Mindhunter is the spellbinding new Netflix series about the beginnings of a more psychological understanding of serial killers at the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit in the 1970s. It stars Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv as pioneering FBI employees working to find a new understanding for why we kill, but this mysterious and thrilling new crime show has a few secrets of its own. Read on to discover 24 mind-bending facts about Mindhunter.
24. Familiar Faces
Mindhunter is produced by David Fincher, who has directed feature hits such as Fight Club and Gone Girl. Fincher also regularly directs episodes of the series.
23. It Pays to be Loyal!
In the first episode, Fincher makes a shoutout to his long-time assistant Andrea McKee; a woman who brings Holden his coffee near the start of the episode is named after her. McKee is also an associate producer on the show.
Theron and Fincher first brought Mindhunter to HBO in 2009; it took over six years for Netflix to pick it up!
21. Hell on Wheels
In the show, Holden’s girlfriend Debbie Mitford (Hannah Gross) drives a beige Volkswagen Beetle—the same car that serial killer Ted Bundy drove and used to help commit many of his murders.
20. Based on a True Story
The entire series is based on true crime, real serial killers, and real life people. The main character, Holden Ford, is based on FBI profiler and author John E. Douglas, who co-wrote the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit. Douglas has also served as the inspiration for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs.
Holden’s mentor Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, is based on Robert K. Ressler, who also worked at the Behavioral Sciences Unit in the ’70s and really did coin the term “serial killer.” Ressler also developed an unsolved crime database that helped catch killers across state lines.
18. Let’s Hear It for the Girl
Not to be outdone, psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) is based on Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess. Burgess was also a pioneer in the study and treatment for victims of sexual violence. She co-founded a counselling program for the treatment of trauma at Boston City Hospital, and teaches at Boston College today.
Douglas, Tench, and Burgess wrote Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives together, the book which is (presumably) alluded to throughout much of season 1 of Mindhunter.
16. Mix up!
Although Wendy Carr is played by Anna Torv, you may need to tell Twitter that. It seems the Twitter-verse is full of people who mistakenly believe that the actress playing Wendy Carr is Carrie Coon. This happened so often that Coon started directly correcting followers on Twitter, and changed her official Twitter bio to read, “That’s not me on Mindhunter.”
15. Talk About a Resume!
Torv has experience acting as law enforcement: She heads back to the FBI in Mindhunter after portraying FBI agent Olivia Dunham in the cult TV series Fringe.
14. Returning Star
McCallany is a long-time Fincher collaborator: he has worked with the director in both Fight Club and Alien 3.
13. Make an Impression
While the profilers are only loosely inspired by real-life FBI agents, actors Groff and McCallany are in regular contact with profiler John Douglas. The actors playing the serial killers on the show also match the mannerisms and voices of their real-life counterparts, and sometimes even repeat direct quotes taken from Douglas’s interviews with killers.
12. In Good Company
Fincher may have put an easter egg in the script for his fans down under: In Australia, the two historic and most competitive motor company makes are Holden (a General Motors brand) and Ford. The lead character’s name is, of course, Holden Ford.
Fincher has a twisted sense of humor that works well with the show: when working on Alien 3, Fincher nicknamed the newborn alien featured in the film the “Bambi Burster.”
10. What’s in the Box?
In one episode, Dr. Wendy Carr can be heard asking: “What’s in the box?” This is possibly a reference to Fincher’s film Se7en, where Brad Pitt’s character asks the same question.
9. Subliminal Messaging
Fincher includes one of his trademarks in the opening credits to Mindhunter. There are black and white photographs from murder scenes flashed quickly during the credits. Likewise, his movies often feature several single frames that flash on the screen, which is mentioned explicitly in his cult classic Fight Club.
8. Digital World
Fincher was one of the first filmmakers to go digital, and Mindhunter is shot using a customized, one-of-a-kind version of the RED Epic Dragon built specifically for David Fincher’s use, called the RED Xenomorph.
7. Awards Season
If you love the acting on Mindhunter, you shouldn’t be surprised. Fincher has directed five actors in Oscar nominated performances: Brad Pitt, Taraji P. Henson, Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, and Rosamund Pike.
Jonathan Groff, who plays Holden, loved working on Mindhunter. Although noting that Fincher is as meticulous as he is rumoured to be, he described the process as “so f**king amazing. I have withdrawal.”
5. Let It Groff
Groff is best known for his work as an actor in musicals, namely in the mega hit Broadway show Hamilton, where he played King George, and for voicing the character of Kristoff in Frozen.
Cameron Britton, who plays serial killer Edmund Kemper on Mindhunter, totally nailed the character. After doing an immense amount of research, Britton duplicated the tics, mannerisms, and voice of “The Co-ed Killer.” As Groff relates, “”I got to read with [Britton] once, and he just walked in, and started saying his lines in character, and…he had the voice, and everything…To be sitting in this room with him in Los Angeles, all by myself, was terrifying.”
3. Books on Tape
In the ’80s, the real Ed Kemper was known for his distinct, chilling tone of voice and he used this to his advantage. While in prison he managed to keep busy narrating hundreds of audio books for blind people while in prison.
2. Wanted Man
Mindhunter also follows an active serial killer, who never meets the other characters, in interspersed scenes throughout the series. This killer is likely Dennis Rader, better known as The “BTK” Killer, who murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County, Kansas between 1974 and 1991. Rader wasn’t caught until 2005.
1. Just Like Directing a Movie
The scene where Holden intimidates the tree-cutter into confessing was based on a real case of Douglas’s–that of murderer Darrell Gene Devier (which is also the character’s name in the episode). The fake folder of papers, the implication the victim had asked for it, and the bloody rock were all used in Douglas’ interrogation. Even Devier passing the polygraph comes from the true story.