30 June 2009
John Malkovich brings serial killer Jack Unterweger back to life on Vienna stage
“I have a memory of his creamy-ish white suit, a black and white polka-dot polyester stretch shirt, loafers and gold chains – convict paraphernalia,” the actor recalled.
Unterweger was talking about his prison past – he had been convicted of murdering a woman in 1976 – and his subsequent rehabilitation into Austrian society by the Viennese cafe intellectuals who campaigned for his early release, leading to a pardon from the president at the time, Kurt Waldheim.
Between 1990 and 1993 Unterweger murdered 11 prostitutes in Vienna, Prague and Los Angeles, strangling them with a self-styled ligature constructed from his victims’ bra straps.
At the same time his books – including his celebrated autobiography Purgatory – were being taught in schools, his children’s stories were performed on the radio and as a journalist for the state broadcaster, he was reporting on the very crime wave for which he was responsible. He was even sent by an Austrian magazine to Los Angeles to write a comparable reportage piece on the situation there.
“He came to write about the terrible conditions American prostitutes have because they don’t have a union at all,” said Malkovich, who plays Unterweger in The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer. “But of course, he didn’t necessarily improve their conditions because, you know, he killed them all after he’d interviewed them.”