‘The Night Stalker’ Star Lou Diamond Phillips On Becoming Evil

In 1987, Lou Diamond Phillips made a name for himself with his portrayal of Ritchie Valens in La Bamba and since that time, Phillips has amassed a list of over 120 film and television credits, playing the good guy, the bad guy, and everything in between. Now, starring in a Lifetime movie based on the true story of serial killer Richard Ramirez in The Night Stalker, Phillips again makes a name for himself, but this time, as the face of evil.

Lou Diamond Phillips Becomes The Night Stalker For Lifetime

The Night Stalker aims to tell the true story of serial rapist and murderer Richard Ramirez, who was labeled the Night Stalker by the press during his reign of terror throughout the ’80s. By the time he had been apprehended, Ramirez had raped and murdered 13 victims, though he would never admit any remorse for his actions, nor would he show any guilt over his crimes.

For Lou Diamond Phillips, his portrayal of Ramirez required learning everything about the Night Stalker case, including Richard’s fascination with occultism and satanism. Ramirez was fond of listening to the AC/DC song “Night Prowler” as he cruised the streets in search of victims, so, in preparing for his role on The Night Stalker, Phillips said he also obsessed himself with listening to the song.

“I blasted that in the car, on the way to work every morning and put myself into that mindset.”

Lou Diamond Phillips said he wanted more inspiration for The Night Stalker role than what the story of Richard Ramirez could provide, so the actor spent time watching films which featured predatory killers. On his list, Phillips watched films like The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Monster (2003), and Taxi Driver (1976), but, of all of the films, Phillips says Ramirez was most like Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.

“It is this elegant and intelligent psychological drama that is just as frightening on different levels,” said The Night Stalker actor.

Lou Diamond Phillips Becomes A Monster For The Night Stalker

Is it mere coincidence that 53-year-old Phillips is the same age now that Ramirez was at the time of his murderous spree or that Lou and Richard share the same youthful appearance in their faces? Perhaps. What is not mere happenstance is Phillips’ casting as the serial killer, because, for all of his boyish looks, Lou can play the vile killer just as easily as he might become a devout priest or a benevolent father figure.

As an actor, Lou says it’s his duty to be able to change his demeanor at the drop of a hat and become what audiences expect the actor to be. Still, becoming Richard Ramirez required embracing the man’s darkness completely, or risk failing as a convincing character.

“Because the audience will see cowardice, a lack of commitment,” Phillips said.

Mr. Phillips says becoming the killer in The Night Stalker and entering into that frame of mind wasn’t as easy as it might sound. In addition to watching films and studying the real case, Phillips gained access to authentic Richard Ramirez interviews and used them as an invaluable source for becoming one with the evil nature of a serial rapist and killer.

“Also, before I left the house, I had downloaded the San Quentin prison interview which was about eight minutes long and I would watch that three or four times with my coffee before getting into the car,” The Night Stalker star said. “Just looking at him, every blink of his eye, every tilt of his head, and absorbing that every single morning – then listening to ‘Night Prowler’ on the way to the set. By the time I got there I was ripe.”

While The Night Stalker does tell the story of one of America’s most infamous serial killers, Phillips warns horror fans not to expect a commercialized slasher flick. The Night Stalker doesn’t seek to glorify the acts committed by Ramirez or to entertain, as much as it attempts to tell the true story of a madman.

“That is going to be a surprise to some people, because they think, ‘OK, it’s a movie about the night stalker Richard Ramirez.’ They’re expecting Friday the 13th, they’re expecting a slasher thriller – no,” Phillips said. “It is this elegant and intelligent psychological drama that is just as frightening on different levels.”

[Image by Lifetime]