Director Greg Beeman On Crafting Murdaugh Murders: The Movie & Dynamic Collaboration with Bill Pullman

If you’ve been tuning into Lifetime’s latest Ripped From The Headlines True Crime slate, you know that they’ve been putting forward some powerful films.

From Sarah Drew’s How She Caught a Serial Killer to Luke Macfarlane’s chilling and scandalous Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver Story and Meagan Good’s Buying Back My Daughter, there hasn’t been a shortage of strong performances and storytelling when capturing these real accounts.

But the most highly anticipated of the slate yet is the two-part Murdaugh Murders movie event starring the incomparable Bill Pullman.

We can say with certainty that it’s the most powerful of the slate yet and a movie event that everyone will be talking about.

It’s why we were truly fortunate enough to speak with accomplished veteran director Greg Beeman about Murdaugh Murders: The Movie and collaborating with Bill Pullman.

When taking on this project, Beeman shared that they actually reached out to him about it.

“They kind of offered it to me. They sent it to me, and I read it. I was familiar, of course, with the story, and it was a good script. That’s what inspires me. When you have a good script, like Michael Vickerman’s script, it is a good, unexpected version of the story.

“After a while, you get a feeling when you read something, whether you can dig into it or not. I thought the script was strong and that the characters were, in fact, real, three-dimensional people. I could help tell the story.”

Working with a story based on actual people and such a tragedy could change how one approaches the project.

We wondered if that came with any type of pressure or a certain responsibility in the storytelling and how challenging it was to walk that line because of the subject matter.

“Of course, everybody was very respectful about the reality of what had happened. A lot of that heavy lifting had been done by the script. Then, it was just my obligation to ensure that the performances had integrity and three-dimensionality.

“And my interest is always as a director to make sure that I believe the characters, that they’re three-dimensional people, that I care about them, that they have an inner life, this kind of stuff.”

It’s something that Beeman felt passionate about and wanted to ensure came across throughout the movie event. It’s likely one of many reasons he was in mind for this project, which had quite a quick turnaround.

We wanted to delve into the creative process with him about how he approached the film and subject matter.

The two-part movie event has so much going on, so it comes together rather beautifully.

“I read the script, and then I met with Stacy Mandelberg and the people with Tim Johnson Productions, and what I said to them was, I want to understand this guy. I felt like the script did that, “Beeman shares.

As far as trying to grasp someone like Alex Murdaugh, Beeman states, “I think the simpler choice would have been just to make him a villain. A mustache, twirling villain right out of the gate.”

But we acknowledge that Beeman didn’t take that simpler way. Throughout the film, the care taken in capturing all the nuances of these people is evident, and it’s something that Beeman kept in mind while filming.

“That was something that we all so we all agreed on that, right? We all agreed that it. We wanted to make all these people three-dimensional. We wanted to feel their good sides, their bad sides. And I was very interested in something that I felt the script had captured, which is that clearly, he was a corrupt person from the very beginning.”

The film very much touches on the Murdaugh influence and legacy, and we noted when speaking to Beeman that the weight of that legacy lingers throughout the movie event when following Alex’s journey.

“It was multigenerational,” Beeman muses, speaking on that Murdaugh legacy.

“They’d owned the town and ran the courts and so on. And there was a lot of corruption, but that’s different than murdering your family, right? So something progressed. There was something that progressed.

“And they say in the court documents all the time that he loved his wife and his kid. There’s no reason not to believe that’s true. So what happened? How does a person go from one to the other? I mean, that interested me.”

Beeman was already locked in and intrigued by how to approach this film, but his excitement grew upon hearing of Bill Pullman‘s interest.

And that bore a very great and effective collaborative relationship between the two men as they worked on this project. The result of which is phenomenal.

“I can’t tell you the level of excitement when we heard Bill Pullman was interested, but he wanted to have a conversation with me before he committed.

“We both saw that there was a way to avoid glorifying this guy or giving him any sense of having done anything that was totally anything other than completely unacceptable. But there was still a humanity to him — and a change had happened. That is a story I can bite into. And I think Bill felt the same way.”

The films do have the task of exploring Alex Murdaugh and the Murdaugh family and all the complexities of it without downplaying the tragedy and horrors.

And Murdaugh Murders: The Movie handles the subject matter well. We noted when discussing with Beeman that society easily labels horrific people capable of unthinkable things as “monsters,” which, while understandable, also removes the reality that humanity in itself is capable of such atrocities.

Alex Murdaugh is a man who did monstrous, horrific things, yet it came from such a human, flawed place, which is something that Beeman and Pullman worked together to capture.

“Bill and I might have come at it from slightly different points of view, and I can’t speak for Bill, but I felt like my interest was kind of, ‘how did the drug addiction, how did the opioid dependency mess with his mind and get him into a place where he couldn’t make straight decisions?’

