Full disclosure: I love me a juicy Lifetime original movie. If it’s based on the kind of salacious true-crime tale that launched several salacious true-crime TV networks, so much the better. If it features Rob Lowe behind the wheel of the Batmobile, and arguing with his onscreen wife while sporting only a pair of Batman briefs … color me sold with a capital S.
“Here’s the thing — if you want me to say yes to a part, if I get to wear Batman underpants, it’s a safe assumption that I’m gonna say yes,” jokes the famously self-deprecating Lowe (see also: those bizarro DIRECTV ads) of playing real-life Fontainebleau hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. in Lifetime’s bitingly funny, super-sexy, ultra-bloody Beautiful & Twisted, which he co-executive produced with his Drew Peterson: Untouchable partner Judith Verno.
Beautiful tells the twisted true saga of Novack, the only son of Fontainebleau founders Ben and Bernice Novack, whose privileged but neglectful childhood fostered a lifelong appetite for excess — and playthings of both the material and human variety.
When Ben Jr. meets beautiful, strong-willed single mom Narcisa Cira Veliz Pacheco (Paz Vega) in a Miami strip club, the self-styled superhero is convinced he’s finally found his real-life Catwoman. He sets about making the ambitious “Narcy” his own, resulting in a volatile union that would boil over into murder.
“I think actors go through phases in their careers, if they’re lucky enough to have long ones, and I’m at the phase right now where I’m very interested in characters that are truly ‘characters,’” says Lowe. “This guy? You couldn’t write it! There’s the Peter Pan aspect. There’s the ‘invested in Mommy’ aspect. There’s the self-loathing aspect. There’s the exuberance-for-life aspect. And then all of his obsessions. I understand that guy, ’cause I’ve known a couple of people in my own life who were very, very similar — with the means, the money and the access to let themselves cross the line from fun into trouble.”
“How great is Candice Bergen?!” Lowe exclaims. “Isn’t she just, like, a national treasure? Whenever I get to work with one of my heroes that I’ve never worked with, I’m like a kid. I’m like that 15-year-old actor showing up on the set for the first time, and all those feelings come back that I had when I was just starting out. So when I rolled onto set the first day and Candice was there, I was literally as excited as a 15-year-old actor and I bugged her for stories about [the Mike Nichols classic] Carnal Knowledge and what it was like to host the fourth episode of Saturday Night Live and all of that stuff. She was just so charming and hilarious and smart.”
And fully committed to her final scene, one that is perhaps Beautiful’s most memorable — and ultimately horrific.
“Sometimes, as I was working on the script with everybody, I would wonder — is this the point where the audience is going to throw their hands up in frustration and go, ‘I can’t. I can’t buy into this. This guy is an idiot and anybody would have left,’” muses Lowe, who likens Ben’s lethal attachment to Narcy to battered spouse syndrome. “And yet the value of this being a true story is — yeah, but he didn’t.”
Beautiful & Twisted premieres Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, at 8/7CT on Lifetime.
Following the premiere of the film, Lifetime will air Beyond the Headlines: The Novack Murders, which takes a deeper look into the Novack murders, including interviews with friends and family of those involved.
Photos: Lifetime/Jack Zeman