With true crime series hitting the popular heights of audience interest, John Lee Hancock’s latest psychological thriller, ‘The Little Things’ couldn’t have come at a better time to suck people further into this world of the serial killer and the detectives whose worlds are turned upside down in pursuit of justice.

Hancock, whose previous works include ‘The Founder’ and ‘Saving Mr Banks’, takes us back to ’90s LA with Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto in a story that centres on Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington) when he is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a killer who is terrorizing the city. Leading the hunt, L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Malek), impressed with Deke’s cop instincts, unofficially engages his help. But as they track the killer, Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case while focusing on Albert Sparma (Leto), the suspected serial killer.

A recent virtual press conference hosted by Edith Bowman with Hancock, Washington, Malek, Leto and producer Mark Johnson unearthed some insight into the making of the film. The project had been long in gestation and only with the persistence of producer Mark Johnson to bring the story alive we are here today. Having written the story in the ’90s, Hancock found his inspiration for the story from his local surroundings inspired by his love of crime dramas.

Related: Denzel Washington & Rami Malek are hot on the heels of Jared Leto in trailer for ‘The Little Things’

“I wrote it in 1992; I was living in a crappy apartment in Hollywood. I think I was just looking out the window and writing what I was seeing to some degree. I had been a big fan of crime dramas and psychological thrillers but I felt they had become stale because of the third act where it all became about the good guy chasing the bad guy and dispatching the bad guy in some morbid fashion. That was always less interesting to me than the first two acts with the clues and misdirects. I wanted to embrace the drama and subvert it at the same time” Hancock said.

With Washington playing the veteran cop with a thirst to be involved and Malek the slick media-friendly detective with an obsession that proves detrimental to his personal life, both actors had different reasons for bonding with their characters.

“If it’s not on the page, it ain’t on the stage, so I just read the script and found it interesting, I never thought about what it was going to allow me to do, I just thought it was different” commented Washington

Malek added: “I did love the idea of Jim beginning to emulate Deke and the psychological that would take me down as an actor and this character. Starting out as this altruistic perspective, having that type of conviction turn into an obsession I think was quite psychological complicated.”

All three of the main characters are complicated, compromised characters, Washington, Malek and Leto go that extra mile to make these men authentic, Washington admits to taking his cues from a TV series while Leto, the suspected serial killer goes deeply method, trying to avoid stereotypes and enhance his characters physicality.

Washington commented “The universal stems from the specific, you just start asking questions and questions lead to questions and hopefully lead to answers”   There is a show called “The First 48″ and I’m hooked or I was, I haven’t watched it since we finished the movie. These detectives, it’s a reality doc, they just solve murders. Just watching their behaviour and how they go about things.”

Leto rounded off by saying “I didn’t really model or think about other performances and I didn’t specifically research killers because there is a lot of ambiguity there. I did a lot of observing and watching documentary or the eye transcripts, my fair share of reading as Albert was a crime buff. I really spent more time thinking about him as a person. I was really curious about Albert and what made him tick and why he didn’t fit in why he couldn’t connect with people. As Mr Washington says you ask questions, and you get more questions, and sometimes you find some answers, that’s the game”. He continued, “At one point, we were looking for the very worst wig in all of Hollywood, unfortunately, we didn’t find it. If I could right now do a slide show and show you what Sparma might have been, you guys would die. I had these 2 wigs, One I looked like Annie from the musical and I think we even tried some freckles, I’m not sure. Then we have another, I just thought that maybe he was kind of losing his hair and he choose a wig he thought was really handsome. I have the wigs though; you will see them in another performance”.

You can rent the movie premiere of The Little Things at home from 11th March.