“I think Bill had a take that was a little bit different for how he could access the character. But it was a great feeling having that very first conversation on the phone with Bill, and I just felt like we were going to work together really well.

“We had a similar united vision, and he was on a plane the day after, two days later, and we were shooting a week later. It all happened very fast.

“It was only a couple weeks from the time I had my first meeting. It all happened fast. And that was a good thing, too, because I don’t think there was much time to make any decisions. I just had to go intuitively. And I think Bill felt the same way. He just had to make some choices, be intuitive, and do what we felt was right.”

And that rolled into one of the film’s most challenging aspects.

The time frame and scheduling proved to be the biggest challenge, but one in which Beeman, the cast, and crew overcame well.

It’s evident that Beeman barely saw it as an obstacle; instead, it helped foster one of the best collaborative experiences in his career.

“In some ways, scheduling was hard, but it wasn’t that challenging. It went together pretty smoothly. I have had a couple of really beautiful collaborations with actors.

“Specifically, I had a great collaboration on a show I produced called Falling Skies with Noah Wiley, and that was a real team effort for several years. But I don’t know, this might be my top relationship with an actor.”

It’s impossible to properly convey how passionate and excited Beeman is about this project and all the hard work he and the cast and crew pulled off for this two-part movie.

But without a shadow of a doubt, some working relationships are like lightning in a bottle, and it seems Beeman and Pullman had that from their first interaction with this project.

Beeman has nothing but praise for Pullman and speaks so favorably of the process of getting to work with him, blending their ideas in how to approach everything for the best possible outcome of the film.

“It was a great working relationship with Bill Pullman. It was exciting and inspiring. It was just fun to watch him,” he says.

“It was inspiring. It was just fun to watch him. Some stories are longer stories.

“But sometimes what he would do in the very first rehearsal was so fun and exhilarating. I would be inspired to shoot something differently than I was planning or have an idea based on what he’s doing that will be different from what I was thinking. There was a bit of a positive feedback loop that happened.”

The mutual trust between the director and actor allowed them to make movie magic, pushing, challenging, and elevating their respective work.

Beeman’s candor regarding it is a fascinating peek inside a copacetic bond between directors and actors. Beeman delves into that unique bond in a manner that helps a layman understand how things work behind the scenes of the works they enjoy.

“I feel like Bill was in the zone. He trusted me. I trusted him. He exemplified that saying, “Leap and expect the net to appear. We’d start rehearsing every day, and he took chances and stuck the landings.

“He really trusted my blocking; he trusted my instincts. He never questioned my take on how I wanted the show to visually develop. And I got to say, the other thing that was a really beautiful phenomenon is all the actors just rose,” Beeman shares.

“It’s like playing tennis with a better tennis player. Everybody’s performance across the board, all the rest of the cast — and they’re all excellent actors — saw that they could take risks, push, go for it a little bit. I feel like the performances just elevated across the board. I’m thrilled with the acting.”

And Beeman should be. We had the privilege of seeing the films; the cast is absolutely fantastic. It is a talented bunch who put forth such heartrending and impressive performances that it feels unique and apart from what we typically see on the network.

And the process of working with the network was a highlight for Beeman. It came with support, freedom, and trust that seemed to allow him to get lost in his creative process in the best way.

Lifetime, Stacy Mandelberg and Tim Johnson just supported me,” he says.

When we inquired what was most rewarding about this project, it was that support and collaborative experience that he couldn’t praise enough.

“The most rewarding thing was how supportive the creative process was. Lifetime was extremely supportive. Once they got comfortable that Bill and I had a vision, and the crew supported it and us, they let us do it. They let us make the movie we wanted to make.

“And that’s a great feeling. They had a clear vision, too, which made me feel supported. It was very clear to me what mattered to them. And with me being clear with what mattered to them and me being clear with the script, which was really strong, I got to do my thing. I feel like everyone was getting what they wanted out of it.

“I made it very clear I want to shoot this like a movie. I don’t want just to do simple coverage, my kind of directorial take. What was important to Lifetime was the pressure cooker that you mentioned a minute ago.”

“I wanted the movie I was directing to come from Alex’s point of view. And at the beginning, Alex’s point of view is that “life is great.” Everything’s going his way.

“So, in the beginning, I made the colors warmer, and the camera is more beautiful and simpler, a bit more traditional, simple compositions. And then as he starts to unravel and as the pressure mounts, I tried to shift the way the camera was photographing him so that it always reflected his inner point of view.”

“It got more oppressive, it got less stable, it started moving more. I started doing more long takes, ” Beeman goes on, delving deeper into his process.

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