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Filmmakers visit Gacy home site to prep for film on serial killer
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff

Actor William Forsythe, left, who portrays John Wayne Gacy in an upcoming film, talks to Barry Boschelli, a childhood friend of Gacy, in the neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side where Gacy lived.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

William Forsythe

 

Actor William Forsythe, middle, who portrays John Wayne Gacy in an upcoming film, talks to Barry Boschelli, a childhood friend of Gacy, in the neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side where Gacy lived. They were shooting DVD footage.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Actor William Forsythe, second from left, who portrays John Wayne Gacy in an upcoming film, talks to Barry Boschelli, a childhood friend of Gacy, in the neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest side where Gacy lived.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Actor William Forsythe, far left, who portrays John Wayne Gacy in an upcoming film, talks to Barry Boschelli, a childhood friend of Gacy, Monday in the neighborhood where Gacy lived.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Screenwriter Kellie Madison talks with producer Clark Peterson in the Chicago neighborhood where John Wayne Gacy lived and buried many of his victims. Madison and Peterson have created a film on the notorious serial killer.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/15/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/15/2009 7:05 AM

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Retired Des Plaines police Det. Rafael Tovar remembers the terrifying discovery as investigators dug up the 29 bodies buried at John Wayne Gacy's home.

Now 30 years later, Tovar has been called to advise actor William Forsythe, who will play the lead in "Dear Mr. Gacy," slated for release in 2010.

"I talked with William some time ago at my house about my impressions and views on Gacy so he could get into character," Tovar said.

Monday, Forsythe and filmmakers visited the site of Gacy's home on Summerdale Avenue on Chicago's Northwest Side, shooting footage for the DVD extras. The Gacy home has been razed - in part due to the smell caused by the decomposing bodies.

Des Plaines police arrested Gacy in 1978 after investigating the disappearance of 15-year-old Maine West High School student Robert Piest, who had been reported missing by his Des Plaines family. Piest was Gacy's final known victim, and the arrest led to Gacy's eventual execution in 1994.

His official victim count was 33, with bodies also found dumped in the Des Plaines River. But when Tovar drove Gacy to Cook County Jail in Chicago, he asked Gacy how many he had murdered.

"He told me, 'Forty-five sounds like a good number, but that's for you to find out,'" Tovar said.

Forsythe, a Brooklyn, New York, native, is no stranger to Chicago lore, having played mobster Al Capone in the "The Untouchables" TV show, which aired in the early 1990s.

"This is what made me crazy, as I was getting into this, it appeared to be a story about a guy in the suburbs who did these horrible things," Forsythe said. "But it's not. It's a true Chicago story because so many people I met had a connection that somehow went back to him."

Forsythe said portraying Gacy affected him in unexpected ways. While he tried to suppress his feelings of hatred toward Gacy, whom he compared to Hitler, he said he needed to find a lighter comic role after filming wrapped.

"This story takes a little piece of your soul away never to be returned," Forsythe said.

The film's screenwriter, Kellie Madison, grew up down the street from Gacy's home. She adapted the screenplay from a book written by college student Jason Moss, called "The Last Victim." The book chronicles Moss' relationship with Gacy, which he developed by writing to Gacy in prison, leading to an eventual meeting. Moss also wrote letters to serial killers Charles Manson and Jeffery Dahmer.

While negotiating for the movie rights on his book in 2006, Moss took his own life.

The film's producer, Clark Peterson, said it delves into society's obsession with serial killers. Peterson, who also coproduced "Monster" with Charlize Theron, cringed when asked how Gacy would take advantage of the Internet to help build his celebrity.

"You know he'd be Tweeting," Peterson said.

Tovar said he doesn't believe the movie will do anything to boost Gacy's image, saying media coverage had already done enough.

Gacy was known as the "Killer Clown," for his habit of dressing up and throwing parties. Forsythe said he "near ruined clowns for eternity."