Rebecca Schaeffer is the focus of tonight’s 20/20 episode. Schaeffer was shot and killed on July 17, 1989, after being stalked by Robert John Bardo for three years. The actress was dating filmmaker Brad Silberling at the time of her death, who will appear throughout the episode.
According to the Guardian, Schaeffer and Silberling met at UCLA film school and dated in the mid-80s. They reconnected in 1989, and were only together for eight weeks when Schaeffer was killed. Afterwards, Silberling moved into her parents’ house in Oregon and shared in their mourning. “It stopped me cold in my tracks. I was supposed to write a project, I had started directing TV,” he recalled. “The moment this happened, there was a voice in my head saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”‘
Schaeffer & Silberling Met at UCLA Film School Before They Dated
Silberling’s time in Oregon inspired him to write the 2002 film Moonlight Mile. The story revolves around a young man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is struggling to cope with the death of his fiancée while living with her eccentric parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon). “Like the girl in the film, Rebecca was an only child with parents who were vital and interesting,” he revealed. “I didn’t know them very well and, suddenly, we were thrust into a unique type of intimacy in which the boundaries were unclear and the expectations hazy.”
When asked what he hoped to achieve with the film, Silberling said that he looking for closure. “I was exploring how it is that I ended up still able to find hopeful things in life,” he explained. “I have family now and somehow survived the experience. With this film, I was trying to figure out how that became possible.”
Silberling Based the 2002 Film ‘Moonlight Mile’ on Schaeffer’s Death
Silberling directed television in the 1990s, and his resume includes episodes of L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue. It was during production of the latter that he met his current wife, Amy Brenneman. They have two children together, Charlotte and Bodhi. Silberling has also had a successful film career, starting with 1995’s Casper and continuing on through to 1998’s City of Angels and 2004’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Silberling told the New York Times that Schaeffer’s death still looms large in his psyche. ”After a sudden, violent loss, you feel a tremendous need to do something,” he said. “Not only to keep your sanity but also out of an almost subconscious sense that if you just do everything right, somehow the person you’ve lost is going to walk back in the door.”