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See Paul Bettany as the Unabomber in new Discovery series

Manhunt: Unabomber debuts Aug. 1

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Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel

Discovery is taking you to an isolated cabin in the woods this summer to unspool the story of one of America’s most reclusive and elusive domestic terrorists.

On Aug. 1, the network will unveil Manhunt: Unabomber, an eight-episode drama about the real-life search for the mysterious individual who perpetrated a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three and injured 23. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber (played by Paul Bettany), was no quotidian criminal. The math prodigy enrolled at Harvard at 16, was subjected to cruel psychological experiments, and became a Berkeley professor before retreating to Montana, where he lived without running water or electricity. There, he masterminded a crusade of terror against universities, airlines, and others — and vowed to stop only if his 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto was published. With the help of forensic linguistics employed by criminal profiler James “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Avatar’s Sam Worthington) and Ted’s brother,  David (Togetherness‘ Mark Duplass), Kaczynski was ultimately arrested in 1996.

“Ted’s sense of persecution and his motivations were incredibly complex and twisted, and not nearly as idealistic as he would like to imagine,” says Bettany (Wimbledon, the Avengers franchise). “But what I am convinced of is that he was brutalized as a rather sensitive, brilliant 16-year-old boy, and it sort of weaponized him.”

You can see the Brit’s unsettling transformation in these exclusive first-look photos, which features Bettany in the infamous hoodie and in front of the typewriter that Kaczynski used to type Unabomber-related documents, including the manifesto. He delved into Kaczynski’s unpublished autobiography and reading list (Crime and Punishment, The Secret Agent) to get inside his head; he rented a remote cabin during filming to glean a sense of his isolation. “Ted chose nobody,” Bettany notes, “and nobody chose Ted.”

One reason that Bettany signed on to Manhunt was its examination of Fitz and Kaczynski in relation to each other. “If the story is ‘Fitz is a hero and Ted is a monster,’ it’s a very short story,” he says. “The show has no sympathy for Ted Kaczynski, but it does have empathy for him. That’s important because otherwise, the conversation stops at ‘monster.’ ”

Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel
Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel
Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel
Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel
Tina Rowden/Discovery Channel