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That guy was nothing, alright? I didn't take his life, I lived it. I was the best thing that ever happened to that guy. You looked at him, and you saw me, and I looked at you, and I saw you, and we are the same.
~ Costa excusing his murders to Illeana Scott

Martin Asher (a.k.a. James Costa) is the main antagonist of the 1999 novel Taking Lives and its 2004 film adaptation. He is an intelligent, charismatic serial killer who steals his victims' identities.

He was portrayed in the film by Ethan Hawke. As a child, he was portrayed by Paul Dano.


This section is too long. Visit here for more details: Martin Asher's Synopsis on the Villains Wiki.

What Makes Him Pure Evil?

  • He commits his first murder as a teenager by killing Matt Soulsby and assuming his identity.
  • He fakes his own death and abandons his mother, who had already lost one son, Martin's twin brother, years earlier.
  • Over the next 20 years, he murders several wealthy people and steals their identities in order to keep himself in the high-class lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.
  • He kills art dealer James Costa and steals his identity.
  • He poses as the killer's intended victim to throw off Inspector Illeana Scott.
  • He attacks Illeana when she visits his childhood home.
  • He frames art thief Christopher Hart for the murders.
  • He murders Hart and makes it look like he had killed Hart in self-defense.
  • He kills his own mother, Rebecca, after she fails to identify his "remains", thus keeping the investigation open.
  • He calls to taunt Illeana as he escapes on a train, sharing a car with his next intended victim.
  • He stalks Illeana for months.
  • When he finds her, apparently pregnant with his child, he stabs her into the stomach to kill the baby, unaware that she is wearing prosthetics and is setting him up.


  • It's implied that Martin Asher had a bad relationship with his mother, as she clearly preferred his twin over him. However, except this, it is unknown if she has been abusive physically, verbally, both or simply ignored James. Their only scene together shows her telling him to get out of her way and that she isn't scared of him and this is perfectly reasonable considering she knows that her son is a serial killer. Therefore, he can't be really considered tragic.
  • His entire motivation for his serial killing is because he doesn't like his own life, suggesting he is insecure. However, this is quickly nullified because he does not seek love or acceptance to overcome said insecurity. He prefers killing innocent peoples (some who even befriendred him by the way) without remorse and stealing their lives, so he isn't really insecure per se.
  • Despite Martin Asher's status as Pure Evil, Ethan Hawke apparently doesn't see Martin as really evil, due to his comments that his villainous role from The Black Phone is the first "real villain" he has played in his career.

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See Also
Amblin Entertainment Pure Evils | Arkhamverse Pure Evils | Batman Pure Evils | Cartoon Network Pure Evils | Courage the Cowardly Dog Pure Evils | DC Animated Universe Pure Evils | DC Extended Universe Pure Evils | DC Universe Animated Original Movies Pure Evils | Die Hard Pure Evils | Godzilla Pure Evils | Gotham Pure Evils | Harry Potter Pure Evils | Legendary Entertainment Pure Evils | Middle-earth Pure Evils | New Line Cinema Pure Evils | Summit Entertainment Pure Evils | Supernatural Pure Evils | The Conjuring Pure Evils | Yu-Gi-Oh! Pure Evils