New Netflix film The Good Nurse has proven very popular with subscribers since being added to the platform last week – quickly rising to the streamer's top 10 and receiving some very good reviews along the way.
The film tells the story of American serial killer Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), told from the perspective of his friend and colleague Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), who played a crucial role in helping the authorities catch and sentence him when she realised his crimes.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns revealed that the decision to tell the drama from Amy's point of view was very deliberate, explaining that: "I didn't want the serial killer to be the lead, I didn't want him to be the star."
That said, it's only natural that some viewers would want to know more about exactly who Charlie Cullen was and the true story behind the film. Read on for everything you need to know.
Who is Charles Cullen? The Good Nurse true story
The first thing to note is that unlike a lot of true crime dramas – which can often tend to sensationalise true events for dramatic effect – The Good Nurse broadly sticks fairly accurately to the story as it really happened, something both Wilson-Cairns and director Tobias Lindholm were very keen to ensure.
"He [Tobias] was like, 'What if we put in nothing invented? Like, what if we don't add anything for horror?'" Wilson-Cairns explained. "And I knew from his work, and also from our collaboration, that he could pull that off. And that was really, I think, the core of letting this be a real and terrifying drama."
The screenplay was adapted from Charles Graeber's heavily researched non-fiction book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder. Although in the book, Amy's story only really comes into play towards the latter stages – focusing much more on events that happened before those depicted in the film.
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In real life, Cullen spent 16 years working at various hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before his arrest in December 2003, having first qualified as a nurse in 1986.
The first of the murders to which he confessed occured only two years into his career, in 1988, when he administered a lethal dose of intravenous medication to a patient at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey.
This was the first of 29 murders that he was eventually convicted for, although as is made clear in the final moments of the film, it is strongly suspected that the actual number was far higher – perhaps as high as 400.
As is shown in the film, Cullen regularly changed jobs – at one point cycling through nine different hospitals in just 11 years – predominantly working in the cardiac and intensive care units of hospitals such as Warren Hospital in New Jersey, Morristown Memorial in New Jersey, and Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pennsylvania.
Several of these jobs ended with him being fired, but he was always able to quickly find new employment which – according to a report in The New York Times – was partly because in the US healthcare system "employers frequently [refused] to pass on negative information, even about people they have fired, for fear of being sued for slander by the former employee".
It was at Somserset Medical Centre in New Jersey where he finally met Amy, and although the pair initially struck up a rapport, she slowly began to realise that something was going terribly wrong.
When a pair of detectives got in touch with her, she began to investigate hospital records and her worst fears about Cullen started to come into sharp focus.
She began to cooperate with the police, leading to the crucial moment, as shown in the film, when she met up with Cullen while wearing a wire – hoping she could get him to confess to the crimes. Although he didn't talk straight away, he was arrested and she later spoke to him again at the police station.
Amy recounted this exchange in a 2013 interview with 60 Minutes, explaining: "I wasn’t very honest with him, and there’s a part of me – I still feel guilty about that. I was manipulating him a bit.
"I told him the investigators were also looking at me, and how could he think that I wasn’t somehow going to be implicated? I remember saying to him, ‘So, who was your first victim? And was it a long time ago? Was it recent?’ And he started to talk."
In total, Cullen was given 18 consecutive life sentences and remains incarcerated in the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton to this day.
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