state trooper investigating the murders. This is a pretty deep dive into the well of evil by an actor not necessarily known for it. ”We need someone who can portray him as a killer,” says first-time writer-director Scott Walker, ”but also as a man who lived with friends and family and ran a successful business and lived in the community, as [Hansen] did.” Walker spent months in Alaska doing research, even talking to a victim who escaped and helped lead police to Hansen. ”It’s very sensitive subject matter, because of all the families affected by this story,” says producer Randall Emmett, who worked with Cage on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. They hope to hew closely to the facts out of respect for the victims, but also because embellishment is unnecessary. ”This isn’t Hannibal Lecter,” says Walker. ”He’s a three-dimensional proper human being who did this for years and nobody knew. And that makes it even scarier.”