Richard Ramirez’s Captor Coming to The Night Stalker’s Santa Ana Premiere

Writer-director Megan Griffiths calls her film The Night Stalker a “hybrid” of fact and fiction, and to shore up the real-life feel of her project, she relied on the counsel of a real-life player in the manhunt for the late Richard Ramirez.

“He has been incredibly helpful, just a gem,” Griffiths says of Gil Carrillo, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide lieutenant she hired as a consultant.

Carrillo, who was the first to slap cuffs on Ramirez after the so-called “Night Stalker” rapes and murders that terrorized all of Southern California in the mid-1980s, is credited along with his LA County sheriff’s partner with helping to bring in the serial killer.

Griffiths, Carrillo and Ben Barrett, the actor who plays Richard Ramirez of the mid-1980s, are scheduled to answer questions from the audience at the debut screening of The Night Stalker at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana Friday night.

“He has so much retention of details and history,” Griffiths says of Carrillo, who was on set for some of the production and even appears in a cameo. “We had long conversations about Ramirez.”

Veteran actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays the titular character in the movie, tweeted last July, “Thrilled to spend time w the legendary Lt. Gil Carrillo, head of the task force that caught Ramirez. #TheNightStalker.”

Griffiths says Carrillo and a former San Quentin death row guard who watched part of last year’s shoot were blown away by Phillips’ portrayal of Ramirez.

“They were really impressed by how Lou channels Ramirez,” says Griffiths, who notes as a for instance Phillips tapping his fingertips on a table whenever his character lies, something Carrillo noticed while interrogating Ramirez the first time.

“He’s a big fan of Lou’s performance,” Griffiths says of Carrillo. “He called it ‘Oscar caliber’ after he saw the movie. From his mouth to God’s ears.”

She confides with a laugh that she’d be happy with an Emmy for Phillips. ( The Night Stalker makes its cable debut on LMN Sunday.) It’s all the more remarkable when you consider there are not a lot of video clips of Ramirez speaking, as his reign of terror happened in the pre-YouTube days.

Diamond closely studied whatever audio and video he could find to get Ramirez’s cadence down, Griffiths mentions. She herself pulled dialogue for her script from some of the same source material. A line Ramirez and Phillips both said into different cameras was, “We are all evil in some form or another, are we not?” 

“He was very specific,” Griffiths says of the way Ramirez spoke. “He wasn’t formally educated. He read a lot, and he spoke in way where he was trying to convey that he was smart. And he was smarter than people expected.”

The Night Stalker was written and directed by Megan Griffiths; produced by Matthew R. Brady, Alisa Tiger, MRB Productions and Laboratory Productions; and stars Bellamy Young, Lou Diamond Phillips and Mark Kelly. It plays at The Frida Cinema, 305 E. 4th St., Santa Ana; Fri., 7:30 p.m. (Q&A after with Griffiths, Carrillo and Barrett) and 9:30 p.m. Sat.-Thurs., June 16, 8 p.m. $8-$10. Also, Sat., 9 p.m. and Mon., 1 a.m. on Lifetime and June 17, 8 p.m. and June 18, midnight on LMN (formerly Lifetime Movie Network). Check local listings.

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