In a tiny, quiet space, the Unabomber created horror


The Television Critics Association sessions have started now, filled with fascinating people and stories. Here's the first one I'm sending, on a mini-series that starts Tuesday, Aug. 1:

LOS ANGELES -- Paul
Bettany was walking through someone else's life.

It wasn't a long
walk. This building – a re-creation of the cabin where Ted
Kaczynski became “the Unabomber” -- is prison-cell small.

“He lived in a
10-by-8 cabin, with no running water or electricity, for 20 years,”
said Bettany, who plays him in a new mini-series. There – in two
spurts – he mailed homemade bombs to strangers.

This cabin
re-creates what the FBI found after it arrested Kaczysnki in Montana
in 1996. Scattered are the essentials – Wonder Bread wrappers,
Quaker Oats boxes, flashlights, saws, even a guitar-zither.

There's one
hand-made chair – no company was expected – and an abundance of
books and working material. “He made the epoxy out of the hooves of
animals and the bombs ... from the roots of mushrooms,” Bettany
said. “He sort of created C4 out of that stuff.”

And then he mailed
his bombs, killing people he didn't know. Fear spread.

“When I was a kid,
I was scared of the Unabomber, because he could just send ... anybody
a package at any time and destroy you like that,” said Andrew
Sodroski, who wrote and produced the mini-series.

This is the
Discovery Channel's first plunge into a scripted mini-series. It fits
the channel, Sodreski said, because it focuses on the FBI profiler
who helped catch Kaczinski. “You have this man who is just an
ordinary, blue-collar cop who discovers a whole new field of
forensics .... That is so Discovery.”

Jim Fitzgerald
pushed “linguistic forensics” -- figuring who might have written
an anonymous piece. He wanted the FBI to meet the demand that a
“Unabomber manifesto” be released to newspapers.

“The FBI does not
negotiate with terrorists,” said Chris Noth, who plays Fitzgerald's
boss. So “that was a big deal that it was in the papers. That
never happened before.”

And it worked. David
Kaczynski read it, contacted the FBI and said the author might be his
brother. Firzgerald analyzed other writings and agreed, which was
enough to get a search warrant.

“I think David
felt really tormented,” Sodroski said. “He really wanted to save
his brother. He didn't know how and he felt an obligation to the
world to turn Ted in.”

David is played by
Mark Duplass, who knows fraternal quirks, after two decades of
filmmaking with his brother Jay. “We spiritually and emotionally
unabomb each other all the time,” he said.

The leads are played
by two men who also are known to action fans. Sam Worthington – who
starred in “Avatar” and is currently makig the sequel – plays
Kaczynski; Bettany – who is Vision and the voice of JASPER in the
“Avengers” movies -- is Kascynski.

That left Bettany
trying to figure out what it would be like to be alone. “I've got
three kids, a dog, a cat and a wife,” he said. “There's no
aloneness in my life, you know.”

So he “experimented
by absolutely turning off my phone and not being in contact with my
family, even, for three days.” One thing he learned: “The amount
of time there is in a day is extraordinary.”

Still, that time was
spent in “a very, very nice cabin with a pool.” What would
Kaczynski's life be like?

Bettany studied the
FBI's list of books in the cabin. They were “fascinatingly cliched
in that they were like Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' and Fyodor
Dosoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' and Arthur Koestler's 'Darkess at
Noon.' They were all about ... the man who feels like an alien in
society and commits a crime that he can't come back from.”

From that cabin, Ted
Kaczynski committed horrid crimes that spurred fear, rage and the
innovative use of linguistic forensics.

-- “Manhunt:
Unabomber,” Discovery and Investigation Discovery

-- Eight-hour
mini-series; the opener is 9-11:02 p.m. Aug. 1 and reruns often;
subsequent ones are 10-11 p.m. Tuesdays